At this week’s house of smart launch in Austin, Texas, Daimler CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche, head of smart Dr. Annette Winkler, and tech experts from around the world set out to recharge the batteries of the SXSW conference crowd with inspiring talks and workshops.

Anyone navigating Austin’s Downtown this week will spot a dazzling new addition to the nocturnal firmament: a sparkling smart fortwo with a disco ball finish, hovering above Interstate 35. The shiny marker serves as the visible symbol of an exceptional pop-up location.

Right on East 6th Street, the epicenter of Austin’s nightlife, the house of smart has taken over the Waller Ballroom. Its standalone schedule contrasts and complements the world’s largest digital conference SXSW (South by Southwest) and promises: relaxation, insights, connections, and inspirations from the realms of digital, mobility, and technology.

People testint virtual reality devices in the house of smart
People in the audience wearing headphones
Virtual reality games in the house of smart
house of smart event

“house of smart is a hotspot for new ideas. It’s a perfect match because smart used to be an in-house start-up at Daimler,“ says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, in his opening speech. “The first smart electric drive changed the car industry, while car2go is the world’s biggest carsharing service. And there are many more innovative services to come.“

Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG, talking

Dr. Dieter Zetsche in front of the house of smart


smart as an active early adopter

In her chat with Tech Open Air founder Nikolas Woischnik, Dr. Annette Winkler also underscored the innovative approach that links smart and the tech scene. According to the head of smart, who also shipped an entire fleet of the brand’s new smart electric drive models to Texas for a free ride share service, “among car companies, smart is like a speedboat for new technologies. This ranges from new services like smart ‘ready to share’, which lets me share my car with friends and colleagues, to smart ‘ready to drop’, turning my vehicle into a package drop when it’s not in use.”

Winkler also mentioned a concrete use scenario: During her live cooking session with Sonya Coté, CEO and head chef of the Eden East, Hillside Farmacy, and Homegrown Revival Austin eateries, she suggested that “next time, we could have our groceries delivered to the trunk of our smart.“

 Cooking session with Sonya Coté at the house of smart

Future pop and artificial intelligence

Naturally, sound also played a major role in music-loving Austin and at the house of smart, where some of the freshest local heroes took to the stage: Ambient Americana virtuoso Bayonne, the electro funk wizards of Capyac and S U R V I V E, whose atmospheric synthesizer sounds infused Netflix hit “Stranger Things” with a neo-nostalgic air.

DJ at the house of smart at the SXSW in Austin, Texas
Band S U R V I V E playing at the house of smart
Workshop at the house of smart in Austin
S U R V I V E at the SXSW

Future flavors brain waves also informed the first talks and workshops at house of smart: Ed Newton-Rex, founder and CEO of, for example, discussed using artificial intelligence (AI) to teach his computers how to compose. And wondering whether musicians should worry about being replaced by machines at some point. His clear-cut answer: Since people are always going to be creative, AI could help to make art and creativity even more diverse, personalized, and available.

Ed Newton-Rex, founder and CEO of speaking at the house of smart

A fellow avant-garde AI specialist, Aleksandra Przegalińska of the MIT Sloan School of Management, turned our attention to wearables, i. e. digital gadgets that measure body functions like heart rate, respiration, or brain waves to improve self-optimization.

Their overall goal of these devices: to make us feel better and boost performance. According to Przegalińska, the technical scope of wearables is huge, but we need to make sure that any collected data is handled in a transparent and confidential way – a challenge that is at least as staggering as the technology involved.

 Aleksandra Przegalińska speaking at the house of smart


“me Convention“ by SXSW and Mercedes-Benz at IAA

A further effect of these inspiring activities: The unique “house of smart” buzz will come to Germany this year. South by Southwest and Mercedes-Benz will join forces to host a “me Convention” at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in September 2017.

The pop-up conference is designed to spark new ideas, impulses, and social discourse on future-related topics. Scheduled to take place at the Daimler (with the brands Mercedes-Benz and smart) trade fair presence on September 15th – 17th at Festhalle Frankfurt, the program will also encompass performances and other events in the city center.

the house of smart in Austin, Texas