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HALF OF ORGANISATIONS UNDERTAKING IOT PROJECTS HAVE FULLY IMPLEMENTED STRATEGY – BUT CONCERNS OVER SECURITY, LACK OF FUNDING AND COMMITMENT – WI-SUN ALLIANCE RESEARCH SHOWS 

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HALF OF ORGANISATIONS UNDERTAKING IOT PROJECTS HAVE FULLY IMPLEMENTED STRATEGY – BUT CONCERNS OVER SECURITY, LACK OF FUNDING AND COMMITMENT - WI-SUN ALLIANCE RESEARCH SHOWS 

– Enabling Internet of Things one of top IT priorities for next 12 months – 

A new report by the Wi-SUN Alliance, a global member-based association driving the proliferation of interoperable wireless solutions for use in smart cities, smart utilities and other Internet of Things (IoT) applications, shows that half of organisations investing in IoT initiatives already have a fully implemented strategy in place, while more than a third (36%) have a partially implemented strategy. Companies are most advanced in the Oil & Gas industry, with 75% having a fully implemented strategy, followed by Technology (59%) and Energy and Utilities (57%).

A survey of 350 IT decision makers in the UK, US, Sweden and Denmark examining attitudes to IoT, including the drivers, barriers, challenges and benefits, the research highlights the growing number of smart utilities, smart cities and broader IoT projects in progress. While respondents report that enabling IoT is the second most important IT priority for the next 12 months, just behind improving security, almost all (90%) of those with an IoT plan at various stages of implementation have struggled to implement this, with over a third (36%) saying they find it “very or extremely difficult”.

When it comes to the key drivers for IoT implementation, around half (47%) of those surveyed report it will improve ‘network intelligence and connectivity for citizen safety and quality of life’, followed by ‘creating business efficiencies’ (42%) and ‘improving reliability of systems and services’ (41%). Two-thirds of respondents’ organisations with an IoT strategy report that it covers how IoT can be used to improve the customer experience, while six in ten say it includes a plan for continuous IoT improvement.

Benefits, barriers, and challenges when delivering IoT initiatives:

  • 99% have enjoyed benefits as a result of IoT implementations, including better business efficiency (54%), an improved customer experience (49%) and better collaboration (48%). Additional benefits include reduced costs (45%) and faster time to market (40%).
  • Respondents highlight security as a barrier to IoT adoption. 59% of them cite security concerns, with the US (65%) and UK (64%) far more concerned than those in Denmark or Sweden. Nearly a third (32%) see funding, as well as a lack of commitment from leadership, as barriers, while 30% view leadership’s lack of understanding of the benefits of IoT as a challenge.
  • The technical challenges when delivering IoT are security and safety (63%), data management (46%), network configuration (41%), recruiting IoT talent (39%) and Wi-Fi connectivity (39%).

When asked what their organisation looks for when evaluating IoT technologies, 58% of respondents look for network topology and coverage, followed by communications performance in terms of latency, bandwidth and bi-directional communication (53%). Other characteristics include support for industry standards (52%), while standardisation is also important when it comes to choosing IoT in specific applications – 45% of respondents demand that smart city IoT solutions be built using industry-wide open standards, while 43% say it is absolutely crucial in a smart utilities.

As for network technologies, respondents are most likely to be familiar with Wi-SUN (56%), SigFox (49%), or NB-IoT (45%).

“While all organisations taking part had IoT initiatives underway, it’s very encouraging to see that over half have an IoT strategy fully implemented, with the vast majority of those in sectors you’d most closely associate with smart city and smart utility initiatives, such as Energy and Utilities, as well as Oil and Gas companies,” according to Phil Beecher, President and CEO, Wi-SUN Alliance. “It’s also encouraging to see Wi-SUN supported by so many products and solutions out there and leading the pack in terms of networking technologies.

“However, there’s a lot of education still to be done for those looking to implement IoT, smart cities and other IoT initiatives, especially when selecting the right technology. For example, there are some fundamental advantages of Wi-SUN, including support for higher data rates delivering lower latency, mesh network configuration, increasing network resilience – and importantly, extremely robust security. Our advice for those developing, designing or procuring IoT, now or in the future, is to look closely at the reliability they need, the latency, and the security – and to make sure that these match up with the needs and goals of the organisation.” 

