Robots and artificial intelligence dominate the news as industries in every sector consider how technology will affect our futures. Most people agree that artificial intelligence (AI) is immensely beneficial in saving time, standardizing certain procedures and results, and relieving human works of the monotony of certain tasks.
How helpful is too helpful, though? As we enter Industry 4.0, many fear that artificial intelligence will take jobs, effectively demoting humans to joblessness. In fact, McKinsey projects that as many as 800 million workers worldwide could lose their jobs to robots and automation by 2030.
While that fear is understandable, it doesn't account for new possibilities and an objective look at our economic future. New technologies do not aim to replace humans; they work to make our lives easier by helping us be more productive, more efficient and more knowledgeable.
Just take it from Ganesh Padmanabhan. He's the VP of Market Development at CognitiveScale, Inc, a company focused on "augmenting" intelligence by combining artificial intelligence and blockchain technology with creative and critical thinking to solve the biggest problems in today's industries.
According to Padmanabhan, "AI intelligence is the biggest opportunity of our lifetime to extend and expand human creativity and ingenuity. The two main concerns that the fearmongers raise are around AI leading to job losses in the society and AI going rogue and taking control of the human race. I believe that both these concerns raised by critics are moot or solvable."
To appreciate the looming benefits of artificial intelligence, we have to understand where our current systems are inefficient. Knowing where our current workforce contains opportunities for growth and increased efficiency can help us to create the AI tools we need to meet those opportunities.
As software and algorithms increasingly take care of those inefficiencies, we should expect to see higher productivity and better efficiency from workers. This, in turn, increases the worker's value to their company.
Many companies currently face a few specific challenges that artificial intelligence can alleviate, such as huge workloads, lack of efficient tools and an inability to keep up with the competition. Let's examine those further.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are the contract between a business and their customer. Most companies provide an array of services to their clients, as opposed to a single service. Efficient processes help them to meet client demands. But in far too many companies, processes are anything but efficient.
Things such as creating too many rules surrounding decisions that only supervisors can make slow down work processes, making helping customers a several-hours job instead of a few-minutes task. Endless requests for feedback with days or weeks between replies can also slow down SLAs, sometimes to the point of causing the company to miss deadlines.
If companies ignore the many applications of AI in their daily processes, it's probable that deadlines will be missed, projects delayed and client relationships marred. With more efficient methods in place through artificial intelligence, however, businesses can be empowered to meet and exceed their clients' expectations.
As previously discussed, companies can often face a long to-do list for each client, and successful companies serve many clients at a time. Keeping all the data, task lists and personal information for every client organized and confidential can be a mess. Often, companies struggle to find the right tools to store customer information, communicate with customers, communicate with each other, track expenses and invoices, and more.
That's just the start. The chances are high that the actual service or product being provided requires its own complete set of tools. If a business is lucky, those tools already exist, but that's not always the case.
It can be an endless loop. When a company falls behind a competitor, they often respond by working harder, doing the same things as always, but with more hours a day and more days a week. Not only does that not work, but it also takes time and attention away from the business, where someone could be researching and investing in automation to make the business run more smoothly.
There aren't many industries with low or no competition anymore. To survive as a business, you have to make smart decisions concerning what activities will fill your day, how you'll approach challenges and finding the best way to serve your customers efficiently.
In 20 years, you'll be hard-pressed to find a company that isn't relying heavily on artificial intelligence to serve their clients. Early adoption of AI positions companies ahead of their competition. Staying on top of emerging technology and testing new trends and tools as they emerge helps companies to consistently improve their processes and deliverables, maintaining their position as leaders in their industries.
In examining these three areas of business, we can see that, contrary to popular belief, AI actually increases the value of an employee to their employer. Combining artificial intelligence's speed and accuracy in examining data with a human's ability to innovate and creatively solve problems results in a workforce that's stronger and more able to meet current and future challenges.
Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is characterized by large-scale automation and data analysis. Compare this to the Third Industrial Revolution, which focused heavily on digital influence in manufacturing.
