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Field services operations bullish on emerging technologies, finds Red Hat global survey

By Zenobia Hegde

For many industries, from transportation to utilities, manufacturing and more, field workers are pivotal to the success of business operations, the satisfaction of customers, and the growth of the bottom line.

Field workers are now at the forefront of digital transformation where artificial intelligence (AI), smart mobile devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and business process management (BPM) technologies have created new opportunities to better streamline and transform traditional workflows and workforce management practices.

To better understand how these technologies are being applied and the impact they are having in the enterprise, Red Hat commissioned research firm Vanson Bourne to survey 300 IT decision makers from organisations in the U.S., Europe and Asia that employ a significant field workforce. The survey examined investment trends, current and future adoption patterns, use cases and implementation challenges.

According to the results, strong technology investment is expected by respondents with an average increase of 25% through November 2018, reflecting the importance of technology in transforming field service operations. Top business factors identified as influencing this investment include increasing field worker productivity (46%), streamlining or optimising field operations and processes (40%), and improving customer service (37%).

When we consider the current trends that are broadly driving conversations in the tech industry, AI is one of the leading topics. While still an emerging category—currently implemented by only 24% of respondents—we believe the technology has great potential across a variety of industries and use cases. It comes as little surprise that an additional 30% of respondents plan to implement AI in 2018, aligning with an average anticipated increase in investment of 26% for certain respondents over the same period.

The AI umbrella encompasses a number of specific technologies for those respondents that have either implemented already or plan to implement to address more specialised uses cases, including:

Predictive analytics (55%)
Machine learning (46%)
Chatbots or virtual digital assistance (45%)
Robotic Process Automation (44%)

Despite being more established technologies, mobile, BPM and IoT seem to defy their relative maturity in the market with respondents indicating double-digit growth across the board in both investment and implementations through November 2018. While 67% of respondents have already implemented mobile apps for field service operations, an additional 19% plan to implement new mobile apps, supported by a 20% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents.

The outlook for BPM and IoT is similar. Respondents expect implementations to grow from 61 to 81% for BPM and from 53 to 73% for IoT, fueled by 20 and 24% average expected increase in investment by certain respondents, respectively.

However, along with the appetite for technology investment and implementation growth, respondents are keenly aware of the technical challenges their organisations face in developing and implementing applications for field workforce management. Access to timely and relevant data is critical for field workers in remote locations, harsh environments, or areas of low network connectivity, as is the ability to protect that data as it flows between the field and back-end systems.

As a result, securing data access was the top challenge identified in the survey at 34%, followed by:

The pace […]

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Europe falls behind US in adoption of AI-led security, as half of firms surveyed say IoT is making it harder to stay secure

By Zenobia Hegde

IoT (Internet of Things) strategies are hampering security management, with almost half (47%) of executives in a new survey saying it has become more difficult to stay secure in the last year. This is one of the key findings of the 2017-2018 Global Application and Network Security Report, just released by Radware®, a provider of cyber security and application delivery solutions.

Adding to the problem is the complex issue as to who is responsible for IoT security. When asked who needs to take responsibility, there was no clear consensus among security executives. Responses pinned responsibility on the organisations managing the network through to the manufacturers, but the majority said it was down to consumers using these devices (56%).

Andrew Foxcroft, regional director for Radware UK, Ireland and Nordics, says that its time companies closed the debate and assume responsibility themselves: “Everything that is attached to the network is a threat to security. The longer we debate who is responsible the more advantage we hand to the hackers who will do everything that can to exploit weaknesses.

“Governments of the world are taking more and more interest in IoT and if companies fail to be decisive, take responsibility and collaborate on security, legislation will make the decision for them – look at Germany’s decision to ban smart toys.

Lazy assumption

“It’s lazy to assume consumers will think about security. We already know people find it challenging to keep up with software updates and are unlikely to think through the risks regardless of the terms and conditions they sign up to. The network is only as strong as its weakest link and the sooner companies realise IoT devices are the weakest link, and that the buck will always stop with them, the better.”

The study also found that the percentage of companies reporting financially motivated cyber-attacks has doubled over the past two years, with 50% of surveyed companies experiencing a cyber-attack motivated by ransom in the past year. As the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – often the preferred form of payment among hackers – has appreciated, ransom attacks provide an opportunity for hackers to cash out for lucrative gains months later.

Cryptocurrencies help hackers

“The rapid adoption of cryptocurrencies and their subsequent rise in price has presented hackers with a clear upside that goes beyond cryptocurrencies’ anonymity,” adds Foxcroft. “Paying a hacker in these situations not only incentivises further attacks, but it provides criminals with the vital funds they need to continue their operations.”