Additional findings:

  • Between a third and half of respondents’ organisations (already investing in an IoT initiative) have already implemented industrial IoT (45%), smart cities (41%), or smart utilities’ (34%) initiatives. If not already implemented, around half are likely to be either piloting/testing or planning to implement smart initiatives.
  • For smart city solutions, proven security with multi-layer protection and continuous monitoring is ‘absolutely crucial’ for half of respondents, while industry-wide open standards (45%) and seamless integration between devices and applications (40%) are also crucial.
  • For smart utility solutions, proven security (44%) is considered absolutely crucial, followed by industry-wide open standards (43%) and speed and latency (40%).
  • For organisations who have an IoT strategy at some level, 76% will likely or definitely roll out security & surveillance, 72% water & gas metering, 64% electric vehicle charging, 57% street lights, 56% smart parking and 63% advanced meter infrastructure in the next 12 to 18 months.

To access the report findings, please visit: https://www.wi-sun.org/index.php/vb-iot-rpt/file.

To download the infographic, please visit: https://www.wi-sun.org/index.php/vb-iot-info/file.

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Mobile app acceleration during the pandemic: Businesses must adapt or die

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Mobile app acceleration during the pandemic: Businesses must adapt or die 1

By Mike Rhodes, CEO of ConsultMyApp

For the past year, the over-riding narrative has been to stay at home and reduce in-person contact. As a result, every aspect of our lives, from work and socializing to exercising and shopping, has shifted online.

Amid such a backdrop, the mobile app market has become more important than ever before. In fact, the second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app usage, with new downloads skyrocketing to 35 billion and in-app spending reaching a record $27 billion.

Whilst some industries have tackled this new digital challenge head on, and with great success, others have failed to engage and retain users online. The most notable example has been the failure of the NHS track and trace app which, according to the latest reports, only curbed the transmission of coronavirus by 2 to 5 percent last year.

Developing a mobile app is simple, but as track and trace shows, ensuring an app’s success is far more complex than registering the platform and attracting active users. In order to increase visibility, drive installs and retain users, app optimization and pre and post-acquisition marketing is essential. Yet, currently, only the most digitally savvy businesses are aware of this.

So, where do businesses need to concentrate their efforts if they are to successfully leverage their mobile apps and obtain a market advantage in the new Covid-era?

Prioritise app-store optimization

The mobile app industry is booming. Irrespective of the sector, businesses across the world are quickly waking up to the potential of the mobile app market and, as a result, apps are becoming increasingly important in our everyday lives.

Amid such a saturated market, app-store optimization should be the top priority for your mobile marketing strategy. According to Apple, 70 percent of individuals use the search tool to find apps, so keyword optimization is essential to make sure that the right people find your app above anyone else’s when they search in the stores.

Moreover, optimizing your creative assets is crucial to ensure sustained conversion. For example, enhancing the icon, screenshots and multimedia assets that appear on the app store can boost the appeal of your listing and help improve download rates. After all, your profile on the app store acts a virtual shop front with a footfall of billions of people globally, so you need to make sure it stands out.

Ultimately, app-store optimization can improve your visibility in organic searches and help to increase overall conversation rates, alongside building a strong foundation for your app to set it up for continued success.

Enhance your communication strategy

Amid the ongoing market upheaval, businesses core messaging has become more important than ever before, and a brand’s ability to communicate effectively with their target market has become pivotal to determine whether they are a thriving success or fall into irrelevance. However, with so many businesses trying to carve out a unique voice online, it can be hard to remain relevant to customers.

Mobile apps provide businesses with a unique opportunity to provide a personalised user experience, that not only works to build relationships with existing customers, but also offers the opportunity to approach an even wider market than before.

Mike Rhodes

Mike Rhodes

Maintaining regular interaction with your customers via a mobile app platform that caters to their personal needs will help to build a loyal following and result in better rates of engagement for the business.

Pivot according to shifts in consumer behaviour

The mobile app market is flourishing and, in Q1 of 2020 alone, the average time individuals spent in apps each week rose by 20 percent. Whilst a recent report has suggested that this shift online will continue long after social distancing measures and lockdown restrictions lift, in order to remain successful, businesses must monitor shifts in consumer behaviour and pivot their app experience.

