Review: AltitudeX Manchester 2021 – the AI and Decision Intelligence SummitBy Jon Taylor on November 9, 2021 - 10 Minute Read
Over 700 business leaders, data professionals and tech enthusiasts descended on Manchester on Thursday 4 November for the launch of AltitudeX, Peak’s inaugural AI and Decision Intelligence Summit.
A diverse audience flooded through the giant steel doors of former railway station Depot Mayfield, as we brought together commercial decision makers, engineers and data scientists all under the one roof for what was described by CEO Richard Potter as Peak’s “biggest and most ambitious event yet.”
The venue, which is best known for being the current home of Manchester institution and iconic clubnight Warehouse Project, was a far cry from your usual tech conference setting, with its industrial backdrop and interlinking archways paying the perfect homage to the city’s rich, forged-in-industry past.
The conference itself, however, was firmly fixated on the future, with this year’s theme focused on connecting the dots and joining together teams, data and technology. Here, we’re taking a quick look at some of the stand-out aspects of a memorable day that will go down as an important milestone on the Peak journey.
A new era for Decision Intelligence
Richard Potter delivered the day’s opening keynote, and marked the occasion with a significant announcement. After welcoming the audience and reaffirming the reasons that businesses today are very much in the “Intelligence Era,” Richard went on to unveil a huge leap forward in enterprise AI, explaining that “the Peak platform will be available to everyone, not just Peak’s internal teams. From January next year, we’ll launch a self-serve platform that everyone can use.”
This marks the first time that Peak’s Decision Intelligence platform will be available to businesses to build their own AI-powered solutions.
AI will become fundamental to the future of enterprise, and every business will need an intelligence that draws on every piece of data, using it to enable decision making in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. This is why Decision Intelligence – the commercial application of AI to power decision making – is here.
CEO and co-founder, Peak
Following on from Richard’s well-attended talk, a wide array of special guest speakers were in action on the venue’s main ‘Depot Stage.’ Up first was journalist and author, Matthew Syed. The former number one English table tennis player (not ping pong, he made that one crystal clear) discussed whether decision making “needed an upgrade,” talking through some of the thoughts, ideas and experiences that inspired his bestselling books such as ‘Rebel Ideas’, ‘Bounce’ and ‘Black Box Thinking.’
Turning from table tennis to television, it was then time to hear from Lorraine Heggessey, the first female controller of BBC One. Chatting to Peak’s Head of Communications, Emma Davidson, Lorraine discussed some of the key decisions that led to the network overtaking ITV for the first time since 1955. From Spooks and Strictly to revamping Dr Who, this was a fascinating look into the impact of decision making in the world of entertainment.
Around the corner, just across from the hustle and bustle of AltitudeX’s networking and wellness zone (massage at a tech conference? Highly recommended!) was Depot Mayfield’s Archive Stage, which played host to its own fair share of insightful talks and discussions across the day. Charles Veys, Managing Director of FOTENIX, discussed how the agricultural sector can harness the power of AI to supercharge farming, before event sponsors AWS and Intel shared some insight into removing silos of data in order to present business leaders with “a single source of truth.”
The Financial Times’ Head of Data Science, Leanne Kim Fitzpatrick, delivered a compelling talk on why “data alone isn’t enough,” explaining to us the need for context in data science and guiding us through some of the challenges her team faced with certain machine learning models due to the drastic changes in consumer behaviour seen during the first UK lockdown. And, later on, we heard from serial entrepreneur and CEO/Founder of CENTURY Tech, Priya Lakhani OBE, who discussed the steps business leaders can take to remove barriers between teams, drawing on the importance of “building a culture of emotional safety to drive innovation.” Plus, the Peak-led sessions from Mark Douthwaite (Why R&D should be for everyone) and Áine McTiernan (So what is AI, anyway?) were also well worth checking out.
I had so much fun at #AltitudeX yesterday! I loved catching up with everyone from the Manchester and beyond data community. I must admit I’m now feeling rather wiped from all the in-person networking! https://t.co/uj01CvqblP
— Leanne Fitzpatrick (@LK_Fitzpatrick) November 5, 2021
Back over on the Depot Stage, it was time to take a closer look at the impact that the Peak platform is having on some of our customers’ operations. Peak COO, Bethany Ayers, was joined on stage for a fireside chat by Molson Coors’ Mark Elston (Customer 360 Controller) and Simon Mellin, CEO and Founder of The Modern Milkman. They chatted us through some of their experiences and learnings from using Decision Intelligence, with the Modern Milkman revealing details of some of the amazing outcomes they’ve achieved with our platform – such as a reduction of supply chain waste to under 0.5%, versus the industry average of 30%.
It was great to be able to share how we’ve implemented Peak’s Decision Intelligence platform to help us on our mission to reduce waste, which includes reducing food waste for customers, but also in our supply chain.
