Trucks at Work

Bridging the digital divide

Yes, yes, I know; I go on quite a bit about all sorts of information technology (IT) trends in this space – perhaps too much.

Yet the reason I swell on this topic so much is that IT-related issues are not only an increasingly sore spot for trucking – encompassing everything from vehicle systems to logbooks and cargo security – but that industry, like much of the business world at large, may be lagging significantly in its ability to stay abreast of critical digital developments.

Take “cyber risk,” for example. The most recent Business Risk Index conducted by Traveler’s Insurance – a survey of over 1,200 businesses across the country, including the transportation industry, conducted back in May – indicated cyber risks ranked as the second biggest concern for all businesses, up from fifth in 2014, with businesses most concerned about malicious and criminal attacks (55%), followed by human error (24%), and system glitches (21%).

Among the types of malicious attacks most worrisome to businesses overall:

  • 57% of respondents worry most about having their computers or data systems infected with a virus;
  • 51% worry someone could gain access to their banking accounts or financial control systems; and
  • 50% worry about a security breach or someone hacking into their computer systems

However, “cyber risk” actually ranked number four among transportation companies, as the chart at right shows.

Yet the firm also found in its survey that, when it comes to dealing with “cyber risks,” less than one in five (18%) of transportation companies buy separate coverage for such events, while roughly two in five (36%) feel they are already covered by other insurance policies where cybercrime is concerned.

There’s also a significant gap between the perceived importance of “digital strategies” to business executives and their actual efforts in crafting them.

For example, a new whitepaper released by management consulting firm North Highland, found that while 84% of the executives it polled said that digital innovation is “important for their business today,” two-thirds them either characterized their digital strategy as “weak” or nonexistent.

North Highland’s report, "Getting from Zero to Digital: How to Future-Proof Your Bottom Line through Digital Transformation," also revealed that while the need to cater to changing preferences among customers “seems intuitive,” only 39% of the business leaders in the poll believe they are capturing and storing relevant data to help them do that.

"Everyone recognizes the importance of digital in today's business environment, but the landscape is littered by companies that have been left behind the digital curve,” noted Alex Bombeck, president of Sparks Grove and Data and Analytics, in North Highland’s report.

“To enable a ‘digital transformation,’ old legacy systems are not going to cut it,” added Ben Grinnell, North Highland’s global CIO services leader.

“Silos must be broken down and an agile mindset needs to take hold. This means building cross-functional teams that can be nimble, move fast and quickly produce results.”

[Could this be construed as a call to “whip” digital strategies into shape? There’s a song for that …]

Yet that “whip it into shape” process is moving very slowly, at least according to the IoT 2015 Deployment and Usage Trends survey conducted by consulting firm Strategy Analytics.

“IoT” is the acronym for the “Internet of Things,” something I’ve touched on in this space before. However, according to Strategy’s poll of 450 businesses worldwide across 45 vertical markets last month, only 30% of them are even engaging in limited IoT deployments, even though the poll also indicated that interest in IoT is high and that 55% of respondents were “familiar” with IoT's benefits and services.

Other key findings from Strategy’s survey worth chewing over:

  • Some 32% or one third of those polled said their firms plan to deploy IoT compared to one in four survey respondents (26%) that said their companies currently have no IoT deployment plans. The remaining 42% of survey participants are still studying the issue and are undecided.
  • Office security/video surveillance; Smart Building Controls; Billable Services; Financial Analytics; Healthcare Analytics and Healthcare Diagnostics were among the top IoT applications cited by survey respondents who intend to use IoT.
  • Current and potential IoT customers plan to deploy the technology to solve pragmatic and pressing business issues that impact daily operations. These include: security of both the corporate data assets and physical facilities; receiving proactive alerts to avoid service disruptions and remote control of equipment.
  • IoT Security; integration and interoperability with existing and legacy systems and the potential confusion arising from the need to deal with multiple IoT vendors and platforms, were cited by survey respondents as the biggest impediments to IoT deployments.

"The survey results show that enterprise interest in IoT is high, driven by the need to address and solve pragmatic business issues,” noted Laura DiDio, Strategy’s director of IoT strategies enterprise research and consulting. “But it's equally clear that organizations are still assessing the myriad offerings and specific integration and migration strategies.”

That’s even in spite of most of the companies in this survey highlighting a range of value that can be derived from deploying IoT: from cost savings to new service development and increased competitiveness plus a “better understanding” of their business via data analytics, noted Andrew Brown, Strategy’s executive director of IoT and mobility.

Something to keep in mind as trucking is only going to get more “digitized” from here on out.

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