Foreword to the Belgium Edition
Together with our experts, we have looked at the market and see three trends making the most impact in Belgium in 2022: Cloud goes vertical, Cyber AI: Real defense, and The tech stack goes physical.
In Cloud goes vertical, we look at how cloud is freeing organizations to focus their resources on differentiation, as cloud and software vendors offer vertical-specific solutions that modernize legacy processes and jump start innovation.
The growing implementation of smart devices and cloud technologies offers great opportunities to businesses. However, it has also introduced more complexity and security concerns. With mesh networks, large scale IoT implementation, and the introduction of 5G and 6G networks, the attack surface is far greater in 2022 than at the beginning of 2020. In Cyber AI: Real defense, we review the changing role of AI in cybersecurity.
The Tech stack goes physical considers the explosion of smart devices across all sectors—and asks what this means for the role of IT teams as the focus shifts from systems to the physical world.
While the pandemic has of course fueled this year’s trends, they are not a direct response to COVID-19 disruption: instead, we see that existing priorities have simply been underlined.
We hope these Belgium-specific reflections will inspire debate and discussion with your leadership.
How do new cloud offerings deliver a competitive advantage?
Belgian CIOs are increasingly delegating IT responsibilities that are considered as non-strategic to either a cloud provider or a cloud managed services partner, enabling the organization to focus on innovation enablers for the business.
These cloud-native development capabilities, combined with the cloud’s unprecedent data ingestion and processing capabilities, are creating a paradigm shift, as Belgian companies increasingly change their business models.
With cloud foundations in place, businesses are empowered to further standardise non-differentiating systems such as ERP. These standardised systems can then be enriched with systems of differentiation and innovation based on cloud-native technologies. A boom in the availability of increasingly industry-specific, pre-built cloud services enables businesses to innovate fast, with a lower entry cost facilitating a ‘try fast, fail fast’ approach. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we expect to see a growing number of organizations across market sectors begin exploring ways that industry clouds can help them meet unique vertical needs.
The industry cloud trend is the next leg of the cloud journey for organizations already in the cloud, one that riffs on the cloud’s original promise of sharing resources to solve problems affordably and at scale.
Where does the explosion of smart devices come from?
In buildings, access control systems, cloud security cameras, CO2 monitors, and desk utilisation systems are fast becoming the norm. Businesses in our ports increasingly rely on smart devices for the identification of oil leaks, and remote monitoring and control of towing operations. Retailers are implementing track-and-trace systems to deliver operational enhancements and cold chain monitoring to improve food safety.
Remote asset monitoring offers manufacturers an increased understanding of operational efficiency. And, connected devices are not only business critical but a matter of life and death in the public and healthcare sector, where all assets—from machines to smart watches, hospital beds to syringes—are becoming connected to enable connected healthcare.
Digital transformation is also happening within Belgian governmental organisations, where we see many proof of concepts and the start of ad-hoc innovation. However, the structural transformation of the core business to accommodate innovation, including leaner procurement processes, and a standardised structured approach for the Belgium public sector as whole, still requires further maturing.
How is the role of IT changing in 2022 and beyond?
While the uses of smart devices may differ by sector, CIOs increasingly need to manage physical technology stacks. And as physical systems become mission critical, the stakes rise. There are more and more assets to manage, no longer only behind closed doors but spread in the field, with diverse landscapes and standards. Organisations maintain control of some assets, while others are managed by a third party. Businesses need to manage the security and confidentiality risks inherent in this diversified operation.
Another challenge is the readiness of devices for industrial grade. Devices with IP67, ATEX or HACCP certifications are not readily available, and the electronic shortage last year has limited further development and customisation.
What is next for smart device regulation?
The EU is acting to strengthen security for IoT devices, with the Radio Equipment Directive setting out new requirements which manufacturers will need to comply with in the near future. Furthermore, businesses are looking to harden their IoT pipelines from edge to cloud—continuously testing and improving their infrastructure and systems to make them safer and more reliable.
It is expected that compliance and regulatory processes will transform in the coming years from manual and paper-based toward real-time, in-line asset monitoring. First as an additional or alternative flow, but over time this could become the standard.
What does the cybersecurity landscape look like in Belgium?
Security is high on everyone’s agenda. Organisations want to protect their most valuable assets—the ‘crown jewels’—from the prying eyes of competitors, from getting compromised by malicious adversaries, and from misaligning with corporate and regulatory policies.