Developing and optimizing an app is not a one-and-done process. Businesses need to constantly review user interests, sentiments and requirements, alongside design trends, if they are to remain relevant and meet consumer demand. No matter how advanced your app is, if you neglect to pivot your service offerings accordingly, you will fall behind your market competitors.

Review in-app monetization approaches

The past year has brought about drastic changes to the way businesses operate and, if they are to remain successful, they must continue to react to the changing economic climate and adapt to the opportunities available.

Whilst in-app monetisation strategies and mobile advertising can open up access to new revenue streams, businesses must prioritise the customer experience alongside the desire to raise funds. For example, modifying the purchasing process to make it more accessible and intuitive, whilst remaining simple, can help boost sales. In contrast, brands that overlook the potential to monetise aspects of their app, or have a poorly designed app which deters customers, will fall short and lose out on this new market potential.

Address security concerns

Without a doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the digital transition. Even individuals who have traditionally resisted the shift online, have been embracing these new opportunities at an unprecedented rate. However, despite this widespread acceptance, there are still concerns over fatigue when it comes to interacting with technology and distrust on security and data protection.

Businesses will need to address these concerns in equal measure if they are to retain users and ensure the long-term success of their mobile apps. Whilst apps need to be optimized to attract customers, functionality is just as important, especially as more brands enter into this space.

Looking ahead

On average, it is estimated that each individual has up to 90 apps on their phone, but they will only use nine in any one day. The stark reality is that many apps are downloaded, used once for the required purpose and then forgotten about. If businesses want their mobile apps to succeed in a flooded market, they will need to invest in app optimization and marketing strategies to build awareness, improve the customer experience and develop a competitive edge.

Ultimately, mobile apps have become the new interface for brands and businesses across all sectors amid the ongoing pandemic. This shift is only set to gain momentum moving forward and businesses simply cannot afford to overlook the lucrative potential of the app market if they are to survive in the new Covid-era.

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‘Spooky’ AI tool brings dead relatives’ photos to life

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'Spooky' AI tool brings dead relatives' photos to life 2

By Umberto Bacchi

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Like the animated paintings that adorn the walls of Harry Potter’s school, a new online tool promises to bring portraits of dead relatives to life, stirring debate about the use of technology to impersonate people.

Genealogy company MyHeritage launched its “Deep Nostalgia” feature earlier this week, allowing users to turn stills into short videos showing the person in the photograph smiling, winking and nodding.

“Seeing our beloved ancestors’ faces come to life … lets us imagine how they might have been in reality, and provides a profound new way of connecting to our family history,” MyHeritage founder Gilad Japhet said in a statement.

Developed with Israeli computer vision firm D-ID, Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning algorithms to animate images with facial expressions that were based on those of MyHeritage employees.

Some of the company’s users took to Twitter on Friday to share the animated images of their deceased relatives, as well as moving depictions of historical figures, including Albert Einstein and Ancient Egypt’s lost Queen Nefertiti.

“Takes my breath away. This is my grandfather who died when I was eight. @MyHeritage brought him back to life. Absolutely crazy,” wrote Twitter user Jenny Hawran.

While most expressed amazement, others described the feature as “spooky” and said it raised ethical questions. “The photos are enough. The dead have no say in this,” tweeted user Erica Cervini.

From chatbots to virtual reality, the tool is the latest innovation seeking to bring the dead to life through technology.

Last year U.S. rapper Kanye West famously gifted his wife Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father congratulating her on her birthday and on marrying “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world”.

‘ANIMATING THE PAST’

The trend has opened up all sorts of ethical and legal questions, particularly around consent and the opportunity to blur reality by recreating a virtual doppelganger of the living.

Elaine Kasket a psychology professor at the University of Wolverhampton in Britain who authored a book on the “digital afterlife”, said that while Deep Nostalgia was not necessarily “problematic”, it sat “at the top of a slippery slope”.

“When people start overwriting history or sort of animating the past … You wonder where that ends up,” she said.

MyHeritage acknowledges on its website that the technology can be “a bit uncanny” and its use “controversial”, but said steps have been taken to prevent abuses.

“The Deep Nostalgia feature includes hard-coded animations that are intentionally without any speech and therefore cannot be used to fake any content or deliver any message,” MyHeritage public relations director Rafi Mendelsohn said in a statement.