While the digitalization under Industry 3.0 focused on automating single machines and processes, Industry 4.0 thinks bigger, focusing on the complete digitalization of all physical assets driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), cyberphysical systems and cloud computing. Creating a complete digital "ecosystem" that processes, organizes and disseminates data across states and countries is a key goal for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For example, the highlight of the Third Industrial Revolution was the 3D printer, a device able to create nearly anything - from a variety of materials - unassisted and unsupervised. Add artificial intelligence to the systems that the Third Industrial Revolution pushed forward, and we can see processes that very nearly require no human intervention at all.
When you think even bigger, you can see solutions such as 3D printing in space, a concept that recently allowed NASA scientists to send tools to space stations via a 3D printer, which created the needed tools on demand from hundreds of thousands of miles away.
We are already experiencing a number of benefits from artificial intelligence in the workplace, and the technology used is only improving day after day. In order to stay relevant, companies should already be testing and implementing artificial intelligence applications now. This includes applications from machine learning, data analysis and automation.
Any organization that has yet to automate the more mundane processes of business had better start researching ways to begin using AI immediately. In most cases, you'll find that the tools that can solve a majority of these mundane problems and tasks already exist. Where they don't, though, they can be created with a little brainstorming and a programmer.
Participating in Industry 4.0 isn't just about digital assistants and automation, though. Collecting, organizing and analyzing immense quantities of data is another hallmark of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. When used efficiently, data analysis is a trend that can help organizations to improve every aspect of the business, from internal processes to product development to marketing.
When considering artificial intelligence, you'll often see the word "shift," and for good reason. AI isn't completely upheaving most industries (though exceptions exist) but rather shifting the responsibility of some tasks while improving the intelligence behind decision making in others. It's a shift for the better - one that pushes us to indulge in creative tasks that require empathy, ingenuity or divergent thinking. No longer spending hours completing rote tasks, we're able to devote time to solving bigger challenges.
Automation describes nearly any process that requires only a computer for completion, such as "auto replies" on emails, chatbots on websites and resume analysis in human resources departments. The technology is already being used in different capacities across nearly every industry.
Take, for instance, the lack of tools we mentioned earlier. Billing, communication and CRM are just three of hundreds of business tasks that need to be completed on a weekly basis. Without the proper tools, just completing the tasks themselves can take a week or more. No company wants to be backlogged in serving their customers because they're too busy trying to figure out how to communicate with their team.
Artificial intelligence provides the tools necessary to complete many of these tasks efficiently and correctly. In many cases, automation using artificial intelligence can effectively complete certain jobs for tech employees, relieving some of the burdens of time constraints and freeing employees for more creative work.
Automation can be anything from software that sorts emails into folders to algorithms that categorize an entire industry's worth of knowledge. If the saying "time is money" is true, then automation directly saves companies money every day. The bonus benefit of automation is that automated processes can be run every minute of the day, doubling or tripling the output a company is capable of maintaining.
Some common automation tools include:
Hubspot: Complete sales and marketing solution that tracks leads and customers, creates workflows and tracks goals
Slack: Communication tool that allows instant communication through typed messages
SalesForce: Sales automation and CRM tool
Zapier: Automates actions across third-party apps and software
We've seen automation in manufacturing for years now. Think about the foods you buy. Every food product you purchase in a container, such as cereal or canned goods, was packaged using automation. Machines
used algorithms to determine where, when and how to place labels, press lids closed and organize products on pallets.
Self-driving cars might be a cooler example of automation, though. In developing self-driving vehicles, scientists "taught" machines to recognize human faces using neural networks. Now, self-driving vehicles can detect if or when a human is in their path and take appropriate, automated action to avoid collision.
Machine learning is the branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on "teaching" programs to recognize and organize data based on repeated exposure to large amounts of data. Machine learning is most effective when paired with huge amounts of data because more data allows for more nuanced learning.
