President Trump met with two dozen executives from technology companies and venture capital firms Thursday for advice on how the government can promote emerging technologies such as drones and the Internet of things.
‘‘We want to remain No. 1,’’ Trump told the technology company leaders. ‘‘We’re on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve virtually every aspect of our lives, creating vast new wealth for American companies and families.’’
Executives including outgoing General Electric Co. chief executive Jeff Immelt, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson, Sprint Corp. chief executive Marcelo Claure, and venture capitalist Steve Case, the billionaire cofounder of AOL, were invited to provide suggestions on how the administration should spur private innovation and set appropriate guidelines for new technologies.
In a public session open to reporters and television cameras, the president and corporate leaders offered fulsome praise for each other. Trump told Stephenson AT&T is doing ‘‘really a top job.’’ Precision Hawk chief executive Michael Chasen congratulated the president ‘‘on the great job you’ve been doing.’’
The tech leaders were to hold breakout sessions on drones, connected devices and easing access to venture capital for startups outside traditional enclaves such as Silicon Valley, deputy US chief technology officer Michael Kratsios told reporters Wednesday.
Trump ‘‘will learn firsthand how these important technologies are reshaping modern life and what’s possible when our workers can fly over job sites, and when huge cell towers shrink to the size of pizza boxes,’’ he said.
The White House is using the week to highlight technology initiatives. Trump met Monday with tech executives including Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos to discuss ways to make the federal government more efficient. On Wednesday, the president visited Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to discuss the use of technology in agriculture.
While several chief executives of technology companies have been critical of some of Trump’s policies, particularly on immigration, they have flocked to the White House this week seeking to influence the government’s approach to technology.
AT&T’s Stephenson said before the event that he was pleased with the lighter regulations already promised by the Trump administration and that he was optimistic about the possibility of tax reforms happening this year. Lower corporate tax bills would free up more cash that companies like AT&T could channel back into capital expenditures, Stephenson said Thursday on CNBC.
On the wireless front, AT&T and the other major US carriers have drawn up plans for investing in the next stage of network infrastructure, which is being called fifth generation or 5G. The super-fast technology is expected to usher in a hyper-connected Internet-of-things era where self-driving cars can monitor and coordinate with other vehicles.
‘‘I am looking forward to sharing ideas with everyone today,’’ T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert said Thursday. ‘‘The opportunity for this country with 5G and IoT is enormous if we set things in motion the right way. It’s an impressive group of leaders heading to the White House and should be an interesting discussion.’’
Case, who now runs the investment firm Revolution, used his company website to defend his decision to engage with Trump.
‘‘I know some people will question my decision to attend the gathering of investors at the White House, but I have long advocated for leaders of any kind to engage if given the opportunity,’’ Case wrote Wednesday, highlighting his concerns with Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change. ‘‘I would argue that there is perhaps no more important time to take a seat at the table.’’
In the Internet of things, a growing number of objects and devices will become web-connected – everything from refrigerators and thermostats to cars and industrial machines.
The technology aims to improve efficiency and responsiveness by remote monitoring and automatically managing industrial manufacturing lines, households, people’s health, or traffic systems, for instance.
Corporate spending on technologies related to the Internet of things could reach $280 billion by 2020, the Boston Consulting Group estimates.
‘‘We will need to build out the infrastructure to handle this dramatic transformation,’’ Kratsios said.
Other executives attending White House talks include Honeywell International chief executive Darius Adamczyk and John Stratton, Verizon Communications’ executive vice president and president of customer and product operations.