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Computers can do better than a human, but do we trust them enough?

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Transformative technology is a topic we can’t ignore and, at the Resilience Shift, we want to put a resilience lens over its application to critical infrastructure. We attended an ENCORE Network workshop in June that focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Infrastructure Monitoring.

In spite of the revolution that seems to be round the corner, we should be wary of the AI hype – something Gartner captures annually in their hype cycle of technology.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle (Jeremy Kemp, Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Gartner’s Hype Cycle (Jeremy Kemp, Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

AI is everywhere and at the top of the hype cycle for several technologies, such as machine learning and autonomous vehicles. This becomes clear in the latest available version of Gartner’s Hype Cycle (2017) and in their Top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018.

Gartner's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2017

Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2017

One of the messages to take home from the ENCORE network workshop is that our society expects a computer to do better than humans, but it seems clear that there are many situations where this won’t be the case. A group of experts might do better in decision making. For example, machine learning can fail in a different way than a human would do when solving a particular problem.

We need to combine what computers are good at with what humans are good at. In 5 years from now, AI will probably be used for situation support rather than making autonomous decisions for operators.

Data availability and trust is similarly a key issue here, as the resilience of AI systems depends on using good data. In this sense, a potential risk could be a malicious injection of data in the system. Minimising the risk of cyber attacks is essential in order to develop trust in collected data that will be used for AI systems.

We are keen to hear from readers of this blog about how you can contribute to support us on this journey – if this is your case, please get in touch with us.

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Creating an intelligent community

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Transformative technology can no longer be ignored. In the Resilience Shift we believe technology should enhance rather than compromise critical system functionality and we listened with interest to the sessions at the Intelligent Communities Forum (ICF) in early June.

The ICF’s main topic was humanising data with a key message being that what really matters is how we use technology to make a difference to people’s lives.

A strong message to take home was that purpose should come first. What are the benefits that we want to achieve for the community, i.e. prosperity, safety, resilience.

How technology can help should come after that, not before. Being smart is not a purpose per se if this is not trying to achieve an outcome for a community.

Open data will play an important role as it can allow for a much broader exploitation of data. The broadest possible foundation of open data should be our aim, and this will become an important national asset. As an example, the Ordnance Survey has just released some key parts of the OS MasterMap which will be made openly available for the public and businesses to use. It is estimated that this will boost the UK economy by at least £130m each year, as innovative companies and startups use the data.

Another key emerging theme was how to achieve change. In particular, that we should be brave enough to experiment with change, and there is a need for courageous leadership, which is willing to adopt new approaches and learn by doing. This approach resonates strongly with the Resilience Shift.

At the municipal level, there are multiple examples of it and the ICF forum presented 7 examples of intelligent communities which are already using technology to drive change. The city of Espoo in Finland was awarded the Intelligent Community of the Year.

Using technology to change resilience practice for critical infrastructure

Intelligent Communities Forum (June 4th)

When considering the socio-technical system beyond just the physical asset, technology creates additional challenges – for example, the labour market will require new skills, education and continuous learning.

A third of US workers will have to switch occupation by 2030, and a lot of children now in schools will work in jobs that do not exist today. 80% of new jobs will require competencies and skills such as decision making with imperfect data, systems thinking, and understanding how information is manipulated by technology.

It’s therefore clear that transformative technology can no longer be ignored and will play a substantial part in how we design and operate resilient infrastructure in future.

We are exploring how we can shed some light on this question through our activities. If you have ideas that can contribute to this outcome, do get in touch.

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Accelerating Safety Solutions

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We aim to work collaboratively, but how can you collaborate without knowing what’s out there?

I recently got the opportunity to learn more about the (other) amazing initiatives going on in the world of safety and resilience at the Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator Launch. The attendees were an impressive mixture of industry specialists, tech start-ups and innovation experts.

After introductions from Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Lloyd’s Register and their innovation partner, Plug and Play, we launched into the ‘lightning talks’ with two tech start-ups pitching their safety products. The first was from RealWear, who design augmented reality, wearable computing for industry – think of a headset with video, audio and voice recognition, providing guidance and reliable feedback between people on site and other offices. Next was GuardKnox who provide automotive cyber security – preventing hackers from taking over your car remotely.

Once we’d wrapped our heads around these exciting new ideas, Lloyd’s Register ran their first Innovation Challenges round, laying out 3 specific challenges to improve the safety of life on board ships and floating platforms. Through Plug and Play, the Safety Accelerator will match small technology companies with safety solutions to larger corporations who are looking to adopt new ideas to keep their staff and customers safe. Interested companies who think they can address these challenges should apply for this first round by the 5th August.

For me it was exciting to be brush up against the world of tech start-ups and see some emerging themes and ideas which may become mainstream very soon. It was also a great way to stay in the loop as developments in resilience and safety speed ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator gets on and the interesting technologies it will support.

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Data, technology and resilience – challenge or opportunity?

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Peter Sondergaard, Gartner Research, said in 2011 that “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine“.

A few years on, many people would agree with it, as we see examples everywhere– smart cities, Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous cars and, in sum, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.

With such a big dependence on data and its analysis, will this revolution actually help critical systems to continue functioning when something unexpected happens, or when they are stressed?

This is a complex question to answer, and one which we initially addressed in our Understanding the Landscape report. We suggested that the digitization of electrical infrastructure creates real-time information, but can also expose physical infrastructure to cyberattacks. The Global Risks Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum is in agreement, as cyberattacks have been classified as the third highest global risk in terms of likelihood and the sixth in terms of impact.

The different ways in which smart infrastructure solutions can impact on the resilience of infrastructure and the people who use and operate it (after Cousins et al. 2017)

However, when smart technology is embedded everywhere, the challenge goes well beyond that. Extreme weather events and natural disasters are classified at the top of the global risks landscape, with the highest likelihood and biggest impact. Critical infrastructure, and by extension the technology embedded in it, will therefore need to be able to cope with these risks – and this is where technology should help to create resilience rather than fragility.

With such a transformative change in the way critical infrastructure will need to be designed and operated, this question remains open for the Resilience Shift.
One of the outcomes that the Resilience Shift hopes to achieve is the wider adoption of transformative technology that can enhance, rather than compromise, critical infrastructure system functionality.

We are exploring how we can contribute to understand this question through our activities. If you have ideas that can contribute to this outcome, do get in touch.

Categories: Technologies

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