Anyone who is online on social media, shopping sites and even news sites is familiar with one concept of machine learning - customized ad experiences. When you shop online, look up a new recipe or even just browse online, your movements are tracked. Advertising agencies can use your browser history to remind you of products that you recently viewed but did not buy.
Digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa are also examples of machine learning. As you interact with these assistants, they learn your preferences in everything from music to restaurants. They track your appointments and appointment locations and manage interactions with contacts by texting friends for you or reminding you of voicemails.
Online safety, especially in finance and health care, has been a fundamental topic since the beginning of the Third Industrial Revolution, when we saw digital business management rise. In the age of Big Data, cybersecurity is now more important than ever. Breaches in security in just one organization could expose millions of individuals to significant threat through identity theft, malware, phishing and more
There are several AI-based cybersecurity firms to watch out for. Google recently announced their own cybersecurity company, Chronicle, which uses Google technology and AI. Many of the tech giants are in the process of buying up and coming AI startups, such as LightCyber, which was recently purchased by Palo Alto Networks.
Artificial intelligence uses the massive amounts of data collected every day to find patterns, make predictions and explore business opportunities. Examining both the raw data and the trends extrapolated from the data can inform future business practices in departments such as research and development, marketing and even on the board of trustees. We call the practice of examining all of that data: data analytics.
DataRoot Labs has been active, both in business and in the media, for their high-quality data analysis services as well as DataRoot University, a series of courses that teach data analysis.
The simple truth is that the very act of initiating artificial intelligence projects within companies will require human oversight, and that oversight will always be needed in industries. There isn't an industry around that can be run completely without humans
What's even better is that using new technology to streamline and improve processes will leave all of us with more time to brainstorm ever bigger and better solutions to problems. Artificial intelligence might be changing the way we do business, but it can't take away our curiosity, ingenuity and drive, and those are what will keep us going
Enterprises continue to race into the digital future - the promise of top-line growth and bottom-line savings driving the hyper-adoption of tech-dependent business models.
The major aim of such hyper-adoption is to build a leaner, smarter, faster and more responsive enterprise that relies on instant digital connections with customers, partners and suppliers to stay competitive and relevant. Such enterprises leverage big data analytics and intelligent technologies to facilitate data-driven business operations.
They also use automated processes, IoT devices and autonomous machines to decrease operating costs, increase productivity and augment human resource capabilities. However, an explosion of new cyberthreats is infiltrating and threatening the very stability and continuance of today's connected, data-driven enterprise. With digital transformation comes increased exposure and vulnerability to the exploits of hackers and cybercriminals
The increased automation, connectivity and sensitive data flowing through today's digitized enterprises multiply the attack vectors through which hackers can compromise systems and networks. Since most businesses rely heavily on thoroughly embedded digital systems whose networks run through the entire enterprise, a single security incident (such as the breach of an endpoint system) can expose the entire network to a cyberattack.
Now more than ever is the time for enterprises to make cybersecurity a core aspect of their operations.
Some of the largest enterprises in the U.S., including Equifax, Target Stores, JP Morgan Chase and Yahoo, were the targets of the biggest cyberattacks of the 21st century. These attacks caused massive disruption of business operations, exposed the sensitive data of millions of customers/employees and impacted adversely on corporate reputation and levels of customer trust. Let's take a more incisive look at some of these cyberattacks and their overall impact on the enterprise.
Although the data breach occurred in October 2013, it wasn't discovered until several weeks later. The retail giant disclosed that the attackers compromised its network through a third-party vendor, gaining access to its point-of-sale payment card readers where it compromised the debit and credit card numbers of over 40 million customers.
The contact information of over 70 million customers including names, email addresses, phone numbers and addresses were also exposed during the breach. The estimated cost of the breach was approximately $162 million.
In May 2014, the e-commerce giant reported a data breach that exposed the names, dates of birth, encrypted passwords and addresses of its 145 million users. The cybercriminals accessed the company's network through the credentials of three employees and had inside access for 229 days before they were shut down.
