Held at the Sanctuary Events Center, which in itself holds top-of-the-line technology within its historic walls, this Wednesday was the 2017 State of Technology. Together with U.S. Senator John Hoeven, we welcomed a series of speakers to share what innovations they’re seeing across the state. Attendees were treated to presentations from experts representing the most cutting-edge tech across a variety of industries.
Senator Hoeven shared a message that the goal should be to make tech entrepreneurship the third wave of growth in North Dakota. North Dakota is already a leader in agriculture, is an energy powerhouse, and now we have the potential to further that with tech. “We want the greater Fargo area to be an absolute hub of tech entrepreneurship in the U.S.,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Dakota Carrier Network, our presenting sponsor, announced the fourth expansion of a data center that is capable of withstanding an F4 tornado and is constructed to never be down. They’re also working to protect the data housed there from cyber threats. Last, they’re collaborating with industry leaders and educators to prepare ND’s workforce for cybersecurity needs for businesses.
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“We’re not done until we have every cyber security threat mitigated and protected across the state,” Seth Arndorfer said.
Col. Britt Hatley of the North Dakota Air National Guard said the U.S. ANG is moving into using Remotely Piloted Aircraft to keep our pilots safe doing 24/7 patrol.
Will Brandt of Microsoft conducted a live survey of the audience using Microsoft Forms feeding into an Excel spreadsheet to demonstrate new capability within survey taking that provides real-time data, deep insights and connectivity. Microsoft’s PowerBI visualizes and filters data, which included displaying a map of the corporate headquarters of survey respondents. Using a tool like PowerBI can enable business decision makers to interact and understand big data sets that are increasingly common across many industries.
ITCND also announced a name change. Soon, they will be known as the Technology Council of North Dakota, or TechND for short.
Congrats to the following winners of the ITCND 2017 Awards:
- Premier IT Business: High Point Networks
- Technology Innovator: Midco
- North Dakota IT Champion: Justin Walsh and Garrett Moon, CoSchedule
Dakota Outerwear Company is headquartered in Minot and represented ND during Trump’s Made in America Week. Richard Leshovsky took the stage to share more about their garments for military and oil workers that are used throughout the world.
“We need technology in the production of our products to make them efficient and competitive,” he said. “Our industry has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, and that’s created some unique problems that without computers we wouldn’t be able to overcome.”
Now, they make clothing that can prevent frostbite, be flame resistant, reflective and/or prevent injuries.
Betty Gronneberg, founder of uCodeGirl, talked about how we are in a time of extraordinary change, where things like automation, big data and the Internet of Things are coming together to provide boundless possibilities. But with that, we have a responsibility to prepare the next generation for this future. “We have to raise computational thinkers,” she said.
The problem? “We have 576 jobs in ND and only 117 graduates. “If we want to be leading an innovative state, we need to invest in our kids. The solution is found in the same place as the problem. North Dakota should take the lead.”
She also said that 71% of computing jobs will be in the T in STEAM. But, girls are missing out at an alarming rate for these opportunities. She believes it is the lack of role models and the cultural norm that doesn’t give them the confidence to pursue into uncharted territory like computer science. “We must ask, why not? …I believe that girls are capable, creative and curious, and can contribute to technical solutions.”
Brian Kalk talked about UND’s EERC efforts, which has been increasing energy recovery and solutions for the development of coal, CO2 and oil. “Every 1% more oil we get out of the Bakken is a billion barrels of oil,” he said.
Justin Walsh, CTO and co-founder of CoSchedule, shared the story of ND’s fastest-growing startup, including starting as two guys in a basement to now having 8,000+ customers in over 100 countries and revenue that has doubled three years in a row. “North Dakota has everything you need to start a high-tech, high-growth company. We think North Dakota is our competitive advantage. We’re a North Dakota company built on North Dakota capital, and we’re very proud of that.”
NDSU’s Innovation Challenge winners James Froberg and Fataneh Karandish discussed their game-changing research and device that can detect pancreatic cancer in a single drop of blood.
Presenting the keynote address was North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who provided numerous examples of areas in which ND is demonstrating innovation, and discussed how we can continue to lead the way and where we still need to grow. From autonomous aerial vehicles, the Northern Plains Test Site, precision ag, pipeline safety, health care, data collection, fiber optics that collect real-time traffic data, and more. And while UND and NDSU may compete in football, he said that R&D should be a team sport where we all collaborate.
“We want to focus on innovation, and as a state we can do that,” he said, “whereas other states focus on yesterday’s problem, we can innovate and solve tomorrow’s problem.”
On a governmental level, motor vehicle kiosks are coming to the state, driver’s licenses can now be renewed online, and mobile apps for the DOT and Job Service are available – something our state has been behind in for a while. “Our vision is that we’ve got to be as good in government as the private sector.”
Burgum pointed to a few specific organizations that are making huge differences around the world. From Protosthetics that outfitted 46 people with 3-D printed prosthetics in five days in Guatemala, to Appareo revolutionizing agriculture, along with John Deere and Case. “Two of the three major farm manufacturers are doing all their software and technology work in Fargo that’s being shipped around the world, and that will transform every aspect of farming,” he said.
To wrap it up, Burgum brought the discussion back to workforce, tying again to Gronneberg’s message. “We’re not graduating enough people to fill the 21st century jobs. We’ve got to have life-long learning, we’ve got to start skills and get smarter.”
He offered a challenge to continually ask questions, and be aware, intentional and innovative as businesses in these times of rapid change.
Check out this recap from The Forum: Building up the ‘railroad’: Tech conference touts ND’s growth in high-speed internet
And this coverage from KVRR: 2017 State of Technology Conference in Fargo
Here are our favorite Tweets from event attendees