3 Steps to better cybersecurity in touchless business solutions (Part 3 of 3)

July 16, 2020  |  Mayleen Menez

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger

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In Part 1 and  Part 2 of this series, we covered the first two steps to better cybersecurity in touchless business solutions, which is to practice extra caution in cashless payment solutions, and to heighten cybersecurity and data protection protocols.

We conclude this series by discussing the third step to improve cybersecurity for touchless systems, which is to automate wherever possible through innovative technologies.

We will discuss automation being implemented in 2 industries severely affected by the pandemic, with recommended preventive measures against cyber-attacks that keep both business and clients secure.

Automate wherever possible through innovative technologies

The food industry is probably one of the most affected in the wake of the pandemic. Restaurants had to close almost immediately. From established food chains to small business operators, the need to quarantine nearly drove the market to a standstill. 

But since the food business industry is an essential need industry, you cannot just shut it down. Food delivery and take-out became the only way for these businesses to continue serving their communities. Employers needed to implement strategies to preserve their teams to stay in business amid the pandemic. But what happens when these establishments open their doors to the public once more? 

In the “new normal” we are all gearing to come to, restaurants can only operate at around 50% capacity. Technology integration is essential to preserve human touch. Here are some examples of how automation can be done in this industry:

Examples of automation technology applications:

● Online sales and delivery

Restaurants would now be expecting more revenue coming from online sales and delivery, as the population reels from the effects of the pandemic, going to a restaurant may be in the least of people’s priority. But eating is not. Food businesses need to adapt the offline experience they give to their consumers online without losing the uniqueness of the experience their brand can offer.

Food distributors are also affected because it became harder to move their warehouse inventory. So, instead of merely relying on doing business with restaurants, hotels, and the like, they now had to go direct to consumers through online sales and delivery. Food warehouses and even food production services would also have to automate where possible, like inventory maintenance and logistics. Walk-up operations, together with online ordering systems, can also be set in place.

● Automated retail

Even before the global pandemic, the retail industry has been driving towards automation and customer-centricity. Creating touchless supply chains and automating wherever feasible, is now possible through innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT). AI helps you get to know your consumers better, while ML helps you plan better based on historical demand data and streamline your logistics through IoT.

Automation is becoming more and more the norm, from planning to logistic processes. These systems allow human resources to intervene only when unavoidable and to focus on high-priority tasks, the top of which is satisfying the customers.

Automation can help you accelerate order fulfilment and distribution. Through IoT sensor data, you can seamlessly connect your actual logistics flow to digital logistics flow. This logistics-specific automation also includes transportation and warehouse management systems. Consumers can now track and trace their parcel upon ordering. They can follow their order from the moment it leaves the distribution centres to the time it reaches the fulfilment centre, to the time it gets delivered to their doorstep.

IoT-enabled devices allow viewing of data and implementation of supply chain actions even without staff intervention. Delivery times are also scheduled systematically, with accurate delivery times that factor in weather conditions, projected travel time, and availability of delivery operators.

Vehicles’ locations, driver status and even complications encountered along the way can all be monitored in real-time. The data is also accessed in real-time by the entire supply chain network for excellent collaboration—from suppliers to manufacturers, to service providers, and other third-party associates. All this makes for a more streamlined supply chain that delivers what consumers need at the quickest time possible.

•   Touchless engagements

One of the most severely hit in the current global tragedy that is COVID-19 is the travel industry. As countries closed, so did the airports, ports, and other public transport systems. Tourism businesses, considered as a non-essential industry, are yet to see the time when they will be allowed to operate once more.

Exit strategies need to be set in place now—from aviation to sea and land travel.

Travellers have long enjoyed online booking systems. Self-booking kiosks are an excellent addition to airports and other public transport systems that ease the long queues of travellers trying to check-in. But one of the permanent effects of this global pandemic is the change in check-in systems yet again. Just like the 9-11 tragedy changed airport and aviation protocols forever, health screening is now foreseen as an additional non-negotiable protocol for local and foreign travellers, at least for the next two to three years.

Technology solutions such as touchless automated pre-trip approval, online and offline processing of reservations, and touchless automated prepayment of accommodations, tours and related bookings must be improved more than ever.