Fortunately, the attack didn't expose the financial information of customers since the data was stored in a separate database.
On September 7, 2017, one of the largest credit bureaus in the U.S. disclosed that an application vulnerability on its website resulted in a data breach that compromised the data of its customers. Personal information such as names, addresses, license numbers and social security numbers of over 143 million customers were exposed as well as the credit card data of 209,000 customers.
Although the company discovered the data breach on July 29, experts say that the attack may have been carried out in mid-May.
In mid-October 2016, The FriendFinder Network, which included adult content and casual hookup sites such as Stripshow.com, iCams.com, Cams.com, Penthouse.com and Adult Friend Finder, was the victim of a massive data breach that compromised over 412.2 million accounts. The attackers collected 20 years' worth of data from the network's six databases including names, email addresses, and passwords.
Before LeakedSource.com published an analysis of the network's dataset on Nov. 14, 2016, over 99 percent of the passwords had been cracked due to the weak SHA-1 hashing algorithm that was used to secure them.
In September 2016, Yahoo - the once-dominant internet giant - announced that it was the victim of one of the largest data breaches in history - an attack most likely carried out by a state-sponsored actor. The attack, which occurred in 2014, compromised the names, dates of birth, email addresses and phone numbers of over 500 million users.
A few months later, Yahoo disclosed that it had been the victim of a much larger data breach in 2013 - an attack executed by a different set of hackers that compromised over 1 billion accounts. This attack compromised the security questions, names, dates of birth, email addresses and phone numbers of those affected.
In October 2017, Yahoo revised its earlier estimate and announced that all three billion user accounts had been compromised.
Understanding the motives behind the actions of cybercriminals is the first step towards combatting them. Although cyberattacks are perpetrated for a variety of reasons, financial gains are among the top reasons why hackers target enterprises. According to reports from Juniper Networks, the cost of data breaches is expected to exceed $2 trillion by 2019. This points to the fact that hackers consistently hit pay dirt with their exploits.
As such, it is only a matter of time before your enterprise ends up in the crosshairs of one cyber attacker or another. To effectively prepare your organization for such an eventuality, you should be aware of the motives behind such attacks as well as the resources or data being targeted.
Hackers who are financially motivated often compromise corporate networks to steal sensitive data they can sell on the dark web. They also use ransomware to encrypt important sensitive data and halt critical business operations, knowing that most enterprises will pay the requested ransom to get their data back.
Such hackers often target large corporate networks since they have the financial stability to cough up their financial demands. However, a growing number of attacks are now being directed towards small and medium-sized businesses. Although the ransom paid by such businesses are smaller, hackers often target a whole lot of them to make the attacks worth their while.
If the attackers are ideologically inclined, they may look to deface an organization's public-facing systems or execute DDoS attacks to cripple their day-to-day operations. These attacks are designed to eliminate perceived threats to the environment (if the hacker is an environmentalist), sabotage digital systems and networks to get their point across or harm the public reputation of the target organization.
Other motives driving cyberattacks include prestige, curiosity and political reasons. Knowing your adversaries, the motive that drives them, what they target and their modus operandi is key to creating a holistic security strategy that ensures the cyber resiliency of your organization.
Although the future of the digital enterprise is here, so also is the future of cybercrime. With the introduction of technological developments and innovations such as AI, machine learning, deep neural networks and business intelligence systems into the global marketplace, hackers are developing more sophisticated malware and APTs to compromise and exploit these technologies.
Virtually all the elements that make up today's digital enterprise can either be hacked or are vulnerable to malware and DDoS attacks.
As many enterprises have learned, cyberattacks, especially those that compromise sensitive and personal data customers, cripple business operations, disrupt the provision of services and destroy the public reputation and trust that is critical to customer retention in the digital age.
Most enterprises rely on round-the-clock connectivity to reach customers, interact with leads, communicate with suppliers and partners across the value and supply chain and carry out other internal processes.
