By George Barnes, Co-founder and Director of Hamilton Barnes, the leading provider of talent solutions to the network engineering sector.
Long, short, deep, shallow; depending who you listen to, decreasing GDP has resulted in a recession, but economists aren’t reliably able to predict how it will affect us and for how long. What I can safely predict, though, is that the technology sector will dodge the slump.
You see, contractions in GDP aren’t stopping businesses hiring tech specialists at unprecedented speeds and levels. Hamilton Barnes recruits for some of the leading providers to the network engineering space and it’s top talent that is needed to help organisations scale.
And this recession is different. During a recession, businesses often let go of employees and cut back spending in certain areas. Marketing is usually the first to go, followed by a decrease in tech and infrastructure investments, as businesses question what key areas they can afford to keep running. But a report by Morgan Stanley showed that security software is the area in which CIOs are least likely to cut spending, should the economy worsen. In fact, the need to invest in cybersecurity talent is undoubtably the most significant learning from 2022.
Why? Soaring levels of cybercrime during COVID-19.
Trend 1: Cybersecurity is here to stay.
As people worked from home during the pandemic, using personal devices and accessing sensitive data via unsecure Wi-Fi networks, business defences were weakened and cybercriminals were able to mount all-out assault on unprotected working environments. Cybercrime is therefore at an all-time high and the average cost of an attack has soared into the tens of thousands of pounds. Attacks on businesses increased by almost 70% in 2021, with two in five of those targeted at SMEs, because security was not sufficiently agile enough to prevent or mitigate against threats. Malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service attacks, and SQL injections are all on the up, and businesses are having to make investments in stronger cyber protection, rather than cutting back.
Fortunately, the question now appears to be, ‘how can you afford NOT to invest in cybersecurity?’ and this is a step in the right direction, away from cybersecurity being an afterthought for many businesses. Indeed, prior to the pandemic, SMEs would struggle to get cybersecurity funding until they were the victim of an attack. Only then would it become a priority.
But clearly this approach of waiting until the horse has bolted isn’t serving us because we’re now playing catch-up. Despite a surge in recruitment to try and fill the talent gap, there is a global skills shortage of 3.5 million cyber professionals in the current market. This has caused a high demand for those with the right skills and salaries are now soaring to draw in the most experienced talent. Hamilton Barnes is seeing cyber positions that used to pay £80k per annum being advertised at over £110k and organisations that don’t have that kind of capital are being forced to look at younger candidates. Graduates are being offered salaries of £50k+ when their only cyber experience is studying it in a textbook. But until there is greater external investment in the sector, what choice do businesses have? After all, no experience is better than no staff.
Trend 2: 2023: the year of greater Cybersecurity diversity.
I – along with other Hamilton Barnes colleagues – regularly visit schools and universities, career fairs and other events, to raise awareness of the career opportunities that are available to young people across the networking sector. Five years ago, in a lecture theatre filled with 100 STEM students, there’d be maybe one girl. Now it’s more like 20.
Progress is still needed, through improving exposure to the industry for girls during early education and through university programmes, and there’s work to be done to remove stereotyping, which remains rife across the industry – many of the female guests on the Hamilton Barnes ‘The Route to Networking’ podcast admitted to having faced this, for example being on the receiving end of misogynistic comments.
But cyber is slowly waking up to gender diversity being crucial to the success of the sector. Diversity promotes diversity of thought and the fact is that women are bloody good in cybersecurity roles – it’s in their evolution. I recently read Yuval Noah Hariri’s fascinating study of humankind’s evolution, Sapiens, which explores how our early male ancestors honed their long-distance vision for hunting with spears, whereas females’ sight was more geared towards foraging. This has resulted in women developing a greater attention to detail and a more analytical brain, making them perfectly geared towards cybersecurity roles.
So we need more inspirational women to come to the fore and less of a macho image that it’s only men than can be responsible for helping businesses make pioneering leaps forward in the current climate.
Trend 3: 2023: the year of greater Cybersecurity neurodiversity.
Recruiting people with neurodiversity to the sector is another way of not only filling vacancies, but filling them with people capable of coming up with newer ideas from many different perspectives. Cyber is ever evolving and it makes sense to hire people who are capable of approaching cyber professionalisms in a different way.
