Organizations have always changed, yet it seems change has never occurred at the rate and velocity of today. The 2008 sub-prime collapse of the U.S. banking system triggered a global financial crisis and recession labeled as a “black swan” event—a term referring to unexpected and rare events causing significant consequences. Looking back, though, the question remains: was it truly unexpected?
Already this year, we’ve witnessed a new crisis with the collapse, sale and recovery of multiple banks. Unlike ’08, the banking industry and regulators responded in weeks versus months. Is it enough? Are there more actions to take? We’ll find out.
These sobering questions mirror and underscore the importance of digital’s impact on speed and agility in both private and public sectors. From the boardroom to the customer (or citizen), nearly all industries have high expectations for rapid response and transparent insight into what’s happening now and where it’s headed next.
At this new velocity of life and heightened expectations, relevance takes on a deeper meaning when considering the usefulness, effectiveness and value of data. This is particularly true when the volume of data continues to grow exponentially with a direct correlation to the wallet and purse strings.
Collecting and retaining irrelevant data wastes resources, creates unnecessary security and legal risks, and makes it harder to highlight and act on key information. How should we ensure that collected data is relevant, satisfies regulatory requirements and meets privacy considerations? Enter “situational awareness.”
Situational awareness conceptually dates back to Sun Tzu and refers to an ability to understand and have an accurate perception of what is going on in one’s immediate surroundings, as well as the ability to anticipate and prepare for future events.
This sense of what’s happening now is often followed by ‘So what?’ and ‘Now What?’ The interplay, reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s skit, “Who’s on First,” is most important for individuals and organizations in security, decision-making and performance optimization roles. Beyond specific roles, the need for situational awareness is pervasive across every industry, ecosystem, organization and individual.
The themes mentioned most often include:
1. Perceiving the environment
2. Comprehending the situation
3. Projecting what’s next by doing nothing
4. Conducting ‘what if’ projections
5. Communicating status
6. Monitoring the evolution of an evolving situation.
These themes represent a robust list of areas for artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovations to contribute value and sustain situational awareness.
Looking across AI, there are many specialties. Matt Turck and Kevin Zhang of Firstmark Capital continue to publish a taxonomy of logos that only scratches the surface of the thousands of companies in the AI landscape yet illustrates various specialties and roles of AI and underlying infrastructure components to sustain situational awareness at the speed of relevance.
Below are five examples that illustrate the importance of AI in sustaining relevance.
IoT sensors help thwart human trafficking by combining real-time location tracking, movement and proximity detection with other data that can alert law enforcement officials or other authorities to suspicious activities. Placing sensors in sensitive locations helps victims become more easily detected, identified and rescued. IoT sensors can also be used in conjunction with AI and machine learning technologies to analyze behavioral patterns and predict potential trafficking hotspots or identify common perpetrators.
Business intelligence (BI) reporting and real-time analytics serve different purposes in terms of data analysis and decision-making. BI reporting focuses on generating historical or near-real-time insights based on data collected in the past on regularly scheduled intervals—providing a summary of historical data with fixed levels of drill down.
In contrast, real-time analytics are designed for instant awareness and response using detailed information and continual feeding. Optimized for low latency, operational efforts focus on communicating current status and generating insights and potential outcomes using AI and simulation.
Continually updating simulations with real-time data increases the accuracy and relevance of predictions and hypotheses. Like when a hurricane is being tracked, multiple models provide continuing updates on the storm’s progress and projected paths while being fed new data from hurricane hunters and satellite feeds. By incorporating new data as it becomes available, models produce insights that more closely match real-world conditions, improve prediction accuracy and test “what if this happens” scenarios.
Real-time analysis of event data using AI helps combat known and zero-day cyber-attacks by enabling organizations to quickly detect and respond to suspicious or anomalous activity. This includes analyzing traffic flows, identifying unusual access patterns, or flagging suspicious activity. Consolidating these perspectives with the help of AI and enabling human reviews with automated countermeasures increases speed and agility in response to zero-day attacks.
Tracking sentiment in social media can flag reputation issues by identifying negative opinions and comments about a brand or organization. By monitoring social media and the dark web, organizations can gain insight into how their brand is perceived and whether specific personnel, operations, or assets are the focus of attacks. AI mining of these channels can classify reviews and comments while flagging potential risks.
These four questions will help drive situational awareness and develop the unique nuance of your organization:
1. How are you creating situational awareness today, and how is it sustained?
2. Is this enough? Where are your gaps and what are their impacts?
3. Have you listed what is most relevant to your business, customers, employees, citizens, communities, regulators and suppliers? Think about ESG areas, if this is a focus for your organization.
4. How does your current AI strategy progress you toward continual situational awareness at the speed of relevance?
The way organizations operate is changing faster than ever before. By understanding the forces behind these changes and the role of AI in sustaining situational awareness, you can go a long way to aligning your business, people and ecosystems.
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