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Fiber Optic Cable The Konference Sarfarissoq took place in Nuuk — the capital of Greenland — at the Katuaq cultural center. The conference began with a Greenlandic dinner at the Hotel Hans Egede (the only hotel in Nuuk) and included an A cappella singing performance by a group of natively dressed Inuit men and women. It was quite a treat. The food included Musk Ox, reindeer, shrimp, haddock and many other delicious foods. It was a very nice opportunity to get acquainted with Brian Pedersen, the conference host and CEO of Tele-Post Greenland, and the other speakers and spouses, and of course Anders Laesoe, Santa Claus’s chief helper..
Brian Pedersen kicked off the conference by describing how the Tele-Post vision of a “Global Greenland” continues but the mission is changing from “communication without borders” to “a global Greenland – in the middle of the world”. He said the submarine cable would put Greenland on the net in a way that creates Safarissoq — the name for the part of a stream where the speed accelerates. The result he said will be to strengthen the economy of the country and create new jobs.
Flemming Jensen then took the stage in his tuxedo and began an eloquent speech. It was in Danish and I did not understand a word of it but people began to laugh. At first I thought he was just a good speaker with some added humor but by the time the audience was nearly rolling on the floor in laughter I realized he was something much more. I later found out he is an actor, director, and comedian from Copenhagen. His multiple appearances on stage added a great deal to the conference.
Jesper Refiner had the toughest job at the conference. He was responsible for the overall program including the roles, rules, logistics, flow, support and administration. He did not a marvelous job of coordination and only one person let him down. A translator had been hired to enable non-Danish speaking attendees (like me) to listen through headsets. The headsets were available but due to ideal hunting conditions in the North and labor rules to the left, the translator called in “sick”. I believe my wife and I were the only ones of 250 attendees that only understand one language, so although we enjoyed meeting many new friends and speaking with them in English, the conference was 99% in Danish.
Preben Mejer, a founder and distinguished technologist of innovationlab, set the technical stage with a broad view of consumers on the net to 3D printing to intelligent band aids. After lunch, yours truly gave a talk (unfortunately I could not do it in Danish) about “The Future of the Internet”. I won’t repeat my key messages which can be found throughout this blog. In a short TV interview afterward a reporter asked what impact the emergence of broadband in Greenland would have on the “remote” areas of the country. As she asked the question it came to me that the impact will be that there will be no such thing as “remote”. A great idea from any part of Greenland will be shared with the rest of the world and vice versa. Tom Friedman had it right — the world is flat.
Speaking of broadband, Lars Tofft — president of Ericsson Denmark — drilled down on what broadband is all about. He painted a vision of mobile broadband being much faster in the not too distant future than wired broadband is today. This will open up the possibilities that Preben and I had outlined earlier. Like the other presenters, I could not understand the words they said but I could tell from the slides that all the speakers were all on the same page.
Day 2 focused on applications: e-Home, e-Health, e-Ducation, e-Citizen, and e-Trade. The speakers were all superb and then there were buses to take people to local venus such as the hospital to see the applications in action. Søren Duus Østergaard from IBM Denmark did an excellent job of summarizing the day in his blog.
Throughout the conference there were demonstrations in the lobby of the Katuaq cultural center and the public was invited to visit. There were crowds throughout both days right up to the end. There were many school children who visited and they loved seeing and holding the Pleo baby dinosaur. One of the other big draws was 3D printing. It was amazing to see a nice vase “printed” each few hours. The most impressive demo to me was the haptic feedback device. It is a bit hard to describe — one of those tings you need to “feel” to believe. You move the hand-held cursor over a “rough” object and you can “feel” it in the device you are holding on to. A lady described how she was planning to sell seal skin purses on the web by allowing people to be able to “feel” the texture of the skin on-line. The potential for engineering collaboration is quite evident.
The flight from Nuuk to Keflavik on the way home was uneventful and followed by a 45 minute ride to downtown Reykjavik. Unfortunately it was cold and raining but it was still a nice walk around the harbor and the city. Dinner at Laekjarkrekka was outstanding. I added it as a five-star in the favorite restaurants list. The flight back to JFK was followed by a short flight to Mt. Pocono and then a half-hour drive back to the lake. It was nice to get back but we have fond memories of new friends and a place we had never before visited.