Bigger Lakes, Greener Grass & Manufacturing In The Dark

AWS SUMMIT Sydney 2018

I’ll be first to come out and say it - the Kiwi and Aussie stopovers of multinational conferences can sometimes produce a feeling equivalent to your local bartender serving up a Dalmore 62 and then heartbreakingly proceeding to drop in a slice of lemon with a tipple of soda water. So... after sending several members of The Instillery’s young talent in my place to Sydney in 2016 and 2017 it’s fair to say that I was blown away by the quality of last week’s 2018 AWS Sydney Summit.

The core theme was ‘Day 1’. Yes, even AWS which is growing at 45% encourages executives, teams, and go-to-market partners to think with a Day 1 mentality (sidenote: for those that are startup founders like me, how much cooler would it be to have an existing ARR of US$20B+ when ‘reimagining’ your business and it’s subsequent Day 1?)

Unanimously all speakers reiterated the “it's always Day 1 at Amazon" message, demonstrated predominantly through the equally relentless focus on both Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning themes across the three days. There was also a concerted move from AWS to push “edge services”. This was demonstrated through the evolution of AWS Greengrass Machine Learning Inference - the solution to extend cloud computing services and machine learning capabilities out to the edge of the network.

But what on earth does this mean? We visited the AWS future tech exhibition stand to check it out. Two use cases worth understanding in relation to machine learning on edge computing:

Video Processing: AWS Greengrass Machine Learning Inference can be deployed on connected devices like security cameras, traffic cameras, body cameras, and medical imaging equipment to help make predictions locally. This allows you to deploy models like facial recognition, object detection, and image density directly onto the device. For example, a traffic camera could count bicycles, vehicles, and pedestrians passing through an intersection and detect when traffic signals need to be adjusted in order to optimise traffic flows and keep people safe. This is happening in cities across the globe today.

Predictive Industrial Maintenance: As pricing pressure increases manufacturers are all looking for ways to increase operational efficiency on factory floors. AWS Greengrass can help with early detection of faulty equipment by powering industrial gateways which continuously monitor sensor data (e.g., vibrations, noise-level), predict anomalies, and take action by sending alerts or shutting off power to minimise losses. It can also pick up on potential health and safety issues on the factory floor such as recognising that a person approaching a construction site isn’t wearing the appropriate safety gear which triggers silent warnings and/or rejects access to the site entirely as per the example provided by Chris Walsh of the John Holland Group.

Cutting to the chase, I give the 2018 Australian AWS Summit 5/5.

The opportunity for Kiwi and Australian companies to connect with the heart and soul of AWS builders and customers from around the globe was unprecedented. Irrespective of your business and its cloud maturity, I would highly recommend these summits - if simply for the chance to take stock and get a fresh perspective on the challenges that can be overcome and opportunities that might be realised through a partnership with AWS. For those that couldn’t make it this year, I’ve summarised my key takeaways while throwing in a few ‘holy shit’ highlights from my three days across the ditch where I was fortunate enough to be invited to several different streams ranging from the Financial Services Industry Executive Day 1, to the Innovation Day and Executive Partner Stream, as well as the public sessions.


  1. Technology is evolving at the slowest that it is ever going, and with barriers to entry so low, it is time to go build - right now. If you can’t - find someone that can.
  2. Voice is the next major paradigm shift in computing. If you’re a business, developer or otherwise and only speaking or listening to your stakeholders in English then you’re doing yourself a massive disservice! Bring on the rise of real-time translate and transcribe!
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not Machine Learning (ML). The two terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably, particularly by marketing departments that want to make their technology (and or ICO/cap raise) sound sophisticated. They have very different implications for what computers can do and how they interact with us.
  4. With the above aside, ML and AI are the new norm and over the 3 days we heard about hundreds of success stories, so if you don’t know already have proof of values/ experiments underway… it’s time to start asking what these technology revolutions can do for your business.
  5. Hunger for secure cloud adoption. Beyond connectivity, security is number one on the enterprise cloud adoption journey. Bring security experts with cloud experience into the tent early as we can build more secure platforms with higher probability outcomes in the public cloud.
  6. The adoption of public cloud is still accelerating and companies not adopting cloud are now clearly falling behind. Public cloud adoption is now sitting at around 45%+*, which is a phenomenal statistic that outlines how much is yet to move to the cloud. *I personally think ANZ is further behind than these global stats. As a result, cloud consulting and migration services are in high demand among business customers today, and it's predicted more than 50% of software workloads will move to the cloud by 2020.
  7. AWS holds security as a core pillar to the development of its platform, recently receiving approval up to 'protected' level for government workloads based on IRAP (an Australian standard that endorses ICT security assessors as qualified to accredit up to protected level information security systems) assessment in the AWS Sydney region. This requirement has long been a large contributor to the slow pace of adoption of Public cloud by Financial Services organisations.
  8. Data is still the crown jewel of every company - managing, leveraging and securing data is key to moving forward. One of the greatest examples of our time is how AWS themselves are using data to truly understand what the end customer wants, developing new products and creatively updating existing products based on insightful feedback.


The real talk session of the week goes to Daniel Petre Founder of AirTree Ventures. Daniel delivered a direct, thought-provoking discussion on investing in emerging technologies and how that ANZ as a region transition us (particularly Aussie) to be a leader rather than a follower.