Businesses are linked via wireless networks and digital connections to a growing network of consumers, partners, distributors and other stakeholders spanning the globe. Combined with the meteoric rise of the IoT industry, businesses can now retrieve data and manage their equipment from any location in the world.
With the hyper-adoption of such connected devices and the pervasiveness of IoT, it's clear that the world is heading to a future where everything and everyone relies heavily on digital technology.
But despite the number of organizations adopting "digital only" or "digital first" strategies, only a few understand just how much their core business processes depend on digital technology.
Of late, there has been increased focus and interest in cybersecurity. Reports from a Mckinsey study show that over 75 percent of business executives now consider cybersecurity a top priority. However, organizations should not only focus on securing their systems and networks from cyberthreats; they should take proactive steps towards future proofing themselves.
As we head towards a digitally dependent future, organizations must look for strategies and practices that will ensure their stability in a world fraught with cyberthreats and highly-motivated hackers.
The only proven way to achieve this is by becoming cyber-resilient.
Resilience is one of the key long-term properties that an organization must have to grow and thrive in a constantly changing environment. It defines its ability to survive in challenging circumstances through the successful implementation of ever-evolving strategies.
Since crises often occur as a result of circumstances beyond one's immediate control, resilient organizations are in the best position to face and withstand the effects of such happenstances.
Becoming cyber resilient in today's digitized business environment means changing the way we perceive, understand and leverage the opportunities of digital technology. It also involves a fundamental shift in how we manage risk since traditional models of impact analysis and risk mitigation are no longer sufficient.
Due to the constantly evolving nature of today's business environment, enterprises must be able to move rapidly to adopt necessary digital technology solutions; however, they must retain the flexibility to recover and proceed with business activities if anything goes wrong.
To become cyber resilient, businesses must design their IT systems and business processes in a way that facilitates the effortless and unsupervised protection of valuable business data. They must also develop strategies, integrate robust cyber defenses and implement recovery plans that ensure rapid response to cyberattacks.
Although cyber resiliency is concerned with mitigating risk by improving cybersecurity, it doesn't stop there; it also involves the organization's ability to respond, anticipate, learn and evolve in the face of unexpected changes in a hyper-networked digital environment.
Most organizations leverage a complex mix of processes, digital technology, and human resources to execute business activities. As such, the failure of one component often results in a cascading effect that has the potential to halt all operations and put a stop to productivity.
The more tightly coupled your business operations are with digital technology, the more disrupted they will be in the event of a failure. This poses a threat to both operational capabilities and business continuity.
Cyber resilience is also concerned with ensuring that the technological aspect of your business is robust enough to handle any failures or disruptions that may occur. Identifying each technological component, their attributes and the individual roles they play in facilitating business operations is a critical step towards ensuring cyber resiliency.
Also, all new technologies must be assessed before adoption to determine their interconnection with other components as well as their overall impact on business operations.
One of the most important steps towards making organizations cyber-resilient involves breaking out cybersecurity from its silo and making it an essential aspect of business strategy discussions. Cybersecurity teams must be included in discussions concerning the expansion of business operations to encompass new industries and technologies.
Enterprises should also choose the right leaders to head their cybersecurity efforts. Such leaders must be business-savvy and ready to bridge the existing gap between cybersecurity and business operations.
Lastly, employees must be part of all cyber resiliency efforts. It isn't enough to inform employees about the dangers of clicking suspicious emails; extensive programs must be organized to educate employees on the basics of cybersecurity.
With the recent increase in the number and sophistication of cyberattacks, adequate training is central to the reduction/elimination of human error from the cyberattack equation.
Cyber resilience makes up the core foundation of modern businesses and is a valuable attribute that ensures continued competitiveness and overall business survival.
Although cybersecurity experts are making great progress in the fight against cybercrime and its perpetrators, the future of cyber warfare will require new weapons and new strategies.
To ensure the continued success of today's connected, and digitally-dependent businesses, cyber resilience must become a core competency.
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