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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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Phishing for Bitcoin

By Jeff John Roberts

It had to happen sooner or later: The two biggest tech stories of 2017–foreign cyber attacks and bitcoin–have come together perfectly in a single story. Namely, it looks like the infamous North Korean hacking outfit, The Lazarus Group, is running a spear-phishing campaign aimed at executives of cryptocurrency companies.

You may remember this gang from previous outrages such as the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, the hacking of Sony, and the $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank. Their latest scam, identified by Secureworks, involves sending emails about a Chief Financial Officer position that contain an infected Microsoft Word document.

As ZDNet reports, clicking on the document triggers a piece of malware that allows the attacker access to the victim’s computer. It’s unclear if any of the targeted executives have fallen for the phish or if the scheme has yielded the Lazarus Group any bitcoins. Let’s hope not–in part because crypto-currency companies know the risk of cyber-threats better than most, and should not be hiring people who click on random Word documents.

More broadly, the idea of North Korea phishing for bitcoin is intriguing because the phenomenon is at once so new and so old. It’s new because countries until very recently didn’t even take bitcoin seriously–and now, as the price of a bitcoin tops $18,000, rogue nations are telling their militaries to go forth and steal it.

At the same time, though, North Korea’s phishing antics can also be seen as a twist on the centuries-old military tactic known as privateering. Once upon a time, this tactic took the form of kings and queens granting letters of marque that allowed privateers to roam the oceans and plunder booty from enemy merchant ships. Today, North Korea is allowing its hackers to operate as digital privateers in search of crypto plunder like bitcoin.

This modern version of privateering is not as exciting as grand naval battles with cannons and cutlasses, but no doubt it’s just as lucrative. Have a good weekend.

Jeff John Roberts

@jeffjohnroberts

jeff.roberts@fortune.com

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Bailing on Blockchain: In theory, it sounds great to create a coalition and build a distributed ledger tool for everyone. The reality is more messy: more than 15 members of the Hyperledger Project recently bailed and/or cut off their funds to the much-hyped blockchain project. This follows a similar break-up at R3, the blockchain-for-banks consortium.

Cutting off Kaspersky: The popular anti-virus product is tangled up with a good part of the US government’s IT systems–a big problem since the software maker is strongly suspected of ties to the Kremlin. The White House has hurried up efforts to cashier Kaspersky with an order banning its use anywhere in the government.

Creepy Keyboards: Key-logging software, which lets a third party record what you type, is a popular tool among spies and hackers–it’s not something you want pre-installed on your new computer. Yet that’s what HP did with hundreds of lap-top models. A security researcher discovered that anyone with administrative privileges could activate it. HP is working on a fix.

Easy there, Anderson: The normally bland Twitter account of CNN host Anderson Cooper spat out a string of abuse at Donald Trump in a tweet this week. The network portrayed it as a hack, pointing out that Anderson was in a different city from where the tweet was sent–the latest is that Anderson’s aide left a phone with the Twitter account unattended at the gym.

Feds Nail Mirai Miscreants: Remember that nasty botnet composed of hijacked IoT devices that took down servers across the east cost last year? Well, it turns out Brian Krebs was right: a Rutgers student running a Minecraft scam was responsible for the botnet havoc. The student and two others pled guilty and say they’re sorry.

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ACCESS GRANTED

“If you feed the beast, that beast will destroy you,” Palihapitiya advised his audience. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, [but] misinformation, mistruth.”

Facebook’s former head of user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, recently offered a contrite and frightening account of what the company has built. David Meyer has a nice summary of his remarks.

ONE MORE THING

The best holiday movie ever? It’s decided. Wonderful holiday classics include It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, but some (including me) believe the best of the bunch is a little action film called Die Hard. Objectors have claimed Die Hard isn’t a Christmas movie but now a prominent head of state has settled the question. Thanks, Justin Trudeau, and Ho ho ho!

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Enterprise IOT and the Convergence of the New Tech Ecosystem in Transport

By IntelligentHQ

Enterprise IOT and the Convergence of the New Tech Ecosystem in Transport

Enterprise IOT and the Convergence of the New Tech Ecosystem in Transport

It is virtually impossible for an enterprise to function without the help of transportation. Transportation management is a backbone of the entire supply chain, and it ensures that the right product is delivered to the right customer at the right time and at the right place. Realizing the important role of transportation in the supply chain many enterprises have begun to rely on intelligent mobility solutions to streamline their supply chains.

However, changing regulatory environments, increasing labor costs and unpredictable fuel prices pose severe challenges in achieving a cost-effective supply chain. Additionally, mobile solutions are not effective in providing accurate visibility in the entire supply chain. In fact, considerable costs are incurred due to lack of real-time data about the personnel, equipment and transactions involved in the transportation process.

