K E Y N O T E  S P E A K E R S


Steffen Staab

Professor of Databases and Information Systems
Universität Koblenz-Landau, Germany


Steffen is full professor for Databases and Information Systems at the Universität Koblenz-Landau, Germany, and full professor for Web and Computer Science at University of Southampton, UK. He studied in Erlangen (Germany), Philadelphia (USA) and Freiburg (Germany) computer science and computational linguistics. In his research career he has managed to avoid almost all good advice that he now gives to his team members. Such advice includes focusing on research (vs. company) or concentrating on only one or two research areas (vs. considering ontologies, semantic web, social web, data engineering, text mining, peer-to-peer, multimedia, HCI, services, software modelling and programming and some more). Though, actually, improving how we understand and use text and data is a good common denominator for a lot of Steffen’s professional activities.

Maarten de Rijke

Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Information Retrieval
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Maarten de Rijke is University Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Information Retrieval at the University of Amsterdam. He holds MSc degrees in Philosophy and Mathematics (both cum laude), and a PhD in Theoretical Computer Science. He worked as a postdoc at CWI, before becoming a Warwick Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, UK. He joined the University of Amsterdam in 1998, and was appointed full professor in 2004. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and a recipient of a Pioneer Personal Innovation grant, the Tony Kent Strix Award, the Bloomberg Data Science Research Award, the Criteo Faculty Research Award, the Google Faculty Research Award, the Microsoft PhD Research Fellowship Award, and the Yahoo Faculty and Research Engagement Program Award as well as a large number of NWO grants. He is the director of the newly established Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence and a former director of Amsterdam Data Science.

De Rijke leads the Information and Language Processing Systems group at the Informatics Institute of the University of Amsterdam, one of the world’s leading academic research groups in information retrieval. His research focus is at the interface of information retrieval and artificial intelligence, with projects on online and offline learning to rank, on recommender systems, and on conversational search.

A Pionier personal innovational research incentives grant laureate (comparable to an advanced ERC grant), De Rijke has helped to generate over 65MEuro in project funding. With an h-index of 69 he has published over 750 papers, published or edited over a dozen books, is editor-in-chief of ACM Transactions on Information Systems, co-editor-in-chief of Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval and of Springer’s Information Retrieval book series, (associate) editor for various journals and book series, and a current and former coordinator of retrieval evaluation tracks at TREC, CLEF and INEX. Recently, he was co-chair for SIGIR 2013, general co-chair for ECIR 2014, WSDM 2017, and ICTIR 2017, co-chair “web search systems and applications” for WWW 2015, short paper co-chair for SIGIR 2015, and program co-chair for information retrieval for CIKM 2015.

The retrieval and language technology developed by De Rijke’s research group is being used by organizations around the Netherlands and beyond, and has given rise to various spin-off initiatives.

Jaak Vilo

Institute of Computer Science at University of Tartu, Estonia


Prof. Jaak Vilo heads the Data Science chair and the Institute of Computer Science at University of Tartu, Estonia and leads the health data analytics of STACC, a public-private research organisation in Estonia. He earned his PhD in Computer Science at University of Helsinki, Finland. In 1999-2002 he worked at the European Bioinformatics Institute, UK as one of the pioneers in early gene expression microarray data analytics. There he developed the Expression Profiler toolset for various biological data analysis tasks. In 2002, after 12 years abroad, he moved back to Estonia to help creating the Estonian Biobank in PPP partnership with VC investments as director of informatics of EGeen Ltd. He also started his own research group BIIT at University of Tartu, now about 20-people strong. His group applies data analysis, machine learning and algorithmic techniques to a broad range of biological and health data and applications. Linking genomics and many other omics data and health records is a key to developing methods for personalisation of medicine. Medical data, lab measurements, pharmacogenetics and overall multi-genic disease risk scores are complicated to handle due organisational and national barriers, yet international research would benefit greatly from opening up and sharing such data and research results. Prof. Vilo is a head of ELIXIR-Estonia node of the pan-European biological data infrastructure whose mission is to facilitate global data re-use.

George Giaglis

Director of the Institute for the Future
University of Nicosia, Cyprus

What’s next for blockchain research? From M2M commerce to self-sovereign identities for machines

The first wave of blockchain research, innovation and implementation has been under way for almost ten years now. Distributed ledgers have created new paradigms for disintermediated value exchange and, in the process, have given rise to (sometimes irrationally inflated) expectations about their potential impact to economy and society.

Today, as we move toward a more in-depth appreciation of blockchain capabilities and limits, new research challenges arise that will demand the attention of the research community, as well as industrial practice, in coming years. In this talk, I will go through three such challenges, discussing ways in which they might influence our future research and technology development agendas:

  • Blockchain converging with other exponential technologies. In the first wave of innovation, challenges have been mostly esoteric to the world of blockchains, dealing with questions related to, for example, their scalability, privacy, auditability or interoperability. As the fourth industrial revolution gets under way, we should expect more research to be devoted to the interplay of blockchains with other exponential technologies, most notably the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. For example, interconnected objects with advanced cognition capabilities might utilize blockchain layers to assign business services to each other and pay for them, thereby unleashing a new world of human-to-machine (H2M) and machine-to-machine (M2M) commerce.
  • Blockchain fueling a world of object identities. Much has been written about self-sovereign identities and the promise of blockchain to revolutionize the way humans control their data and who/how has access to them. While elements of these debates are certainly worthy, we must also note that identifying humans is a problem that has been, more or less, already solved effectively with pre-blockchain solutions. Where a huge opportunity for paradigmatic shift exists is in the ability of distributed ledgers, again coupled with IoT-based architectures, to create worlds in which we develop self-sovereign identities for objects and software. Such abilities will vastly redefine the limits of who (or what) can participate as autonomous agents in our future economy.
  • Blockchain enabling new forms of industrial organization. Since the industrial revolution, the prevailing paradigm organizing business activity has been based on the notion of the corporation, as an effective means of pulling together human, capital and physical resources. With blockchain, we can start conceiving new notions that deviate from this paradigm, for example organizations that exist only as software, coordinating resources through smart contracting and operating autonomously from their human owners with pre-programmed business logic. Naturally, such forms of work organization require further research and development before they become serious competitors to status quo – only further scrutiny and experimentation will tell whether their promise of a more efficient economic organization can materialize in the not too distant future.


Professor George M. Giaglis is Director of the Institute for the Future at the University of Nicosia, as well as a leading expert on blockchain technology and applications and advisor to many blockchain projects and technology start-ups. Prior to joining UNIC, he was Professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business (2002-2017), where he also served as Vice Rector (2011-2015). George has been working on digital currencies and blockchain since 2012, with his main focus being on new forms of industrial organization (programmable smart contracts, decentralized applications and distributed autonomous organizations) and new forms of corporate financing (token economy, crypto-economics and ICOs). He has been one of the first academics to research and teach on blockchain, having: designed the curriculum of the world’s first full academic degree on blockchain (MSc in Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia); led the development of blockchain credentialing technology that has resulted in the first ever publishing of academic certificates on the blockchain; taught on the disruptive innovation potential of blockchain, both at academic programs and in executive seminars worldwide; organized a number of prominent blockchain conferences and events, including Decentralized. Throughout his career, he has published more than 10 books and 150 articles in leading scientific journals and conferences, while he is frequently interviewed by media and invited as keynote speaker or trainer in events across the globe. He is the Chief Editor for Blockchain Technology at the Frontiers in Blockchain Journal and member of the Editorial Board at Ledger.