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Accelerating the Future: 2018 Innovation Week Ends With Possibilities

YPO Innovation Week’s theme of Accelerating What’s Next was in evidence all week, through a global array of high-energy networking sessions, virtual events, live presentations and social gatherings. The final day was no exception, featuring virtual events that reflected both sides of innovation: the opportunities (autonomous transportation) and the challenges (data security and privacy).

Letting technology take the wheel

Who better than an advisor to the Google self-driving car project to talk about autonomous transportation? Larry Burns introduced the future of transportation in his virtual program by naming three technologies that will work together to usher in what he calls the “new age of automobility”: autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and transportation as a service.

As these technologies combine, a massive transition from the current age of automobiles to the new age will occur, not only in how the new vehicles are powered and driven, but also from a focus on attractive automobiles to compelling transportation experiences, from being designed for drivers to being designed for riders, and from optimized vehicle cost to optimized cost per mile. This tipping point, which he expects within three years, will make transportation safer and more affordable, convenient, environmentally friendly and personalized.

The transformation will not be limited to customer vehicles, but will affect the trucking industry as well, enabling lower shipment scale economies and meeting e-commerce’s increasing demand for more frequent deliveries.

Burns urges companies to begin preparing now for the change. “Develop a deep understanding of what is possible in new technologies, business models, opportunities and threats. Hearing about them at conferences or reading about them in journals is too late. You have to have a seat at the table.” He also notes the importance of building operational excellence through a combination of proven best practices and new technologies: “It’s not enough to have a great design. You have to deliver on it consistently and with excellence.”

Finally, he encourages companies to shift their focus from making things and to making value. “Creating value is the key to success. Everything — design, operations, technology — should contribute to customer experiences.”

Protecting the crown jewels

For data-driven businesses, nothing is potentially more damaging than data loss or compromise. And now there is a new threat on the horizon: quantum computing, which has the potential to render many types of encryption ineffective relatively soon.

Security expert and YPO member Fred Thiel, Chairman and CEO of Thiel Advisors, Inc., explained to YPOers during a virtual event that the security of cryptography is based on current computers’ limitations on certain activities, such as factoring large numbers (key lengths). However, the vastly increased computational power of quantum computing will make the necessary calculations well within reach. This means the common assumption that data is secure in human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine transactions is inaccurate because these transactions’ security depends on the security of the communications, which relies on (hackable) cryptography.

Quantum computing can perform brute-force attacks already, but concern is not yet rampant simply because of the difficulty of getting access to a quantum computer. As the technology advances and the cost and difficulty of building such machines are reduced, hackers will have easier access to them.

While standards to ensure the interoperability of post-quantum cryptographic algorithms are under development, they will take time to complete. Still, Thiel recommends that companies begin beefing up their security right away. Extending key length is a short-term solution; more complex algorithms will be needed in five to 10 years. Already the keys that protect cryptocurrencies on the blockchain are, in Thiel’s words, “completely hackable” by quantum computers.

The seriousness of the effort is clear in Thiel’s characterization of the struggle between defenders and attackers as an “arms race.” He adds, “Many people think the next cyberwar won’t be fought with bullets, but with bits.”

Innovation is critical to YPO members, whose businesses often depend on the creation and application of new products and services and the ability to use disruption to their advantage. YPO is grateful for the champions, sponsors, speakers and participants who have brought innovative content and discussions to members and have made Innovation Week 2018 yet another stellar example of an Only-in-YPO event.

Jane Seago is a business writer who focuses on topics related to governance, risk and compliance. Her work has appeared in publications targeted to insurance, internal audit, cloud computing, association management, IT governance, information systems audit and information security readerships.