Trucks at Work
The tide of technology offers rewards and risks for trucking

The tide of technology offers rewards and risks for trucking

I’ve said it before in this space that people are the most critical part of the trucking industry, for even if we do one day completely automate trucks, we’re still going to need plenty of sharp minds to program and maintain them, much less craft the operational strategies they’ll function within.

So while many feel the huge technological leaps we’re experiencing right now are aimed at replacing the need for people across many industries, some believe all this technological progress may actually re-invigorate the need for human minds and talents in the very same workplaces.

“People hold the power to shape and apply technology to create positive change, improve lives, and transform business and society,” noted Paul Daugherty, chief technology & innovation officer for global consulting company Accenture in its latest report, Accenture Technology Vision 2017.

“The pace of technology change is breathtaking, bringing about the biggest advancements since the dawn of the information age,” he stressed. “As technology transforms the way we work and live, it raises important societal challenges and creates new opportunities. Ultimately, people are in control of creating the changes that will affect our lives, and we’re optimistic that responsive and responsible leaders will ensure the positive impact of new technologies.”

Accenture polled more than 5,400 business and information technology (IT) executives worldwide for its report and nearly nine in 10 respondents (86%) said that while “individual technologies” are rapidly advancing, it is the multiplier effect of these technologies that is creating innovation breakthroughs – and those “breakthroughs” will aid human workers more than anything else.

Daugherty said that, with advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data analytics, humans can now design technology that’s capable of learning to think more like people and to constantly align to and help advance their wants and needs.

This “human-centered” technology approach pays off for businesses, he added, as leading companies will transform relationships from provider to partner as well as internal relations within companies between workers.

Accenture goes so far as to identify what it terms five emerging technology trends that will be essential to the success of almost every business moving forward in what’s increasingly becoming a digital economy:

  • AI is the new UI. Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming of age, tackling problems both big and small by making interactions simple and smart. AI is becoming the new user interface (UI), underpinning the way we transact and interact with systems. Some 79% of those polled by Accenture agree that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information from and interact with customers.
  • Design for Humans. Technology design decisions are being made by humans for humans. Technology adapts to how we behave and learns from us to enhance our lives, making them richer and more fulfilling, said Accenture, with 80% of the executives surveyed agreeing that organizations need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be – and shape technology to act as their guide to realize desired outcomes.
  • Ecosystems as Macrocosms. Platform companies that provide a single point of access to multiple services have completely broken the rules for how companies operate and compete. Companies don’t just need a platform strategy, Accenture pointed out: they need a rich and robust ecosystem approach to lead in this new era of intelligence. Already, more than one-quarter (27%) of executives surveyed reported that digital ecosystems are transforming the way their organizations deliver value.
  • Workforce Marketplace. The number of “on-demand” labor platforms and online work-management solutions is surging. As a result, leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces; that, in turn, is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Case in point: 85% of executives surveyed by Accenture said they plan to increase their organization’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.
  • The Uncharted. To succeed in today’s ecosystem-driven digital economy businesses must delve into what Accenture dubbed “uncharted territory.” Instead of focusing solely on introducing new products and services, they should think much bigger – seizing opportunities to establish rules and standards for entirely new industries. In fact, 74% of the executives surveyed said that their organization is entering entirely new digital industries that have yet to be defined.

Yet, as well as know, this “brave new world” offered by the digital economy is fraught with perils for humans as well (and no, I am not talking about the apocalyptic “man versus machine” visions espoused in The Terminator. Though I do worry about it …)

Take cybersecurity for starters: some eight out of 10 U.S. consumers have a home data network and more than a third of them connect entertainment systems, gaming consoles and other smart devices to the Internet. Yet all of those connections increase the risk of hacking, according to a survey by Zogby Analytics for The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of global insurance giant Munich Re.

Although cyberattacks on non-computing home systems and smart appliances are so far relatively uncommon (just 10% of those responding were victims) the increase in connected devices is creating a new pathway for hackers and cyber thieves, Timothy Zeilman, vice president and counsel for HSB.

“Cyber criminals are always looking for new targets,” he explained. “And home devices like smart TVs and appliances are often designed for easy use and not security. Compounding the problem, many consumers don’t take even basic measures such as changing default passwords and updating security software.”

Now, sure, we’re not talking about trucking company systems here – systems we’d expect would have better security protocols in place. But the risks remain similar, as this story illustrates.

HSB’s survey found that most common type of non-physical damage experienced through cyberattacks on home devices, appliances and systems were viruses or other unwanted software on their systems (59%) and damage to software or operating systems (45%).

Damage to home devices in a cyber-attack usually results in a financial loss, the survey showed, with 87% of victims spending money to respond. The losses were often substantial, too, as 42% of the victims in the survey spent between $1,000 and $5,000, HSB’s poll found.

“The problem will likely get worse as the number of connected home devices increases,” Zeilman added.

"The dawn of digital transformation has already affected the relationship between individuals and technology. What once were convenience technologies are now guiding lights in everyday personal and business lives,” noted Sean Pike, program vice president of security products and eDiscovery & Information Governance at IDC.

“Technologies continue to integrate into the human experience and businesses and government entities leverage data-sharing ecosystems to provide services or sell products,” he added. “The resulting impact is that individuals feel overly-connected and may yearn for greater anonymity.”

Things we need to think about as trucking continues to become a more technological enterprise by the day.

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