Much like their female counterparts, neurodivergent employees, such as people with autism or ADHD often demonstrate a keen attention to detail and ability to remain hyper focused. This is useful in many areas of cybersecurity, including defending against and responding to attacks where team members require the ability to identify anomalies, to discover root causes of incidents, to problem solve and sit through complex tasks for long periods of time. These skills and traits are of course useful in many other areas of cyber security too.
Again, there’s work to be done but organisations ensuring employment policies are inclusive, introducing training on unconscious bias and actively targeting neurodivergent people and understanding the barriers that the face, are going to lead the charge in building a better, faster and more secure internet for everybody.
Leveraging Technology for Sustainable Logistics and ESG Compliance
by Will Lovatt, General Manager and Vice President, Deposco Europe
A growing number of consumers are demanding packaging that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.. Consultancy, McKinsey, recently launched a survey to explore people’s attitudes to the topic across 11 countries worldwide. In all surveyed countries and across end-use areas, the majority of respondents claim to be willing to pay more for sustainable packaging,
Of course, features and functions remain important, but the sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) aspects of the logistics process are becoming increasingly significant in consumers’ purchasing decisions. The entire supply chain, including the sourcing of raw materials, manufacturing processes, packaging, delivery methods, return policies, labour practices, and initiatives for regeneration, is under scrutiny. Today’s informed consumers are making deliberate choices, favouring brands and delivery services that align with their values on these fronts. Therefore, it’s essential for brands to not only maintain high standards of service but also to provide a variety of delivery options. This range should cater to immediate needs as well as offer solutions like batched deliveries at convenient pick-up points, catering to the growing demand for flexibility and sustainability in the shopping experience.
Regulation and risk management
Consumers are undoubtedly a driving force in ESG-focused logistics transformation, but businesses must also meet a growing number of regulations that are driving the need for ESG considerations in the logistics sector. For example, the European Union’s Sustainable Products Action Plan includes several requirements for businesses to provide information about the environmental impact of their products. Now, we expect regulators to be closely monitoring final mile delivery and whether zero emissions vehicles are being utilised, at least within urban areas.
From a risk management standpoint, ESG considerations are critical. Neglecting ESG risks exposes businesses to reputational harm, financial penalties, and legal repercussions. Today’s consumer sentiment is such that unsustainable logistics practices can prompt consumer boycotts or lead to regulatory fines, underlining the importance of ESG compliance in modern logistics operations.
The role of technology in greening logistics
So what can businesses do to mitigate ESG challenges? To address ESG challenges, businesses must transition from traditional paper-based systems to advanced technology solutions. These solutions enhance visibility across the entire supply chain, from production to delivery. Distributed order management systems, for instance, offer real-time insight across extended fulfilment networks, enabling the optimised allocation of consumer orders to the most suitable stock sources, balancing cost and speed. In today’s era of stringent ESG and sustainability standards, it’s crucial for organisations to have comprehensive oversight over the movement of goods and the various stakeholders involved, beyond mere timing. This technological shift is essential for meeting the evolving demands of ESG compliance and sustainable logistics.
Actively tracking the credentials and integrity of every checkpoint in the supply chain is now everyone’s problem. Consumers care deeply about the ethical sourcing of raw materials and the labour practices of third-party logistics firms involved in product sourcing. Technology can allow organisations to map the complete movement of a specific customer order, from acquisition to final shipment, and then notify that customer directly.
Organisations then need to implement sustainable practices in the warehouse, leveraging technology to optimise operations. This includes using technology to determine the most efficient customer packaging sizes, reducing waste, and guiding staff on consolidating orders to minimise shipments and cut carbon emissions. Additionally, offering consumers options like click-and-collect can align with their existing plans, promoting sustainability rather than just delivery speed. Providing flexible delivery options is increasingly seen as crucial, as the fastest route is typically not the most eco-friendly.
A sustainable future
As data and computer security threats evolve, we’re now transitioning to increased controls around how our products are made, procured, packaged and shipped to the public. For a variety of reasons, from ethical to legal and public sentiment, ESG considerations and controls are becoming increasingly important in logistics and fulfilment.
