THE TechSwindon summit itself previewed an exciting future for the town with superfast broadband and a new tech institute on the way.

Originally a two-day event at the Steam Museum, the summit ended up stretching over five days and was held online instead, with live broadcasts receiving hundreds of thousands of views.

The summit was billed as a call to action to focus on innovation and how tech can support economic recovery in 2021.

The speakers included a talk by Dr Nicola Millard from BT about the future of the workplace – a subject she said she's been talking about for 10 years but became a hot topic after the pandemic forced people to work from home.

An unofficial study of remote working found productivity increasing – people worked by an average of 48 minutes a day longer – but collaborative innovation was made more difficult and many missed the social aspect of the office.

The future of work, she suggested, would be a hybrid model of working from home and meeting to share ideas in regional hubs instead of expensive offices in big cities.

CityFibre is investing £40 million into bringing full-fibre internet to Swindon, which city manager Neil Madle suggested would improve the town.

He said that this enhanced digital infrastructure would be a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity., support 5G and enable self-driving cars to use Swindon's streets.

As a result, congestion would be reduced and air quality improved as CCTV, sensors and smart signals managed traffic flows, and courier firms used delivery drones, while the delivery of health and education services via the internet would be supported.

The investment, he said, would create £500 million of economic benefit in Swindon over the next 15 years.

BT Labs senior research manager Alex Healing is responsible for the Future Cyber Defence cybersecurity programme.

Increasingly, said Alex, artificial intelligence is being used by criminals to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in systems and software, while data analysts used AI and machine learning to identify suspicious behaviour before an attack could be successfully launched.

Brian Runciman and Adam Thilthorpe from Swindon-based BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT, discussed how AI will change the world of work.

Brian presented research showing that 55 percent of BCS members were already using artificial intelligence, with a further 31 percent ready to use AI very soon in tasks like assisting decision making, predicting outcomes using data, and the automation of repetitive tasks.

Despite deepfake videos, Cambridge Analytica and last summer's exams fiasco, he suggested that artificial intelligence could be a force for good. A successful track and trace system would be rooted in effective AI that could dive into huge amounts of data to identify trends, correlation, and causation.

While some job roles could be made obsolete, it would lead to a new industry of programmers, AI analysts, behaviour interaction specialists, and ethicists.

New College Swindon principal and chief executive Carole Kitching gave an update on the £21-million Institute of Technology which will open next autumn on the North Star campus.

One of 12 in the country, the government-backed institute will offer qualifications from A levels to degrees in a variety of STEM subjects, to students who will enjoy new facilities including a film studio, science labs, engineering workshops, and digital labs.

The TechSwindon Summit will return next year as a hybrid event with a mix of online and real-world events. To watch this year's presentations, visit and for future events, check out

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