However, despite making significant investments in security technologies, organizations in Belgium continue to struggle with security breaches due to evolving tactics. An increase in cyberattacks has led businesses to look to AI to assist with their decision-making processes. Existing technologies place AI front-and-centre, helping to triage events and suggest improvements to control surfaces, such as technology policies, firewall settings, and anti-malware configuration.
How have cyberattacks changed?
Alarmingly, cyberattackers too are realizing the power of AI. To avoid detection, they are increasingly attacking AI algorithms, installing bias, and using AI bots and AI to introduce ‘fuzziness’ into the attacks. They are also using AI to slow down their attacks, submerging them into day-to-day noise. For example, slow password guesses often go unnoticed among the many genuine instances of users entering incorrect passwords.
In Belgium, we observe advanced, determined attackers with time on their side. While many of the most visible cyberattacks, such as ransomware attacks, unfold at a high speed, truly advanced cyberattacks are not executed at the speed depicted in many primetime series.
Attackers move forward at a stealthy, slow pace to avoid detection, relying on highly methodical, tactical approaches while they close in on their main targets. To support these mechanics, attackers rely on AI for smart automation of their attack procedures, which withstand smaller changes in the infrastructure.
How can businesses fight back with AI?
While this adoption of AI by cyberattackers increases the challenge for defenders, the outlook is positive. Cybersecurity teams succeed in detecting cyberattacks at earlier stages thanks to AI-driven decision support systems, and are able to apply smarter defence technology to actively adjust cyber security measures based on the behaviours observed in both users and attackers.
Cyber AI can enable security teams not only to respond faster than cyberattackers can move, but also to anticipate these moves and act in advance. Cyber defence engineers are no longer working on individual machines fighting malware, but act as generals: guiding their troops of anti-malware assets with more situational awareness than ever before to secure the most valuable IT assets. In Belgium and abroad, AI-enabled defensive technologies are ready for deployment and have transitioned into mainstream security solutions.
What does the future hold?
Meeting these challenges requires expertise that is not typically found in technology teams. With Belgium already facing a significant digital skills gap, leading businesses are upskilling their teams to manage this new normal, as technology shifts back into the physical world.
But there is good news too. A large number of start-up, scale-ups, and even unicorns have emerged in Belgium in recent years, and with many exciting new opportunities for all businesses on the horizon, the future looks promising.
If you would like to discuss any of these trends and learn how they apply to your organization, we would be happy to share our insights and help you to engineer your tech-forward future.
Explore the trends
The tech stack goes physical
With the explosion of “smart devices” and the increased automation of physical tasks, IT’s remit is growing again, extending beyond laptops and phones. CIOs must now consider how to onboard, manage, maintain, and secure such business-critical physical assets as smart factory equipment, automated cooking robots, inspection drones, health monitors, and countless others. Because outages could be business- or life-threatening, devices in the evolving physical tech stack require the highest levels of system uptime and resilience. And a fresh approach to device governance and oversight may be needed to help IT manage unfamiliar standards, regulatory bodies, and liability and ethics concerns. Finally, CIOs likely will need to consider how to procure needed technology talent and reskill the current workforce.
Technology Strategy & Transformation offering leader
Tim Paridaens is Partner within Deloitte Consulting with extensive experience in large scale technology-enabled business process transformation and has specialized in I4.0, (Industrial) Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chains. Tim is leading all IoT-related activities in Deloitte Belgium, from go-to-market to project deliver (ideation, strategy, implementation and target operating model design) and is member of the global IoT team core team. He has built up industry experience in the private industry including life sciences, consumer business (retail and consumer goods), automotive, telecom & media and banking and public sector both on federal as European level. Currently, Tim serves multiple clients in designing and delivering innovative I4.0 / IIoT solutions, with a specific focus on Digital Ports, Connected Logistics, Connected Manufacturing, Predictive Maintenance and Connected Healthcare.
Cloud goes vertical
The center of gravity around digital transformation has shifted from meeting the IT needs of an industry-agnostic organization to meeting the unique strategic and operational needs of each sector and even subsector. Hyperscalers and SaaS vendors are working with global system integrators and clients to provide modularized, vertical-specific business services and accelerators that can be easily adopted and built upon for unique differentiation. As this trend gains momentum, deploying applications will become a process of assembly rather than creation—a shift that could reorder the entire value stack. Business processes will become strategic commodities to be purchased, freeing organizations to focus precious development resources on critical areas of strategy and competitive differentiation.
Partner, Cloud Engineering
Thomas is a partner at Deloitte Belgium, focusing on Cloud Engineering. He has a strong experience in Technology Strategy and Cloud as he has been advising companies across various industries in their journey to the Cloud, ranging from initial business case, to operating model and architecture, to the actual migration. Prior to joining Deloitte, Thomas was leading the Cloud architects unit for Microsoft BeLux, where he has been driving leading edge Cloud migrations with large enterprises in the local market.
