A future of Personal Avatars, Synthetic Companies, Virtual Reality Training, Extended Reality…and much more…message from Shannon Chamber Conference

Sophie Hackford (centre) is pictured at Dromoland Castle Hotel with (from left): conference speakers Sarah McDonough, director, Atomic DNA; Gillian Power, HR manager, Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon and John Ryan, Great Place to Work in Ireland; Derek McKay, managing director, Adare Human Resource Management (anchor sponsor); Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber; Declan Dooley, Sunday Business Post (media partner) and; conference speakers Deirdre Bennett, director or HR, Chanelle Group; Jemma Carty, HR site lead, Dell Technologies, Limerick and Fergal Brophy, UCD Innovation Academy. Photo: Eamon Ward.


Attendees at a conference in Dromoland Castle Hotel, organised by Shannon Chamber in association with Adare Human Resource Management, were taken on a whirlwind tour of technologies currently being released or developed when world-renowned technology futurist Sophie Hackford took to the stage to deliver the keynote address.

The conference, aptly themed ‘Shaping the HR & People Management Landscape: An Unfolding Future’, was aimed at senior executives, HR managers and practitioners in companies throughout the Mid-West to make them aware of the changing world we live in, the changing and challenging world of human resources and its impact on recruitment, learning and development and flexible working.

With speakers and panellists drawn from a broad range of companies – UCD Innovation Academy, Great Place to Work in Ireland, Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon, Dell Technologies Limerick, Atomic DNA and Chanelle Group, a lively discourse on topics such as mixing and matching ideas and best-in-class practices across organisation in preparing for the workplaces of the future was the order of the day with the finale address given by Sophie Hackford.

Describing her job as a “totally made up one”, it did not take the audience long to realise that  it was far from that and that Ms Hackford was, in fact, a heavyweight in matters technological as she delivered a riveting presentation, outlining the shape of our world to come.

Describing the world as a computer in which we are all the calculations, given that every device we use has a digital track, she said: “Machines are our new reality; we need to get into the headspace of a robot.”

Dealing with areas such as data, artificial intelligence and extended reality, she said that the incredible power of data will result in countries fighting over it.

“Things that were never data before are now data points. This will result in machine earth getting better as we feed it more data,” she said.

On facial recognition, which is becoming more widespread, she outlined how it will become our passport and a proxy for our wallets.

With each of us set to have a personal avatar, she envisioned a world where autonomous companies could become a norm, predicting that advertisers will need to assess who they are, in reality, advertising to, humans or avatars.

“Avatars will be like our personal butlers, doing things we don’t necessarily need to do; but, as avatars can live longer than humans, and there is a digital afterlife, what will the Internet of the future look like?” she questioned.

Stating that there is an incredible set of new things coming our way, she said that digital will not be sufficient.

“A new, more powerful set of new tools, with superpower, will be coming our way; however, we need to understand what we use technology for and not how technology controls us. Technology needs to work for us; humans need to ask the questions.”

Speaking after the conference, Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes said: “It was a mind-blowing, powerful presentation of a world we have not yet entered. Many will have mixed feelings about it and, while some of the technologies referred to such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, facial recognition and virtual reality are making inroads into our work and lives, the full impact of these new technologies will take many more years to unfold. However, companies need to be prepared for this changing world and stay abreast of and, in some cases, ahead of the curve.”

Adare Human Resources Management’s Derek McKay outlining the value of a conference of this nature, added: “We were delighted to be part of the conference, as anchor sponsor. It was hugely impactful. The presentations from a diverse set of speakers have certainly challenged the minds of people managers and HR practitioners. Key takeaways from the day for me were: the need to understand the different stages of innovation – incremental and transformational and how to get this on the leadership agenda and, that creativity is a key skill of the twenty-first century.”

The ‘Shaping the HR & People Management Landscape; An Unfolding Future’ conference, held in Dromoland Castle Hotel, was made possible through the support: Adare Human Resource Management, Engine Lease Finance, Element Six, Shannon Commercial Properties, Shannon Chamber Skillnet and Sunday Business Post.


Photograph by Eamon Ward


Photograph by Eamon Ward