  • He encouraged Australian corporations to spend more on innovation and R&D, and governments to support and grow us as an innovation nation. Highlighting Amazon's own commitment to R&D spend as a % of profit was 33% whereas Woolworths in Australia was somewhere less than 2% of profits.
  • He suggested Australasian organisations should step outside the oligopolies that the market has enabled them to operate in and look for innovations that can influence their products in 3-6 months - not in 10 years’ time.
  • He also said it was time for these businesses to “lean in” to the startup communities as while they certainly have the funding, startups have the talent and environment for innovation at speed.

While I award the geeking out session of the week to Dr Jordan Nguyen who delivered an amazing presentation on the biomedical AI. Trust me when I say this is way more interesting than the title would suggest. Nguyen is an AI (note: not ML) expert who is developing technology using electrical signals in the brain and eye glances to help people with severe disabilities to operate computers, wheelchairs and cars.

  • "Technology is an Enabler. Embrace the change, be creative, make it Human. Think Differently, Think Big. We are only limited by our imagination, Everything is possible" – Dr Jordan Nguyen.
  • He demonstrated how AWS cloud services were enabling a world to build solutions that can assist humanity. I was absolutely guilty of a little-wet eye in front of an auditorium of 10,000+ people when seeing a video of a nine-year boy with severe cerebral palsy being able to drive a vehicle for the first time with his eyes and mind - truly inspirational.

My Best in Class - Enterprise Session was too close to call with two speakers taking it out this year:

Patrick Wright, Chief Technology and Operations Officer, NAB

Patrick delivered a very high energy and compelling opening Keynote on Day One focused on the measurable transformation NAB is going through and its commitment to migrate to AWS Cloud and a true DevOps mentality.

  • “We believe that platforms are the future... but we want to build our own platforms with our own microservices to enable our services and products for our customers because we think the power of platform and the reusability of services is essential for our long-term success and to achieve those fundamental elements of speed, agility and relevance.” - Patrick Wright, NAB
  • He confirmed that transition to date delivered measurable capital cost savings of 45% when compared to his previous approach to investment in hardware and data centres with the operational costs post migration producing savings of more than 25% on an ongoing basis.

Jacob Abboud, Chief Innovation Officer, Allianz

Global Financial Services Provider, Allianz’s vision is to become "digital by default" and Jacob explained the vital role DevOps and cloud play in its change programme. Embarking on a full-scale DevOps and cloud transformation – Allianz has changed the way processes and technology interact to accelerate their ability to respond to the market and deliver exceptional experiences to all customers.

  • Transforming from a partially agile organisation into a full DevOps operating model in the public cloud involves not only fundamental shifts in how we work and the technologies we use but also a shift in mindset.
  • The results are impressive -the entire platform and all applications hosted on it can be moved to another AWS region within three hours. Changes can be delivered through an automated build, deploy and test pipeline in 30 minutes. A completely new micro service can be delivered within the hour.

The pulling an Amazon on Amazon Award goes to a rousing keynote Anthony Pratt, Chairman and CEO, Visy Industries.

Visy Industries are Australia and perhaps the world's largest manufacturer of packaging and amazingly produce 40% of their products from recycled goods.They’re determined to remain relevant in a world dominated by technology, and instead of running away from Amazon are in fact going 'all-in' on AWS and embracing every piece of technology that can improve the business and return a profit. technology, robotics, and AI are becoming central to Visy's business.

  • "We'll soon have one of the only fully-automated corrugated factory warehouses employing driverless robotics -that's robotics in action...beyond that we have a vision which I call the lights-out factory -a fully automated box factory that operates in the dark, because robots don't need lights." - Anthony Pratt, Visy Industries
  • Visy also recently stood-up an industrial technology and digital hub in Singapore, charged with incorporating IT, AI, and robotics into every aspect of packaging, paper-making, and recycling.
  • Tye Brady, Amazon's Chief Technologist of Robotics, who spoke about how robots and machine learning are used to efficiently move storage pods around Amazon's massive fulfilment centres. This has enabled Amazon to meet its customers’ needs in being able to get its products to them faster.
  • Marcel Dinger from presented on how his startup, through the use of cloud, has reduced the cost of genome analysis and the capacity that can be processed. He also represented on the use of AWS underlying technology to capture and share clinical data and provide highly accessible software interfaces.
  • Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO from Fleet Space technologies, presented on the work they are doing on globally connected IoT devices (via mini-satellites) performing edge-based analytics to solve real-world problems that are helping industries to become more efficient and deliver higher quality.
  • Joseph Redman from DarkNet demonstrated the use of Open Source Neural Networks and real-time object detection using trained models that employ a YOLO model (You Only Look Once).
  • Oliver Klein, Head of Emerging Technologies AWS, presented on Open Pose's use of AWS Greengrass and an IoT enabled camera device to capture body and hand coordinates for pattern and behaviour recognition.
  • Glenn Gore, AWS Chief Architect, inspired the audience with his presentation on Amazon's culture that is underpinned by 5 key tenets: customer obsession, high-velocity decision-making, experimentation, avoiding proxies and embracing external tailwinds. These tenets can be adopted by all organisations, no matter how big or small, to stay relevant, to stay in "Day 1".
  • Olivier Klein also gave a great talk on building tomorrow’s bank with AI/ ML where he shared how customer experience, operational excellence and risk could be improved with machine learning. Continuously improving neural networks helps streamline customer conversations, improve customer service centres and can ensure compliance. Deep Learning machine models are trained to automatically detect fraudulent activities or make best next action decisions.