By Andrés Uribe, Expedition PR
SXSWi 2014 was amazing, or so I’ve been told. Although I did not actually get to attend this year’s festival, yet again, I was able to stay digitally up to date on event happenings from the comfort of my office. Wrapping up today, March 11th, this year featured some great new startups, exceptional speakers, and a couple of big name no-shows! Here’s a quick rundown of what you might have missed:
The No-Shows – After having made huge splashes at SXSW in 2009 and 2011, Foursquare and GroupMe, respectively, elected not to host any events this year. While GroupMe left it vague and simply said that they have ‘other things going on,’ Foursquare opted out of attending due to current product development initiatives that were taking priority. Interesting enough though, the lack of attendance by these two previous SXSWi stars seems to work as a PR move of its own, generating coverage of their no-show from AdWeek and Billboard, amongst others, and conveying the message to users that they are working on updates, so look out!
Remote Speakers – With security and privacy on the top of everyone’s minds these days, who better to talk about these important issues than the two men who helped expose just how far our government has overstepped in these regards. While both are wanted men in the eyes of the US government and therefore unable to physically attend SXSWi, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange both made rare stage appearances via video conference. The Assange talk was riddled with audio difficulties (not his fault) and for the most part presented no new information. He did however hint at some impending leaks, as well as give homage to Snowden for his revelations. Snowden on the other hand joined the stage (digitally) with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representatives Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian in a session that not only highlighted the overreach of the NSA, but what private tech companies are now doing to better protect their users.
Startups Making a Splash – While the last few years have been about social media and mobile technology, 2014 was the year of the wearables. From Google Glass to Samsung smart watches, software developers are thinking of innovative ways to use these technologies, and hardware developers are contemplating how best to compete with these tech giants. BioNym is one company worth mentioning who’s coming out with their own wearable technology, the Nymi. This wristband features an electrocardiogram monitor that’s used as a means to properly identify you and act as an alternative to a password for logging into devices you connect it to. But the winner of the Wearable Tech category and $4,000 was Skully Helmets, creator of a motorcycle helmet that features a wide range of connectivity, voice commands, and a heads up display with the primary goal of keeping the drivers safe.
If you were at the festival, please feel free to use the comment section to chime in on what you thought was most newsworthy.