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Winter Journal

Volume 32, Issue 4

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Wednesday, 07 June 2017 18:33

How New Technologies Turn Themselves Into Single Points Of Failures


With technology increasing each minute, nowadays a realistic approach to business continuity is needed in today’s world. The current trend to automate process and data exchange in manufacturing technologies initiated the implementation of what is called the fourth industrial revolution.

Business continuity professionals should be aware of these changes, and accordingly should be able to understand the dependency of the essential functions with new technologies. Gartner recently presented the top technology trends that will be decisive for many companies in 2017.

These technologies are defined by Gartner as “one with substantial disruptive potential that is just beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use; or which are rapidly growing trends, with a high degree of volatility, reaching tipping points over the next five years.”

These technologies can be categorized under the following classes: intelligence everywhere, digital world, and mesh of platforms.

Intelligence everywhere refers to physical and software-based systems that are developed with the capacity of learning and adapting. The three trends included under this category are

  • applied artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • intelligent apps
  • intelligent things

The following three technologies look at the interconnection between the physical and the digital world:

  • virtual and augmented reality
  • digital twin
  • block chain

The last two encompass the services required for intelligent digital mesh:

  • mesh app and service architecture
  • adaptive security architecture

Why do business continuity professionals need to be aware of these technologies? First, because the industries we serve will soon incorporate most of the above mentioned. We must document how much our processes rely on these technologies and assess different failure modes to prevent a possible disruption.

It is also important to take advantage of the multiple possibilities these new technologies provide to enhance our profession. The use of automated systems to trigger business continuity plans from remote locations will continue to be used widespread, reducing the reliance on human interaction.

Let’s see what the future holds for us.

Applied Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Think of how many decisions you make every day. Take a moment to decide which of those could be made by a computer. This can freak you out -- even more if I tell you there are systems than can actually learn and change their behaviors without human interaction.

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are being developed to behave as humans. In parallel, machine learning is the capacity of a system to learn from decisions by “memorizing” the corrective actions taken. In future situations, the system will take this stored information to produce even better outcomes.

The most significant applied field of AI is the area of expert systems (ES). These are knowledge-based systems that employ previous information and resolve a problem that would otherwise require human competence or expertise.

Expert systems are used for disaster management to model decision making. Assuring that during crisis decisions are taken based on facts without involving human limitations such as stress, fatigue, or lack of knowledge.

Intelligent apps

Most of you have interacted with Siri, Alexa, or Cortana. They are virtual personal assistants (VPAs) designed with the idea to make our everyday tasks easier. Today, everyone with a smartphone or a computer can have his or her own 24/7 personal assistant.

According to Gartner, most of the world’s largest companies will “exploit intelligent apps and utilize the full toolkit of big data and analytics tools to refine their offers and improve customer experience” by 2018.

Intelligent things

Robots, drones, and autonomous vehicles will increasingly evolve, impacting the market they are designed to serve and creating disruptions in other areas.

Airlines, airports, and air navigation services are already being affected by drones.

Airports must be protected due to the importance of their operations. With the aim to ensure safe aircraft operations, the boundaries within five kilometers around the airport are limited to air-controlled operations. When there is an airspace incursion, the Air Navigation Services Authority is forced to close the airspace to protect the safety of all air operations.

On April 17, 2016, a drone hit a British Airways flight with 132 passengers on board as it approached Heathrow Airport in London.

This is a perfect example to justify the continued discovery of technologies that surround our industries. After similar incidents, Dubai airports deployed a “drone hunter” to assure its airport remains open.

Virtual and augmented reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two technologies designed with the purpose of making persons interact with new perceptions of what we consider the real world.

The digital world started to be an extension of this physical world. During the next coming years, we will see an exponential evolution of companies that set up their new businesses on this “parallel” world.

As an example, virtual reality is used for training purposes by replicating scenarios that fire fighters and other emergency responders may face. With it, we prepare a highly-trained professional in multiple scenarios, reducing the expensive costs of creating a drill exercise.

Digital twin

Digital twin technologies have been defined as “a virtual image of your asset, maintained throughout the lifecycle and easily accessible at any time.”

The applications of digital twins are diverse. They can be used for diagnosing, monitoring, and creating prognostics of multiple physical assets.

As an application for crisis management, digital twins can be used to provide emergency responders with a replica of a building structure. With this, important information is easily accessible at any time.

Blockchain and distributed ledgers

A blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger that facilitates secure online transactions. Blockchain has the capacity to create an environment where each unit is exchanged only once, resolving with this the problem of double spending.

Currently this technology focuses on the financial industry, but there are multiple applications such as supply chain and distribution of multiple data (music, video, etc.).

Mesh app and service architecture

The mesh apps and service architecture (MASA) refer to a multichannel solution architecture that dynamically escalates a set of connections.

MASA links, endpoints applications, and devices meld into a single broad mesh of back-end services called the “application.”

MASA can be beneficial to resolve one of the major challenges faced in the crisis management community: the interoperability among the systems used by the different organizations that are involved in an incident.

Adaptive security architecture

The rapid evolution of all these technologies create new challenges for IT security professionals. The interconnection of multiple architectures potentially created security breaches due to the complexity of the different technologies: mesh, IoT, etc.

In the coming years, IT security will need to become even more adaptive. Security teams need to work with enterprise architects to consider security early in the design of applications of IoT solutions.


Everything will be connected. According to a 2015 Gartner report, we will see 26 billion IoT connected devices to invade by 2020. Massive connectivity brings benefits but increases the number of single points of failures (SPOF) not considered previously.

As advisors of different industries, we should keep an eye on the development of these new trends and their implementation.

SerranoJesus Jimenez Serrano is currently focusing his doctorate in airline disruption management, aiming to create a technology that will help airlines make better decisions during disruptions.