Andrew Foxcroft

The number of companies that reported ransom attacks in which hackers use malware to encrypt data, systems, and networks until a ransom is paid – surged in the past year, increasing 40% from the 2016 survey. Companies don’t expect this threat to go away in 2018 either. One in four executives (26%) see ransom as the largest threat to their business sector in the coming year.

“Criminals used various exploits and hacks this year to encrypt vital systems, steal intellectual property, and shut down business operations, all with ransom demands attached to these actions,” Foxcroft said. […]

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Silicon Labs to acquire smart home technology company Sigma Designs for $282M

Silicon Labs, a semiconductor company that manufactures products for the Internet of Things, Internet infrastructure, and industrial automation use cases announced last week that it will acquire Sigma Designs for a cash transaction valued at approximately $282M.

In case Sigma fails to meet certain financial conditions, the deal will still go ahead as planned for a reduced amount of $240M.

The deal is based on Sigma’s per share price of $7.05, a 26 percent premium over Sigma Designs’ closing price of $5.60 per share on Dec. 6, 2017. Sigma Designs is a smart home company that provides Z-Wave, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) technology for smart home solutions.

The acquisition of Sigma Designs will help Silicon Labs to expand its offerings in the smart home wireless connectivity market. “The connected home represents one of the largest market opportunities in the IoT. Today, there is no single dominant wireless technology for home automation, and protocols include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, Zigbee®, Thread, and proprietary,” said Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs. Additionally, the deal will allow Sigma to expand into Smart TV market.

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Smart city question over US$5 trillion posed in new ABI Research survey: Cheaper or smarter?

By Zenobia Hegde

Smart city technologies could save enterprises, governments and citizens globally over US$5 trillion (€4.21 trillion) annually by 2022 according to a new whitepaper by ABI Research. The new white paper analyses the scope for cost savings and efficiency as a driver for smart city deployments, smart technologies and the IoT.

According to the report, titled ‘Smart Cities and Cost Savings,’ the use and deployment of IoT and smart technologies will be pivotal to the future success of smart cities, but only if players collaborate to embrace a holistic approach.

With higher concentrations of people and enterprises in cities as a result of urbanisation, smart city and IoT technology, along with new sharing and service economy paradigms, will be key for cities to optimise the use of existing assets, maximise efficiencies, obtain economies of scale and ultimately create a more sustainable environment. Automation, artificial intelligence, along with sensors, data-sharing and analytics, will all be critical in helping cities save costs.

The report, commissioned by InterDigital, on behalf of its Smart Cities-focused business, Chordant™, in partnership with CA Technologies, considers the aggregated absolute cost-saving potential for the government, enterprises and citizens in a typical smart mega city of the future (i.e., in the next 5 years) with 10 million inhabitants. This is based on the yearly savings achievable for 75 of the world’s cities that have a total urban population of more than 5 million (source: World Atlas).

Key cost savings from the ABI Research report highlight that, in each such typical smart mega city of the future:

Governments: Could save as much as $4.95 billion (€4.17 billion) annually. Street lighting and smart buildings are two areas that could yield savings, with smart street lights expected to cut repair and maintenance costs by 30%.
Enterprises: A $14 billion (€11.80 billion) cost-saving opportunity exists for enterprises, in areas that include freight transportation by using more energy efficient transport options, such as drones, robots or driverless vans and trucks, and smart manufacturing plants.
Citizens: Savings of up to $26.69 billion (€22.50 billion) per year could be achieved in areas such as utilities, through the deployment of smart metres and micro-grids, and in education with the development of a hybrid education system (physical and online).

“While smart cities technologies offer multiple benefits, very significant direct cost savings represent a key incentive to embrace urban innovation for city governments, citizens and enterprises alike; this allows building stronger business cases with faster ROI, facilitating project approval and accelerating deployments,” said Dominique Bonte, VP Markets, ABI Research.

Dominique Bonte

The report references a B2B technology survey of 455 US-based companies across nine vertical markets conducted in March 2017 in which the companies ranked a list of 11 key benefits expected from implementing innovative technologies. “Reduction in operational costs” barely surpassed “faster and more efficient decision making” as the number one expected benefit, with a 5% margin.

“Smart cities are built upon the Internet of Things (IoT) allowing citizens to reimagine how they work, live and play,” said Rahim Bhatia, general manager, API Management, CA Technologies. “We’re excited to see […]

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