Streams of data moving towards a city to symbolise digital transformation

Towards a secure digital transformation of business and society

Digital transformation is core to today’s business environment, but it creates a new type of risk derived from the adoption of the latest technologies and their applications.

Research led by Professor Alexeis Garcia-Perez from the Centre for Business in Society has examined issues regarding digital resilience across a diverse set of commercial and public sectors, diagnosing and exploring poor practices which place organisations, investors, and customers at risk.

The research focused on infrastructure management and the digitisation of operations, initially in the transport and commercial sectors. The ‘shared’ understanding of errors across these sectors has proved invaluable in creating new models and approaches for managing digital transformation, data capture, data management and digital resilience strategies.

In 2013, with funding from the Railway Safety and Standards Board, the Coventry team led a consortium from the rail industry including Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road, Transport for London, London Underground and Thales, to assess the feasibility of using railway data effectively for predicting safety incidents. The findings enabled the development of a series of metadata-driven, safety-focused models of railway operation and performance, as well as the creation of a prototype software tool that uses metadata models for the prediction of safety-related issues affecting railway passengers, staff, and communities.

Network Rail provided additional funding in 2014 for a research project to assess the feasibility of turning every train into an infrastructure monitoring train by using the principles of predictive data analytics. Coventry led an interdisciplinary, industry-wide consortium to put into practice the safety and efficiency learnings from the previous collaboration with the sector. Not only were actual risks of infrastructure failure identified, but the project demonstrated the value of Network Rail’s efforts to further develop and rollout the research findings across the rail network, pre-empting system, and network failures, reducing service interruptions, and mitigating operating risks. This enhanced infrastructure management strategy provided the basis for greater efficiency, safety, and reduced maintenance costs, while improving quality of service and safety for passengers and staff.

Based on the outcomes of the research with the transport and manufacturing industries, the team worked with a UK local government authority in 2018 to improve operational practices and digital resilience. This involved testing the responses of staff to three types of simulated cyber-incidents (caused by phishing emails, malicious software, and identity theft), to examine vulnerabilities and responses of the organisation. The research highlighted the digital vulnerabilities of local authorities; the need for better digital and ICT training for staff; and the importance of leadership, cyber governance, and incident management skills at senior management level. 

The outcomes also informed the development of new policies and business models for the EU NEWBITS project, which were presented to the European Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport at the European Parliament on 21st March 2019. The policies were seen as central in moving from a fragmented and unconnected transport system to an interconnected multimodal data-driven Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The proposed ITS policies were implemented to guide research and developments across Europe.

As a result, Professor Garcia-Perez was invited to become a member of the International Advisory Board for the Future Aluminium Forum; to lead a series of events –such as an international cyber resilience in aluminium workshop, for those interested in the application of new technologies to the aluminium manufacturing process; and to work in collaboration with industry to further enhance digital transformation strategies while mitigating the associated cyber security risks.

The findings have significantly impacted the digital transformation of organisations in the UK and internationally. Overall, the research has improved operational management strategies that have: Influenced the digital transformation strategy of the railway industry in the UK, informed new EU policies to influence the development of data-driven Intelligent Transport Systems, raised awareness of the challenges of digital transformation and cybersecurity in manufacturing, and improved digital management policies and practice of local government authorities in the UK.

To find out more about the research that formed this case study like the KEEPSAFE 1 project, visit the project listing page. 

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