Collision 2019 -
A look back at this high-impact event

By Mariève Bouchard et Manuel Léveillé, June 19th, 2019

A few days ago, the 6th Collision Conference took place: an event dedicated to new technologies that brought together more than 25,000 attendees from all walks of life. After Las Vegas and New Orleans, it was Toronto's turn to host the event, a first in Canada.

It was the perfect opportunity to send two of our own designers, Mariève Bouchard and Manuel Léveillé, not only to deepen their own knowledge but most especially to be inspired.

Today, they report on their experience: 4 days at Collision, 3 major discoveries:


1. A greater accountability in the development of new technologies.

If there was one overall theme that coloured all the discussions at the event, this was it. The power and impact of these new developing technologies was really front and centre. While the high-tech industry has long been seen as the solution to many problems, today it appeared to be the cause of many others.

Rather than evaluating the profitability of a technological innovation at all costs, we should focus on its positive impact over the short, medium and long term. Whether from a social, moral, environmental, or even business perspective, the main concern should be developing "Good Tech".

To this end, here are some statements from speakers that particularly impressed us:

"While social networks exploit human weaknesses by rewarding popularity and attention, the power of technology must be used to promote collaboration and stimulate creativity."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt / Hitrecord

"The protection of the oceans is threatened by overfishing and plastic debris, but rather than focusing on single-use plastic, the priority should be abandoned fishing equipment (Ghost Gear). There is great potential for technology to be a part of the solution to this problem."

Andrew Sharpless / Oceana, Sean Casey, Government of Canada


The environment was at the heart of the discussions and concerns at Collision. Undoubtedly, technology should now be used for initiatives that have ecological dimensions. Moreover, as a designer, we have a responsibility to consider the impact of the life cycle of the products we design. This same subject was brought up at CPES2019 earlier this spring.

This desire to do better, in conjunction with some social and ecological issues (i.e. overpopulation), opens the door to a world of opportunities, particularly in the agricultural industry. Thanks to the use of cutting-edge technological tools: data, automation and connected objects, agriculture is currently undergoing such radical changes that a new term has been created: Agtech. Several emerging companies, including Nectar, have taken on the challenge of innovating and reinventing farmers' ways of doing things.

"We are good at solving problems, but we should focus instead on preventing them."

Dorry Segev / Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

This last statement is loaded with meaning because it challenges the entire system of product development. As industrial designers, we specialize in solving problems, in helping to meet users' needs. Looking beyond these needs and seeking to eliminate the source of problems is essentially re-examining the entire product creation model in the broadest sense, whether physical, digital, providing a service or even a hybrid combination thereof. In fact, it is with this in mind that we at ALTO developed the phase 0, a research and questioning phase whose purpose is to prevent potential problems before starting on actual design.

2. Collaborating more than ever

The development of new technologies (especially Good Tech), is no longer an individual effort. The time of racing against the clock for innovation is over; it is now time for the relay race.

"Collaboration is the key to innovation, and this is especially true for the big companies who compete with start-ups."

Brent Mohair / Fedex

Too often, large technology companies and start-ups seem to be in opposition with each other, when they are in fact more complementary than they appear. The highly specialized nature of an emerging company can unlock a major challenge for a larger company, which is more general in its approach. The opposite is just as likely.

However, this mindset requires a greater sharing of knowledge on both sides. This sharing should not be seen as a risk or a disadvantage, but rather as an opportunity to improve the final product. And so, to ensure sound innovation, technology must no longer belong to a handful of companies. A democratization of technological tools must therefore occur. This greater accessibility is achieved namely through the sharing of data (open data + open source). Once released, reinterpreted and combined, this data can generate benefits that were unsuspected at the outset.


In the same vein, many times during the event, there was talk of open-mindedness and openness to other cultures. Adopting a more global vision will inject a breath of fresh air into any innovation process.

According to the experts attending Collision, if the technological development of recent years belongs to North America and Asia, that of the coming decades may well be the domain of the emerging countries.

"Emerging countries are at the epicentre of the new developing technologies, as they are more inclined to push their integration. Large cities are victims of their growth, which limits their potential for innovation. They have a lot to lose, and so they attempt fewer experiments."

Dan Doctoroff / Sidewalk Labs (Akon –Akoin)

We can, therefore, expect a greater interconnection between the different players in the coming years, or even a reversal of the power of innovation from the large to the small, the affluent to the less well-off.

3 - Canada has the wind in the sails

While the announcement to move the conference to Toronto initially attracted some criticism, the organizers certainly held their own. All the comments following the event were unanimous: Toronto was the perfect place to host such a conference. For good reason, the Queen City is in the grip of a technological boom.

Led by significant research and investment in artificial intelligence, software development and biotechnology, the Greater Toronto Area is experiencing considerable growth. Last year alone, nearly 29,000 jobs were created in the region. This is more than the cities of San Francisco, Washington, Seattle and New York combined.

While we believe that Montréal has nothing to envy Toronto in terms of business creativity and entrepreneurship, the fact remains that Toronto has become a hub for leading-edge technology. This situation could have a positive impact on the whole country. With a more than favourable exchange rate and access to proprietary technologies, we can be sure that an increasing number of American companies will decide to cross the border in order to collaborate with local companies.

Who knows, Canada may well become a reference in the development of "Good Tech"? When it comes to caring and open-mindedness, Canada's reputation is quite well established.


In short, with all that we hear about artificial intelligence, robots, Big Data and the Internet of Things (IOT), new technologies can create a more complex and austere world. That said, by attending events like Collision, we can come to realize that the development of these technologies is instead based on deeply human values, such as empathy, altruism and sharing. Naturally, it remains essential that a product or service solve a problem for its user, though without neglecting its impact on the broader environment.

For this reason, we at ALTO are more focused than ever on the development of "Good Tech" and we invite all our partners and collaborators to do the same.

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