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AI hyper-personalisation and regulation anxiety come into focus at London Tech Week

A worker poses for a photo as the SEEQC's DQM system-on-a-chip integrates critical management functions on a chip, delivering a new level of scale, speed and cost-effectiveness, and enabling new functionalities to quantum computing, in Elmsford, New York, U.S., in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on March 14, 2023. Courtesy of SEEQC/Handout via REUTERS  THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT
SEEQC's DQM system-on-a-chip integrates critical management functions on a chip, delivering a new level of scale and speed, and enabling a new high in quantum computing. Photo: SEEQC/Handout via Reuters (Handout . / reuters)

As the AI Summit kicked off in London on Wednesday, tech industry heavyweights rubbed shoulders with government officials, symbolising what has defined many of the discussions during London Tech Week so far.

Continuing today, the agenda includes an entire stage devoted to the likes of quantum computing, and has so far broadcast talks on hot button issues of regulation, diversity in the industry, as well as how to fundraise in this economic environment, and creating tech for the underserved, with attendees from the likes of Google, Amazon, TikTok, AWS, Fujitsu and numerous government departments.

The AI sector is of growing importance in the UK, already contributing £3.7 billion to the UK economy and employing 50,000 people across the country, according to recent figures.


Here's what was on the industry's mind as the UK ramps up its play to become a global tech hub.

Businesses are still looking to use data to hyper-personalise

As governments evaluate their options, businesses are increasingly looking at how they can use data and machine learning to tailor online content even further for consumers.

Speakers from Yelp, Ocado, TikTok and Dataforce outlined the benefits and challenges of using AI to 'improve' customer experience in this way.

Online directory Yelp is looking at how it can build more "contextual" search experiences via AI, including images and videos, according to Mohamed Sayed, the company's machine learning engineering manager in content understanding.

Meanwhile, the famously algorithm-driven TikTok has been testing ways to use AI to build immersive experiences in e-commerce, according to Aibek Sarimbekov, director of sales engineering at ByteDance, TikTok's parent company.

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Gabriel Straub, chief data officer of Ocado, which sells its stocking and delivery software packages out to other businesses, noted that the more data they have, the more "aspirational" the company can make a user's journey.

Regulation and compliance

While companies grapple with customer data, it's no surprise regulation is also on tech leaders' minds this week; it was only yesterday that the EU rubber-stamped its first comprehensive set of guidelines for AI.

The new law proposes that generative AI systems, such as ChatGPT, are reviewed before commercial release, and seeks to ban facial recognition.

This week, Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition chief, also warned against AI being used to help make decisions that can affect people's livelihoods, such as whether they can apply for a mortgage.

Panel talks included those on "preparing for an era of tighter regulation" and workshops on navigating regulation including what business leaders can do now to prepare for tighter rules.

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In a panel focused on bridging the gap between technical sides of AI in businesses, and design, crypto exchange Coinbase's machine learning product lead Vik Scoggins noted that there is a fine balance between moving fast and being compliant. Adding that it is a "painful period" to navigate.

Maybe the era of "move fast and break things" in tech is closing out in favour of something more cautious.

Quantum computing is on the horizon

The potential for the mind-blowing capabilities of quantum computing also got a good showing. Fujitsu had live demonstrations and models of quantum chips at its exhibition stand.

As one of the five technology areas the government is looking to push, Hannah Boardman, director at Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said that the government hopes to £1 of private funding for every £1 of public funding for the tech. There is also a quantum skills taskforce underway.

It could take some time before quantum computing is adopted in a widespread way by business, as many are still working on understanding how its capabilities can be harnessed.

Watch: Europe moves closer to historic AI rules

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