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CEO message: We really can control our future

I’ve caught a glimpse of the future and, believe me, it need not be as scary as some of today’s news headlines would have you believe.

AI, 5G and IoT will be regular parts of our lives by 2030. At least, that’s the forecast delivered by Andy Lombard, executive vice president, Innovation & Venture Development for the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA).

And he wasn’t just sharing his expectations with me. He was among the 85 people who gathered for the recent Arizona Technology Council CEO Retreat, our annual meeting of leaders from throughout the state.

If some of you heard your boss was part of the crowd at our retreat in Prescott, I can vouch for the fact that we all weren’t there just to get away to play golf. (OK, some of us did that early in the retreat.) More importantly, we were sharing—and learning. Lombard’s session was one of many in which this gathering had the chance to step back and think about how they and their companies fit into the big picture.

For example, Lombard’s presentation offered the snapshot of Arizona at the end of the next decade. While artificial intelligence, the next wave in cellular network technology, and the Internet of Things are just becoming established now, they really will become as common as the word “internet” in our vernacular. Add to the list smart cities and urban air mobility, which refers to on-demand and automated passenger or cargo-carrying air transportation services.

This all will build on a foundation in place today. For example, Lombard noted Arizona already is home to a number of technology firsts in the nation, including:

  • Testing and operation of automated, or self-driving, vehicles
  • FinTech and PropTech sandboxes
  • Streamlined deployment of 5G

A little quieter but as important have been establishment of the Arizona Cybersecurity Team and creation of AZSkyTech to enable safe deployment of UAS technology.

Speaking of current successes, Lombard is part of an organization that since it was established in fiscal 2012 has been instrumental in sustaining unprecedented economic growth in our state. Working with the Office of the Governor in the current and past administrations, ACA has partnered with companies behind the scenes to make an impact. The tally to date includes the addition of:

  • 895 projects
  • 129,000 jobs
  • 46 corporate headquarters
  • $13.7 billion in capital investment

Retreat attendees even took a look at how technology has the potential to deal with those headlines I mentioned earlier. Rick Smith, CEO and founder of Scottsdale-based Axon, shared his vision of a future where violence doesn’t need to be the only response to violent acts.

His company is known as the maker of such products as the TASER and body-worn cameras to help police and other public safety personnel do their jobs smarter while keeping themselves and others safer. “As a country, we could get out of the killing business altogether,” Smith told the group in a video presentation.

He noted the irony that in a world filled with modern technology we still have bullets, which were created in the days of the horse and buggy. Statistically, if the situation involves bullets, the situation escalates. That’s where the TASER comes in since use of the device doesn’t imply a standoff. Instead, the situation de-escalates.

Additionally, use of the TASER means the offender stays alive to be questioned so further profile intelligence can be gathered. “Technology can help us move beyond wiping out cities,” he says.

This is a goal that I’m certain we all can get behind. We have the opportunity to help shape new headlines that give us hope for what is to come.


Steven G. Zylstra, President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council  

Zylstra is a champion of the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards, and was named “Leader of the Year, Technology” by the Arizona Capitol Times and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. Besides serving as chairman emeritus of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), he also is a member of numerous councils, committees and boards.

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