Yet, images alone can convey meaning, said Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

“Imagine somebody took a picture of the Last Supper and Judas is now winking at Mary Magdalene – what kind of implications that can have,” Hussain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) animations could be use to make someone appear as though they were doing things they might not be happy about, such as rolling their eyes or smiling at a funeral, he added.

Mendelsohn of MyHeritage said using photos of a living person without their consent was a breach of the company’s terms and conditions, adding that videos were clearly marked with AI symbols to differentiate them from authentic recordings.

“It is our ethical responsibility to mark such synthetic videos clearly and differentiate them from real videos,” he said.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi in Milan; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

 

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Does your institution have operational resilience? Testing cyber resilience may be a good way to find out

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REMOTE WORKING STRATEGY REQUIRED TO STRENGTHEN CYBER RESILIENCE

By Callum Roxan, Head of Threat Intelligence, F-Secure

If ever 2020 had a lesson, it was that no organization can possibly prepare for every conceivable outcome. Yet building one particular skill will make any crisis easier to handle: operational resilience.

Many financial institutions have already devoted resources to building operational resilience. Unfortunately, this often takes what Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer of TheCityUK, calls a “near death” experience for this conversion to occur. “Recent years have seen a number of cases of loss of reputation, reduced enterprise value and senior executive casualties from operational incidents that have been badly handled,” he wrote.

But it need not take a disaster to learn this vital lesson.

“Operational resilience means not only planning around specific, identified risks,” Charlotte Gerken, the executive director of the Bank of England, said in a 2017 speech on operational resilience. “We want firms to plan on the assumption that any part of their infrastructure could be impacted, whatever the reason.” Gerken noted that firms that had successfully achieved a level of resilience that survives a crisis had established the necessary mechanisms to bring the business together to respond where and when risks materialised, no matter why or how.

We’ll talk about the bit we know best here; by testing for cyber resilience, a company can do more than prepare for the worst sort of attacks it may face. This process can help any business get a clearer view of how it operates, and how well it is prepared for all kinds of surprises.

Assumptions and the mechanisms they should produce are the best way to prepare for the unknown. But, as the boxer Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The aim of cyber resilience is to build an effective security posture that survives that first punch, and the several that are likely to follow. So how can an institution be confident that they’ve achieved genuine operational resilience?

This requires an organization to honestly assess itself through the motto inscribed at the front of the Temple of Delphi: “Know thyself.” And when it comes to cyber security, there is a way for an organization to test just how thoroughly it comprehends its own strengths and weaknesses.

Callum Roxan

Callum Roxan

The Bank of England was the first central bank to help develop the framework for institutions to test the integrity of their systems. CBEST is made up of controlled, bespoke, intelligence-led cyber security tests that replicate behaviours of those threat actors, and often have unforeseen or secondary benefits. Gerken notes that the “firms that did best in the testing tended to be those that really understood their organisations. They understood their own needs, strengths and weaknesses, and reflected this in the way they built resilience.”

In short, testing cyber resilience can provide clear insight into an institution’s operational resilience in general.

Gaining that specific knowledge without a “near-death” experience is obviously a significant win for any establishment. And testing for operational resilience throughout the industry can provide some reminders of the steps every organization should take so that testing provides unique insists about their institution, and not just a checklist of cyber defence basics.

The IIF/McKinsey Cyber Resilience Survey of the financial services industry released in March lasy year provided six sets of immediate actions that institutions could take to improve their cyber security posture. The toplines of these recommendations were:

  1. Do the basics, patch your vulnerabilities.
  2. Review your cloud architecture and security capabilities.
  3. Reduce your supply chain risk.
  4. Practice your incident response and recovery capabilities.
  5. Set aside a specific cyber security budget and prioritise it
  6. Build a skilled talent pool and optimize resources through automation.

But let’s be honest: If simply reading a solid list of recommendations created cyber resilience, cyber criminals would be out of business. Unfortunately, cyber crime as a business is booming and threat actors targeting essential financial institutions through cyber attacks are likely earning billions in the trillion dollar industry of financial crime.A list can’t reveal an institution’s unique weaknesses, those security failings and chokepoints that could shudder operations, not just during a successful cyber attack but during various other crises that challenge their operations. And the failings that lead to flaws in an institution’s cyber defence likely reverberate throughout the organization as liabilities that other crises would likely expose.

The best way to get a sense of operational resilience will always be to simulate the worst that attackers can summon. That’s why the time to test yourself is now, before someone else does.

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