COVID-19 Impacts Technology Conference

By Scott Hamilton

Senior Expert Emerging Technologies

This week I want to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted the technology industry when it comes to conferences and meetings. I was invited to speak at an international conference on the topic of quantum computing earlier this year. The conference is Artificial Intelligence for Science, Industry and Society (AISIS) and was scheduled as an in-person conference October 11-15, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. However, several months ago it was decided to take the conference online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. I was then required to record my talk for upload to the site and rely on feedback from the internet versus real-time feedback from a live audience.

I am also usually at the largest Supercomputing conference in the world the week of November 14-19, 2021, SC21. I was excited last year when they announced they would be a face-to-face conference in 2021, and even more excited when hearing that the conference would be held in the America Center in St. Louis, Mo. Supercomputing has an annual attendance rate of 15-20,000 attendees, and over 250 vendors, but since COVID-19 began restricting travel last year, the 31-year anniversary of the conference and the 30-year anniversary of the massive temporary network infrastructure built to sustain the conference, SciNet, was turned into a fully online event.

Everyone involved is looking forward to attending SC21 in person and witnessing the stand-up of a temporary city in the conference center. SciNet is to provide 400GB/sec network access to the conference with 10GB/sec to each vendor booth and wifi connections for all attendees. This is comparable to the network infrastructure of the Missouri counties of Texas, Phelps, and Pulaski combined.

An announcement last week has made nearly 50 percent of the planned attendees decide to view the conference online. Not only did the conference committee decide to enforce social distancing and mask mandates, partly brought on by the St. Louis County Health Department, but they took things a step too far for many planning to attend. “SC21 will require all in-person attendees, exhibitors, volunteers, and SC21 staff to be fully vaccinated. In order to pick up your registration badge, you must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination from one of the FDA or World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines,“ according to the conference website.

This means two things: number one, if you are not vaccinated you don’t have enough time to be fully vaccinated before the conference as it takes a minimum of six weeks. Four weeks between vaccine doses, and two weeks following the second dose before you are fully vaccinated. The second thing is the requirement not allowing for exemptions, whether they are medical, religious or otherwise, eliminates a fairly large group of people from attending. So if you enjoy large technology conferences, don’t plan on attending without your vaccine. I had hoped to invite you to meet me there this year, but made a personal decision that I will not attend at all because of the restriction. The second largest supercomputing company in the world decided to not have a physical presence for the same reasons.

Until next week, stay safe and learn something new.

Scott Hamilton is a Senior Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to shamilton@techshepherd.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org. You can also follow his channel on rumble at https://rumble.com/c/c-1141721.

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