Alongside this, the trajectory is for more sales to be made via Direct-to-Consumer channels, the desire for more convenient services and customer willingness to hop brands means that businesses must prioritise sustainable practices. Consumers now expect the ability to customise delivery parameters and choose from transparently-priced options, or they will take their business elsewhere. Brands must manage their order and delivery options effectively to stay competitive.
The key to improving supply chain management lies in adopting sustainable order management and fulfilment technologies. Companies should invest in the latest platforms that support best practices in ESG strategy. These advanced solutions enable compliant processes, cost-efficient operations, increased sales, efficient DTC fulfilment and positive customer experiences.
How AI is turning IoT data into actionable insights in the public sector
By Mark Gannon, Director of Client Solutions at Netcall
The use of IoT devices within the public sector is growing rapidly, presenting opportunities for greater efficiency, cost savings, and vast service improvements among a plethora of other benefits. From transportation, infrastructure and even waste management, the ability to monitor and capture data in a range of critical areas has the power to transform organisations across the sector.
Health and Social Care is one setting where IoT devices can drive real impact by significantly improving the day-to-day lives of vulnerable people. In fact, late last year, it was announced that the Glasgow City Region would receive over £3 million to deliver a Health and Social Care-focused project driven by IoT technologies, as part of wider 5G connectivity funding to make public services better. Remote sensors can be used within social housing to detect and control factors such as damp and mould whilst motion sensors can alert emergency services if a vulnerable resident has fallen – not only helping to provide better care, but enabling care to be delivered more efficiently and rapidly to those that need it.
With public sector spending under constant scrutiny, and wider budget cuts increasingly forcing those operating in the sector to achieve more with less, technology that can easily connect and exchange data from device to system, removing a number of manual workflows and processes, is proving invaluable. Taking that one step further, being able to leverage that data and turn it into actionable insights in the future is fast becoming an exciting reality.
So, what’s holding the public sector back from leveraging IoT devices in this way?
The short answer: Data.
Managing IoT-associated data adds a layer of complexity to those responsible for it. With IoT devices typically uploading data multiple times a day, analysing, and actioning the torrents of data can soon become a mammoth task.
IoT and AI: a winning combination
The application of AI alongside IoT is rapidly being recognised as a key solution to this rising data deluge. Not only can it ease the administrative burden by ensuring the IoT devices and any associated workflows are working effectively, but it can also be used to spot any trends and patterns within the device data. Insights such as these can inform longer-term solutions and decisions whilst also acting as predictive analytics to anticipate the likelihood of certain events occurring in the future.
In the case of Health and Social Care, this could mean predicting the probability of a vulnerable resident having a fall based on previous data gathered and putting preventative measures in place to reduce this. IoT wearables are another rising trend in the healthcare setting and can be used to track vital signs and detect anomalies that may need urgent attention. Meanwhile for social housing, using smart solutions including intelligent automation and IoT can help housing providers significantly reduce their risk management burden. For example, the data gained from IoT sensors in tenant homes can be used to proactively identify damp and mold risks and automate alerts.
Looking at the public sector more broadly, we could also see the combination of AI and IoT optimised services such as traffic management, waste management right through to public safety and even managing air quality. By using AI to analyse and draw insights from IoT devices, the concept of the smart city is much closer than we think. AI can use IoT sensor data alongside cameras already in position to adjust traffic signals, optimise routes and even detect incidents and alert public services. It is also expected to play a key role in managing and reducing public service energy consumption, by monitoring and controlling street lighting and other public infrastructures.
Turning insight into action
Whilst AI can take care of the initial analysis, to truly extract the value from IoT data, public sector organisations must ensure these insights are fed into the right systems and married up with the correct workflows to turn them into action.
Fortunately, with the use of application development tools such as low-code application platforms, organisations can rapidly create processes that utilise IoT and AI-driven data, connecting it to internal as well as third-party systems. These solutions move away from traditional development, which can be costly and time-consuming, and can empower broader teams to rapidly build and develop their own applications using a visual drag-and-drop interface. By doing so, organisations can quickly integrate systems and technologies to access actionable data.
