Commentary & Analysis
17th EFI Connect Brings Together 1,500 Attendees for Learning, Networking, Inspiration
Artificial intelligence, connecting the dots that no one else sees, and print as the igniter … some key learnings from EFI Connect 2017. The WhatTheyThink team was there and captured some great video interviews. In this post, Senior Editor Cary Sherburne shares the highlights that caught her attention.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: February 7, 2017
Another EFI Connect has come and gone – this was the 17th edition! Frank Romano’s video interview with EFI’s Holly O’Rourke captures the highlights. The event was held at The Wynn in Las Vegas for the 11th year … personally, I’m not a big Vegas fan, but if you have to go there, The Wynn is a fabulous destination. I never left the building the whole time!
And it’s more than the venue. Unlike many other users’ groups who have moved to an independent model, EFI still runs its own show. The EFI team does a great job of pulling together this conference, which had about 1,500 attendees, including 109 members of the international press and analyst community from 18 countries (EFI bills it as the largest gathering of the international printing journalist/analyst community outside of drupa, quite an achievement!). Nine partners joined the event as exhibitors, and attendees could choose from more than 200 educational sessions.
One of the highlights of EFI Connect is Guy Gecht’s kick-off keynote, and this is his 14th time doing so, dating back to 2003 when he explained why EFI was buying PrintCafe. There are always surprises, like the time he brought in Benny Landa to announce their agreement to have EFI Fiery front-ending Benny’s digital presses. This year, Guy focused on artificial intelligence (AI), of all things! For a quick overview, take a look at the video interview with Guy. He titled the presentation, “The next big technology revolution is huge … and scary!” His focus this year was less about where EFI is going and more about the next big thing in technology from a thought leadership perspective. Although it did raise a question in my mind about whether they were planning to acquire an AI company!
Gecht said, “AI is not a new topic. When I was in university 30 years ago, I participated in worldwide work in AI.” At the time, the task was to have the computer recognize H, A and 8 in handwritten copy. A couple reasons he chose the topic:
- EFI is a technology company headquartered in Silicon Valley, and it is a hot topic in the technology community.
- AI, while it has been around a long time and moved along slowly in the past, is now accelerating at a fast pace due to access to Big Data, unbelievable cloud computing power and fast processing power at the device level.
“If a car is driving itself from cloud-based computation and it loses connectivity, that’s not good” he said, explaining why device processing power is important. On the upside of self-driving vehicles, he cited research that reflects that almost every time the driver intervened in the driving process, it turned out the car was right and the person was wrong.
But he also cautioned about the dangers of AI, citing a statement from Stephen Hawking: “The development of full AI could spell the end of the human race.” The biggest concern? That bad actors will use it to harm others. Food for thought.
Another highlight of the event was Guy’s fireside chat with Quad/Graphics CEO Joel Quadracci. It is always a great pleasure to hear from Joel, who has been the CEO for 10 years now and has wrought significant changes in the company while preserving its unique corporate culture. He talked about the evolution of the company and the industry and where he expects it to go in the future. We had a similar conversation with him last year at Graph Expo. Some excerpts: “There is no finish line in business … well, there is, but you don’t want to find it. You can’t wait for the map to find you, to be an ‘also’ person. If you don’t make mistakes, it’s probably because you aren’t pushing the boundaries.” He cited advice from his father, as well: “Never be complacent and always look to connect the dots that other people are not seeing.”
He encouraged the audience to seek out what the customer needs, what technology is available, and figure out how to bring those together. It’s something he has done well at Quad/Graphics.
Jeff Jacobson, CEO of the new post-split Xerox, also participated in a fireside chat with Guy, and it was interesting to hear him speak about the future of Xerox and the future of print. One comment that stood out is his belief that “print is the igniter. It all starts with a page.” It was almost positioned as a renaissance of print, which challenges the industry to think differently about how print fits in the modern business communications mix.
There was much more going on at EFI Connect 2017, too much to cover in this space. If you haven’t attended in the past, consider heading out to The Wynn in January of 2018 for next year’s conference. It’s a great venue for learning, networking and inspiration!