Service-providers must increase the capacity of their systems to not only handle bookings and reservations, but also provide streamlined and faster service when it comes to quality control, customer complaint management, and even unused ticket tracking.

Health screening kiosks like SafeTemp Kiosk will be more common. Touchless thermal temperature scanners save both passenger and ground staff from human interaction during check-in and check-out. Kiosks like these were made available in business and school establishments in Taiwan that remained open while most of the world was on lockdown.

Other touchless technologies will include AI-powered concierge robots or mobile concierge apps that will allow customers to make requests via their mobile phone. Amazon’s Alexa, for instance, acts as your butler when you check-in hotels that have this system in place. Automated texting also enables hotels to get immediate feedback from customers for better service. A customer’s check-in and check-out experience get handled through the mobile concierge or concierge robots.

As consumers are becoming more intuitive and self-reliant, consumers’ demands, medical apps, mobile medical devices, and digital medical services will increase even more. Innovators in the health industry will have to hasten the roll-out of touchless technology. Soon, it will be typical for doctors to conduct consultations through a combination of apps and video conferencing, or for medical practitioners working in remote areas to receive advice and medical consult from fellow doctors on difficult cases or maybe an ongoing epidemic.

The touchless technology trend will become more widespread in restaurants as well, through touchless menus, touchless reservations and pre-order for pick-up or delivery.

Risks in automation

Data quality, quantity, and integrity

Since these technologies rely on data, data needs to accumulate massively before Machine Learning can be viable. The source of data or quality of data may not always be reliable. Bad data may be mixed in with good data, or there may be a lack of variation to the data source to make learning unbiased. Fake data may also get injected into the system. If a machine receives incorrect data, it will learn incorrect patterns. Incorrect patterns will cause that machine to make incorrect decisions, which can be very harmful, even life-threatening.

As automation becomes more customary in touchless business solutions, technology engineers, security software developers, and even technology integrators must work together to preserve the authenticity and quality of data being gathered.

Exposing consumers’ personal and behavioural data

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and IoT systems rely heavily on data collection. Even if data is encrypted, not all IoT devices, for instance, may follow international standards. Cheap IoT devices that lack cybersecurity protections may cause consumer data to be compromised.

AI used together with IoT devices can be invasive, and implementation may intentionally or unintentionally bypass people’s privacy without their knowledge or consent. For example, AI and IoT technology are used in China to learn facial recognition for social credit rating. In a touchless system, this kind of data can easily be collected through facial screening for thermal scanners, for example. The use of data collected, though, may be used for other purposes, which the person may not have entirely agreed to.

Cyberattacks through exposed IoT devices

A simple drive-by attack can infiltrate IoT systems such as smart devices or smart homes. A hacker may get into your system through something as simple as a smart coffeemaker. Without the consumer’s knowledge, a hacker may already be controlling their home devices remotely to commit fraud or cyber threat. These hackers may also gain access to schedules and other private details concerning the family. Even trusted security cameras might be turned against the consumer, used by hackers to monitor their every move.

How we can stay protected:

Policymakers must be proactive in regulating the use of data collected through these technologies and how developers can safeguard the use of people’s data.

Also, be cautious whenever data is collected from you. It may be a biometric measurement (fingerprint, voice, or facial recognition) you need to access your device, details you submit in an online form, even pictures you post online. Leave room for your privacy and guard that privacy through the responsible use of technology, employing reliable cybersecurity protocols like passwords, VPNs and even something as simple as online hygiene.

These technologies can actually be used to enhance cybersecurity. If cyber attackers are using these innovations to intensify their attacks on people, you can utilise these technologies as well to defend yourself better, your family and your business. You can even be on the offensive with these technologies, especially as we move deeper into a digital, touchless era.

Conclusion: Prepare for the new normal

The coming of a “new normal” is inescapable. We do need to move ahead, and this pandemic has fast-tracked our journey towards a touchless future by necessity. Businesses can begin to bounce back by incorporating touchless business solutions to grapple with social distancing challenges and adapting to new day-to-day realities. Begin to look toward better days. In the meantime, assess your business, identify weaknesses exposed when the pandemic hit, and recognise opportunities for growth and diversification that sprung up after. Put a sound automation plan in place so your business can begin to thrive in this new period of innovation we are heading towards.

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