Brian Sims

Digital Resilience: Understanding the Application Journey

ALREADY UNDERWAY, the Fourth Industrial Revolution – often referenced as Industry 4.0 – is characterised by a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the fourth event is moving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, asserts Alastair Brown, it’s both advancing and disrupting almost every industry in every country.

Resilience First recently published a comprehensive guide that explains more. Entitled ‘Digital Resilience’, this document was produced in collaboration with Resilience First members, Accenture and Cranfield University. The guide notes that are three digital technologies expected to bring about fundamental change: Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum technology and cloud computing.

The core concept of AI is the ability of machines to learn and exhibit human-level intelligence. AI generally references technologies that can acquire adaptive and predictive power through some degree of learning from data and task information. Often, this is real-time and at a scale that would otherwise require significant human resource. For example, by scanning satellite imagery or extensive network databases.

Quantum technology can take three different forms. All share the same physics and have the potential to transform businesses by creating solutions for problems that were previously thought insolvable. For example, quantum computing allows more advanced operations than can be realised on classical computers, particularly so around protection using quantum error correcting codes. Quantum sensors offer enhanced ways in which to observe and measure physical properties such as gravity and light, while quantum communication methods are more secure than classical encryption.

The journeys to digital and associated cloud transformations are not brand new. With the speed provided by the cloud, and by working with cloud service providers, enterprises can shift away from operations aimed at keeping the lights on and create a platform for innovation, agility and future business.

A given businesses’ system may be enhanced by combining all three digital forms. It’s still early days for quantum technology, but continued growth and further new uses are anticipated. The technology is used with both cloud computing and AI: the former as the primary access means and to reduce cost and the latter to access more datasets, which subsequently enhance the useability of the technology.

Enhancing resilience

Resilience can be described as the ability to cope with shocks and stresses and be able to bounce back. Concerns about the resilience of digital systems are not new and advancing technology and the interplay between technologies makes it even more challenging. More positively, though, technology can also greatly enhance resilience.

Quantum sensors, which identify specific environmental conditions, offer early warning systems to protect against the impact of natural disasters. For their part, quantum communication methods are particularly useful as an active resilience tool in identifying and addressing attacks on a communications system.

Cloud computing is critical for digital resilience. It acts as a catalyst for digital modernisation for many businesses. Machine learning can also enhance by, for instance, identifying certain types of cyber attack and blocking them, while legitimate traffic is still allowed to flow.

Risk equation

AI comes with its own risks to business, such as a greater dependency on highly skilled engineers for insertion and implementation. AI is also open to adversarial attack by vectors which can operate by themselves or in combination with more conventional cyber attacks.

The cloud can be public, private or, indeed, a hybrid. A private cloud is defined by being owned and maintained by a single organisation. Resilience in the cloud must be strategically planned and intentionally implemented. Governance and control are necessary to manage risk in cloud use. Testing is still fundamental in the move towards cloud migration and includes resilience testing.

For quantum, sabotage or espionage is an issue in the short term. In the medium term, affordability of quantum technology may open up that technology to greater access by organised crime or rogue state interference.

Businesses will need to innovate and embrace the new technology safely. They will need the right level of security and technology in place. Equally important, a business needs the right governance and independent scrutiny of its technology systems.

The mentality of businesses is key. Businesses need to be aware of the challenges and of regulatory and legal frameworks, not to mention the technical challenges they may encounter.

Benefiting from digital

Digitalisation helped us all through the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Compare how it went to how we might have coped before we had modern digital capability. Indeed, shocks such as the pandemic present opportunities for innovation and change. During COVID, this was true for consumers and businesses providing for the public. We can include drug research and the optimisation of medicine supply chains within this discussion.

Digital technology can, of course, be applied beneficially to just about any business sector. The use of AI in agriculture, for example, is pretty much accepted now and farmers employing the capabilities of drones is commonplace. Self-drive vehicles are not just coming to our roads and rails. Self-drive tractors and combine harvesters will move into our fields.

This, of course, means efficiencies in costs and labour for many of our farmers, but there could be socio-economic issues here. Rich farmers in the developed world might be able to afford the latest technology, but in the global south, many farms are small scale with little access to modern technology. The possibility of further divergence between rich and poor is real.

Quantum computing could also help us in the fight against climate change, for example, by way of improvements made to solar panels or battery storage assisting the transition to electric HGVs.

All of this is conjecture and there will be a host of variables that could confound even the most detailed of predictions, but it does give us an idea of what could be achieved. For now, the message to the business community is that it will need to embrace the opportunities digital can bring and be prepared but do its homework to understand the risks and how these can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

Alastair Brown is Director of Resilience First (

Alastair Brown chaired a panel discussion on ‘Building Digital Resilience’ at the recent International Risk and Resilience Conference alongside colleagues from Accenture, ICAEW and Quantum Dice. The session ran at 1.30 pm on Wednesday 28 September as part of the International Security Expo Conference Programme, which was held at London’s Olympia.

Security Matters served as the Lead Media Partner for the show, which is run on an annual basis by the Nineteen Group and, in 2022, celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

Company Info

Security Matters

Western Business Media
Dorset House
64 High Street
East Grinstead
RH19 3DE

Login / Sign up