The Advent of IoT Solutions

Internet of Things (IoT) helps organizations and logistics companies to improve productivity by connecting various smart devices in the transportation network to a centralized cloud network. The real-time visibility of the entire logistics chain helps to capture mission-critical data that helps to improve operational performance and efficiency.

On the demand side, the IoT solutions will help companies to improve customer relationship and drive down distribution costs by providing security and enabling real-time traceability at the unit level.

On the supply side, enterprises can benefit from using an IoT solution for capacity sensing, planning and reporting, route optimization, energy-efficiency management and proactive fault/problem detection and resolution. The solution will help to optimize procurement logistics and drive down costs. Thus, deployment of an IoT solution not only helps to create value for the customer but also for the enterprises themselves.

It must be realized that very few companies have managed to achieve end-to-end logistics visibility even though IoT solutions promise to improve productivity while cutting down costs. The streamlining of the entire transportation chain with an IoT solution is a futuristic scenario, and there are challenges to be faced before we realize the goal.

Integration Challenges

According to Deloitte, early adopters of IoT have failed to generate more value for the IoT devices as these solutions do not permeate each and every aspect of logistics or transportation chain. Merely, using IoT solutions to track the shipments severely restricts the scope of the evolving technologies. Efficiency can only be achieved if the IoT solutions help to build an advanced transportation ecosystem whose key stakeholders will be Business-to-business (B2B) customers, Third party logistics (3PL) or logistics service providers (LSPs), Warehouse and terminal operators of equipment, manufacturers and shippers.

The main challenge is about developing an IoT ecosystem as well as an IoT framework that will capture the technology’s value-creation potential. In fact, very few enterprises have managed to incorporate both the demand as well as supply-side logistics capabilities in their IoT ecosystem. The smart transport system realized by the IoT solution can only work if the interdependent stakeholder share information, work collaboratively by implementing advanced technologies. Unfortunately, most of the stakeholders in the logistics network work in silos.

Building an IoT Ecosystem

In a recent global IoT survey of 263 IT and business decision-makers, HCL Technologies, an Indian tech giant reported that 81% of respondents have either begun their IoT journey or plan to in the next 12 months. But over 50% of respondents felt they are already behind in fully harnessing IoT capabilities, and 43% said this failure negatively impacted customer satisfaction. (See full report here: HCL Tech Global IoT Survey 2017)

The first step in establishing an IoT ecosystem is to identify the key building blocks that bring together different stakeholder. These blocks will then have to be mapped to individual stakeholders and interconnected through an IoT platform.

Smart vehicles will always be the key elements of the ecosystem, and they will have to synchronize with other smart assets and terminals can provide valuable insights. These smart assets can be sensor-enabled forklifts, tractors, cranes, conveyor belts, automated storage, carousels, mobile handlers, dockyard doors, airport entry and exit gates that can be embedded with sensors to capture and relay relevant information. The smart workforce includes vehicle drivers who use smart apps and devices to receive valuable information for avoiding delays and traffic jams.

In an IoT-enabled smart transport ecosystem, all the details regarding freight, docks, vehicle, routes and the driver will be automatically captured, transmitted and analyzed for removing bottlenecks and for improving business processes. The main goal of the ecosystem is to enable various stakeholders like, customers, business managers, suppliers, operators and shippers to access relevant real-time data and use digital technologies to convert it into actionable insights.

Early Beginnings

Various organizations have already begun to experiment with the idea of an IoT-enabled smart transport system. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is one of the first airports to deploy an IoT solution for tracking and monitoring baggage carts and non-motorized ground support equipment on the premises.

The Port of Hamburg uses an IoT-based ecosystem that connects different port areas with relevant stakeholders. Port managers used the system to gather information about closed bridges, congestion points, parking availability and other areas. The port management makes accurate decisions regarding the loading, unloading and routing cargo through the port area using analytics. The system enabled the Hamburg to streamline operations, improve goods turnover, reduce traffic and eliminate idle time in its supply chain.

McKinsey reports that port operators will be able to enrich customer experience by making effective use of advanced analytics to make decisions. In future, a well-planned IoT ecosystem will become an indispensable enabler for driving big data analytics.

A few innovative companies like DHL are already targeting to build a wider IoT ecosystem by achieving integration between transportation, logistics and warehouse systems. DHL has already begun to generate value by using the system to design customized route for each package.

The Road ahead

Barring a few digital leaders, a large number of enterprises have a long way to go before they make the best use of an IoT solution. Connecting the discordant systems that drive the supply side and the demand side of an enterprise’s logistic system is the key to success. A successful IoT ecosystem can only thrive if the enterprise forges cross-industry partnerships with various stakeholders and solution vendors.

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