As AI and IoT technology continue to advance, we can expect to see more innovative and impactful use cases in the future. Unlocking the benefits, however, will hinge on having the systems and processes in place to trigger next steps. By leveraging the tools that enable this, public sector organisations can use the data from connected devices to create powerful, proactive and dynamic services that fulfil the growing needs of its customers.
Enhancing sustainable commitments in retail banking
Source: Finance Derivative
Mikko Kähkönen, Head of Payment Cards Portfolio at Giesecke+Devrient
Today, more consumers are keeping environmental pledges from banks at the forefront of their financial decisions, and those banks that fall behind their competitors on sustainable action are risking the loss of customers, particularly among the younger generation. This shift highlights a growing expectation from consumers for their banks to make and uphold sustainable commitments, signalling a change in consumer priorities where environmental responsibility is increasingly seen as essential, not just an optional extra. Giesecke+Devrient research shows that as many as 64% of Gen Z consumers would be happy to switch banks if their current provider didn’t meet their expectations.
However, sustainable commitments must be authentic to avoid any accusations of greenwashing. Unfortunately for the banking sector, consumer trust is being strained as greenwashing incidents have risen by 70% around the world. Banks can’t simply make claims that can’t be backed up; pledges must be supported by evidence. There’s a number of practical steps they can take to prove their credentials.
Banking on the evolution of cards
The bank card has increasingly become a physical symbol of the relationship between consumer and bank. As such, banks have taken steps to ensure that it is designed with sustainability in mind. Many are now created with recycled PVC material, commonly up to 100%, with a lower carbon footprint.
Some banks are elevating their sustainable credentials by utilising cards that are made from plastic collected in oceans and coastal regions, helping to clear up the world’s beaches. Alongside this, others are issuing cards made of polylactic acid sourced from (inedible) corn starch. This is a fully renewable biomass that could be industrially composted.
Sustainable cards can then encourage further sustainable initiatives. We’re more often seeing issuers now actively taking part in local conservation, community development and educational projects around the world to help benefit the planet. Communicating these efforts to customers can help reinforce sustainable credentials and leave tangible evidence that proactive action is taking place.
Contributing to the circular economy
Powering the sustainable credentials of issued cards is one aspect, but it’s also vital that banks encourage their customers to do the right thing with them once they expire and they need to be discarded of. We’re already seeing prominent banks making progress in this area. UK retail bank, Santander, has launched a pilot scheme in branches and ATMs that encourages customers to return their outdated credit and debit cards for recycling, for example.
The collected cards are then turned into plastic pellets to be used elsewhere, for instance to make outdoor furniture, sponsored by Santander, for local communities. As more banks opt for card recycling, consumers will be empowered to dispose of their old or expired cards in a green way and help to reduce ecological footprint.
Into the digital world
Outside of card innovations, retail banks can add to their credible green claims with digital solutions. As an example, the card issuance process has typically involved paper letters, with additional PIN letter, that are posted out to customers to activate their payment cards. Instead, an ePIN service can enable customers to instantly access their PIN via their choice of a mobile app or SMS message, reducing paper waste and waiting times.
There are also innovations taking place in terms of QR codes and augmented reality (AR) solutions to enable digital marketing offerings. This means that printed collateral doesn’t need to physically sent out in the post. The more that these types of communications are sent out digitally, the more that consumers see a tangible commitment to sustainable practices.
Banks can even take an additional step by deploying third-party partners to track the CO2 footprint involved with every purchase or payment. By opting for organisations that have a solid track record in green practices, such as supporting product certifications and information on eco-products and their claims, they can make steps to compensate for each transaction carbon footprint.
Contributing to the green story
To ensure they don’t come under any criticism regarding their environmental claims, banks and financial institutions have the opportunity to adopt sustainable practices that align with their customers’ expectations for eco-friendly commitments in both their physical and digital services. They can introduce banking cards made from recycled or entirely compostable materials, eliminating plastic waste.
Digitally, banks can minimise unnecessary paper use by employing online applications to simplify the process of delivering PINs. By innovating in these domains, they can fulfil their environmental responsibilities and establish that essential trust with consumers, contributing positively to the planet’s wellbeing.