Cyber AI: Real defense
TSecurity teams may soon be overwhelmed by the sheer volume, sophistication, and difficulty of detecting cyberattacks. Enterprise attack surfaces are expanding exponentially. The use of 5G is growing, along with the number of network-connected devices; remote work is gaining ground; and third-party attacks have become increasingly pernicious. It’s time to call for AI backup. Cyber AI can be a force multiplier that enables organizations not only to respond faster than their attackers can move but also to anticipate these moves and act in advance. AI can be expanded beyond established applications, such as using it to accelerate data analysis, identify anomalies, and detect threats. These emerging AI techniques can help human analysts focus on prevention, remediation, and developing a more proactive, resilient security posture. And as AI is adopted across the business, it can also be leveraged to help protect valuable AI resources and combat AI-powered attacks.
Belgian Cyber Risk leader
Jan joined the Deloitte Cyber Risk Services group in June 2008 after successfully growing and leading a niche IAM systems integration company. He is currently leading the overall Belgian Cyber Risk Services Team, which houses well over 120 experts (and growing) who cover the full breath of services in the Cyber Security domain, from high level Strategy, Roadmap, Operating Model, Security Management and Workforce development experts, over Data Protection, Cloud security, Emerging Technology, SAP and Identity management export all the way up to Ethical Hackers and Managed Security Services experts. This wide range of services will allow Jan’s clients to face the next big transformation wave to follow the Digital Transformations: a full Cyber Transformation to confidently act and thrive in a digital economy.
Data-sharing made easy
A host of new technologies promise to simplify the mechanics of data-sharing across and between organizations while preserving the veil of privacy. As part of a growing trend, organizations are unlocking more value from their own sensitive data while leveraging enormous volumes of externally sourced data that has traditionally been off limits. This can open up a new arena of data-driven opportunities. Indeed, the ability to share secured data with others within an ecosystem or value chain is giving rise to new business models and products. For example, by pooling clinical data on shared platforms in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers, medical authorities, and drug makers were able to accelerate the development of treatments and vaccines. Moreover, these same data-sharing protocols have helped drug makers, government agencies, hospitals, and pharmacies coordinate and execute expansive vaccination programs that prioritize efficiency and safety, and preserve intellectual property.
Blockchain: Ready for business
Trendy cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs) capture media headlines and the public imagination, but these and other blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) are also making waves in the enterprise. In fact, blockchain and DLT platforms have crossed the disillusionment trough of the hype cycle and are well on their way to driving real productivity. They are fundamentally changing the nature of doing business across organizational boundaries and helping companies reimagine how they make and manage identity, data, brand, provenance, professional certifications, copyrights, and other tangible and digital assets. Emerging technical advancements and regulatory standards, especially in nonpublic networks and platforms, are helping drive enterprise adoption beyond financial services organizations. As enterprises get comfortable with blockchain and DLT, creative use cases are cropping up in many industries, with established industry leaders expanding their portfolios and creating new value streams, while startups dream up exciting new business models.
Field notes from the future
A bold, technologically sophisticated future awaits—this we know. Yet from our vantage point today, we cannot discern precisely what this bold future looks like, or how we can prosper in it. How can we plan for events that are likely, yet vaguely defined? In “Field notes from the future”, our final chapter of Tech Trends 2022, we examine the trajectories of three technologies that will likely dominate the digital landscape a decade or more from now: quantum, exponential intelligence, and ambient experience. Though currently nascent, each of these technologies has captured the imagination of researchers and the investment dollars of venture capitalists, startups, and enterprises, who all agree: Something interesting will happen, and with diligence and groundwork planning, we can be ready to act when the future finally arrives.
IT, disrupt thyself: Automating at scale
Faced with creeping technological complexity and higher expectations of stability and availability, some CIOs are radically reengineering their IT organizations. How? By taking a page from the cloud provider’s playbook. They are identifying repetitive, manual processes and applying a combination of engineering, automation, and self-service. The net result is streamlined timelines, accelerated value delivery, and more effective and stable IT across the board. This kind of disruptive automation represents a vast yet underrealized opportunity. Previous technology trends such as NoOps, Zero trust, and DevSecOps, share a common theme—the importance of moving to code across the organization. Migrating away from manual administration to engineering and automation, organizations can manage complex systems more effectively and improve the customer experience through improved availability and resilience.