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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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PodM2M connects TAHMO IoT weather monitoring systems to remedy chronic hunger in Africa

By Zenobia Hegde

PodM2M (a division of Pod Group), a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) specialising in global, mission critical connectivity solutions for the M2M/IoT market, has announced that it is providing its resilient “Best Signal” IoT connectivity solution to the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), a socially driven network of 20,000 connected weather monitoring stations every 30km across the African continent, to accurately measure previously undocumented weather systems.

One in four people in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished. A lack of climatic information across this vast continent makes it difficult to plan a cropping strategy which would go some way to remedying the chronic hunger. Using a combination of weather pattern data and predictive computer models gathered by TAHMO, farmers in Africa can more efficiently plan their crop cycles, improve water productivity by up to 26% and plant more crops, with the risk of failure due to drought or flooding severely diminished.

TAHMO’s requirements for transmitting climate data across a huge distance, from different countries and in an extremely patchy coverage environment made choosing a sufficiently resilient IoT connectivity solution difficult, as many multi-network solutions are not able to transmit data efficiently across borders, and many operators are simply not present in the areas of Africa that benefit from TAHMO’s system.

Pod’s Best Signal Multi-Network SIMs connect to the best available signal on device start-up, and automatically switch networks in case of signal loss. This provides the TAHMO team with the resilient connectivity they need to measure weather systems across multiple countries without risk of losing valuable data. Thanks to Pod’s coverage in 185+ countries and over 600 networks, TAHMO has no problem collecting results from all the countries their devices are present in, and is assured of receiving the best possible coverage in Africa, as well as in US and European partner bases.

Charles Towers-Clark

Rebecca Hochreutener, TAHMO operations manager, immediately recognised the advantages of PodM2M’s specialist remote and mission-critical IoT SIM cards; “Although connectivity in Africa is not always simple, PodM2M has been able to provide reliable services and a very good and responsive support team,” she commented.

Charles Towers-Clark, managing director of Pod Group added, “TAHMO´s application is an excellent example of how the IoT can vastly improve standards of living and help to resolve some of the world´s most complex problems. We are extremely excited that our specialist mission critical connectivity is helping to make this project possible.”

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Parks Associates: U.S. Households Will Buy More Than 10 Million Smart Home Controllers in 2021

By IoT – Internet of Things

Parks Associates announced new smart home research showing 26% of smart home owners purchased their devices from brick-and-mortar retail stores such as Best Buy, Home Depot, or Walmart, making this channel the most commonly used among U.S. consumers. By 2021, more than 10 million smart home controllers will be sold in the U.S., and more […]

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