CEO and founder, The Modern Milkman
These customer stories were the perfect segue into Chris Billingham’s talk over on the Archive Stage. Chris, Lead Product Manager at Peak, gave a packed-out crowd a whistle-stop tour of the Peak platform, getting under the hood to demonstrate how these kinds of outcomes are made possible with Decision Intelligence. AltitudeX attendees were also given the opportunity to see the platform in action for themselves throughout the day, with several demo booths available to access at Depot Mayfield. To close off his presentation, Chris announced the launch of Peak’s new, inclusive data community with the aim of supporting data scientists and analysts who want to make a difference and drive change within their organisations.
Interested in our new data community?
If you are wrestling to tie your work to the real-world, this is the place for you. Learn how to build models that deliver on commercial needs, troubleshoot problems and exchange ideas with data scientists from a range of backgrounds.
Just before lunch we were treated to two more insightful conversations on the Depot Stage. ‘Connecting the dots into the unknown: making decisions about an unknowable future’ was focused on decision making through the lens of B2B SaaS investments, and featured Keith Wallington (Chairperson and former COO of Mimecast), Hugh Campbell (Co-founder of GP Bullhound) and David Foreman (Managing Director of Praetura Ventures).
Shortly after, we welcomed Neil Ward-Dutton of IDC (VP of Analytics, AI and Automation) to explain why it’s “time to level up your organisation with Decision Intelligence.” He chatted us through some interesting research recently conducted by the premier global market intelligence firm, explaining that, despite the fact businesses are now drowning in data, decision making is not getting easier but becoming more complex. You can download this research report below for more information!
AltitudeX attendees were then invited to sample some delicious street food (hog roast at a tech conference? Also highly recommended!) This gave everyone a chance to take a breather, catch up in the networking zone or cast their eyes over some of the amazing data-driven research posters on show, presented by a handful of PhD students and academics.
This wasn’t the only technical attraction at AltitudeX, with our separate Workshops zone allowing attendees to get more hands-on and take away some valuable learnings on a wide range of practical topics. Sessions included sharing tips on getting MLOps into production, data science solutions lightning talks, lessons from a high-growth scale-up and the importance of explainability in Decision Intelligence and AI. With spaces in high demand for each of the sessions, we’ll be exploring these topics further in upcoming content – so watch this space!
After lunch it was time for a blockbuster line-up of amazing speakers to see us through to the post-events drinks reception (thanks to our sponsors, Intel!) First up was Miranda Kaunang, Head of Development at FareShare Greater Manchester. Miranda, joined on stage by Peak data scientist Oskar Nummedal, spent her session sharing memories from the past year. She explained how the charity’s work has been impacted by the pandemic, with over 3,400 tonnes of food distributed during this time, as well as touching on the phenomenal impact that the involvement of Manchester United and England star Marcus Rashford has had on FareShare. Oskar then gave us a glimpse into how Peak is using data and AI to help FareShare get more food on the plates of the people who need it most, demonstrating how technology can help society’s most vulnerable.
So many memories of last year
Proud to share them today 🍏 https://t.co/ykBUYXgRhl
— Miranda Kaunang (@MirandaAKaunang) November 4, 2021
Following Miranda’s talk, the Depot Stage drew arguably its biggest crowd of the day: Christopher Wylie. Best known for setting up (and then taking down) cyberwarfare firm Cambridge Analytica, the “pink-haired, nose-ringed oracle sent from the future” – to quote the New Yorker – joined Peak Chief of Staff, Mylo Portas, for a fascinating conversation recounting his whistleblowing days and touching on his new role as Head of Insight and Emerging Tech at H&M. Calling for safety and design quality to be key considerations in software design as they are in any other fields of engineering, Christopher’s talk captivated the Depot Mayfield crowd, with no seat spare.
Shortly after, we heard some more incredible stories from Nicky Moffat CBE, former HR Director – and once the highest-ranking woman – in the British Army. Discussing all things leadership with Peak’s Cat Foster (Learning & Development Manager), Nicky provided us with a unique take on driving cultural change within an organisation.
The goal of AltitudeX was always to bring together a diverse audience, welcoming people from copious industries and job functions with a multitude of interests to discuss all things decision making. However, if there’s one thing that everyone enjoys, it’s to have a bit of a laugh at the end of the day – and Danny Wallace was the perfect person to close out our inaugural conference!
The presenter and author joined our main event compère, Tom New (Peak’s Head of Creative Marketing), for a light-hearted look at decision making. Danny talked us through his unusual adventures as the ‘Yes Man’ – his highly-acclaimed book that was later adapted into the Jim Carrey-starring movie of the same name – as we found out exactly what happens when you say yes to everything and don’t have the inconvenience of making decisions at all for an entire year.
As the conference closed its doors and attendees headed to neighbouring venue Escape to Freight Island for a glass or two of the good stuff, we announced the exciting news that AltitudeX will be returning in the not-too-distant future, heading to London in May 2022. We hope you can join us for what promises to be another memorable AI and Decision Intelligence Summit, as we look to make AltitudeX a stand-out date in the calendar for years to come.