RALEIGH – Get ready for the continuing wave of tech disruption.
That was the driving message behind this year’s All Things Open conference.
“When you look around the world, people are gaining access to the internet that didn’t have it before,” says ATO’s chairperson and founder Todd Lewis. “It’s increasing exponentially.”
Just look at the numbers: More than 4.2 billion people are now active internet users – over half of the world’s population, according to Statista. That’s up from less than 1 percent in 1995, with Africa among the fastest growing rates.
The uptake: time is ripe for more innovation.
“There’s a coming shakeup, if you will, that’s going to result,” said Lewis. “The world will be pushed forward over the next one to five years because [of it]. We want them contributing to open source. It underlies everything.”
From the increasingly ubiquitous Internet of Things to artificial intelligence, machine learning to autonomous vehicles, robots, automation, cryptocurrency, next-generation wireless – where will the tech revolution not continue? And in so many areas Open Source is part of the development, from the research and development being done at Raleigh-based Red Hat, a global Open Source and Linux leader, to startups scattered across the Triangle and North Carolina.
All-start lineup of talks, demos and more
No doubt that’s why more than 4,200 tech heads filed into the Raleigh Convention Center over the last few days, eager to check out what’s in store.
The three-day conference offered an all-star line up of talks, sessions, keynotes and demos, spotlighting the latest advancements and trends in the blooming open source scene.
To be clear, “open source” refers to software that people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.
“Open source is the foundation of most technologies used today, yet the majority of people don’t realize it,” said Lewis, who founded ATO back in 2013 as a means of educating and providing access to the public.
In the intervening years, the event has increased six-fold and is now considered the largest “Open” technology festival on the east coast.
But there are still barriers to overcome.
This year, the event tackled one of the biggest challenges facing companies today: a lack of inclusion and diversity in open source and technology. A panel discussion featured, among others, Duke University’s Rochelle Newton and Red Hat’s Marina Zhurakhinskaya.
“We need more people in technology,” Lewis stressed. “We need more women. We need more historically underrepresented populations. If it’s all one type of person contributing, you’re limited on the backend.”
The technology world still has a perception problem, he argued.
“A lot of people still perceive that there are barriers to entry. They don’t know quite how to get involved. They view it as a closed community. And to a degree, that’s still true. There are places where they are absolutely right. But we’re working to change that.”
From nonprofits to tech giants
There certainly was a diverse mix bustling around the corridors of the exhibition center on Tuesday morning.
Among them, the duo of Chris Lorkowski and Michael Mitchell – cofounders of the Raleigh-based BruVue, a beer data company tracking product movement from beer faucets in real time. They set up a booth on the ground floor, demonstrating their tap handle sensors.
“We developed our sensors to collect the highest quality real-time data for the beer ecosystem, while maintaining simplicity of use and scalability,” said Lorkowski. “Our sensors are easy for bars and restaurants to setup.”
Around the corner, Red Hat had an Open Source Stories booth with a table for attendees to solder their own blinky magnet tag.
“We’re doing an interactive experience with open hardware so people can actually have a hands-on experience, said Kim Jokisch, executive producer at Open Source Stories, a documentary series created by Red Hat.
There was also a team from ChickTech, a nonprofit that supports women and girls in tech with community, education and inspiration.
“It’s been amazing,” said chapter director Preethi Thomas at her stand adorned with ChickTech T-shirts. “This is our second year here. We get a lot of volunteer sign ups, and then some donations and getting our brand name out and telling people what we are about. We will definitely be coming back next year.”
All Things Open chairperson and founder Todd Lewis.
BruVue cofounder and VP of Sales Michael Mitchell and cofounder and CEO Christopher Lorkowski.
Maria Lamardo, Matthew Glassman and Rhonda Hutchison making blinkys (with Nathan McMinn and Tom Callaway standing) at Red Hat’s Open Source Stories booth.