How can smart data be used otherwise?
With the help of data, not only is it possible to simplify products, but also to automate processes, optimise networks, create new added-value services, as well as to enhance quality and efficiency. Swisscom uses AI for example in the evaluation of customer feedback after the launch of new products. Or we draw on smart data in our efforts to develop traffic light control systems that adapt their red and green phases to the realtime flow of traffic.
Many companies have been victims of cyber attacks in recent months. Has the Net become unsafe?
Cyber risks in general are increasing markedly. The positive takeaway from the latest attacks is that companies have become sensitised to the risks that pervade the Net as well as the necessary preventative measures. At Swisscom, a specialised team has an eye out 24/7 for these problems. Already before an attack is even attempted, the order of the day is to find out whether one is imminent and who the hacker could be. To that purpose, early warning indicators and anomalies in Internet data movements are analysed. Here, too, artificial intelligence is a help.
“Tasks that require intuition, creativity and empathy cannot be handled by machines. Here the human being has a clear USP.”
And which protective measures are necessary?
It takes defence systems. Data encryption is just one of many possible measures. Cyber security in the meantime has become a global business and requires constant rearmament. The attackers are getting smarter all the time, and their invasion tactics are more intricate. In the past, hackers were lone wolves; but nowadays, highly professional organisations are behind the attacks. Moreover, in an increasingly networked world, the vulnerability points are multiplying. Until recently, only PCs and mobile phones were connected to the Internet. As the Internet of Things grows, so too does the number of devices. However, this should not prevent us from forging ahead with these new technologies.
Human behaviour and attitudes change much more slowly than technological advances. What’s up with this divergence?
People tend to overestimate the possibilities of innovative technologies at the beginning and underestimate them later on. As a rule, new technologies bring about little change at first. However, if they catch on, the trend usually evolves faster than expected. One of the many examples of this is digital photography.
What does it take for a realistic assessment of this syndrome?
We should foster a culture in which we are more focused on experimenting in the sense of “try fast, fail fast, learn fast”. We must therefore also allow mistakes to be made – something that unfortunately runs counter to our Swiss perfectionism. But above all, we need more pioneering spirit, curiosity and openness, instead of fear of change and fear of loss. If Switzerland wants to remain at the top of its game and maintain its prosperity, it may in no case fall into lethargy and adopt a defensive stance.
All the same, the public debate on digitisation seems to be driven by fear.
That fear is unfounded. History shows that after every technological revolution there were more jobs and prosperity than before. The invention of steam engines and electricity substantially changed job profiles at the time. This is not to say, though, that only highly trained people are needed. I’m even convinced that we’ll see a resurgence of skilled-trade professions – after all, automation is only possible for very repetitive, simple tasks. Tasks that require intuition, creativity and empathy cannot be handled by machines. Here the human being has a clear USP.
So what you’re saying is that there will never come a day when a robot takes your place as head of the company?
I don’t think so [chuckles]. But I actually can imagine that one of them could assist me in certain jobs, like perusing hundreds of pages of complicated reports and coming up with the salient points for me. That way, a future robot could provide me in short order with a better sense of the big picture. But in negotiations, conducting an employee review or moderating a project meeting with a customer, that little mechanical man won’t be able to replace me. At the end of the day, a robot is only as good as the way a human has programmed it.
Short questions – short answers
Which app is your favourite?
None in particular. My favourite “app” is essentially my smartphone, where I’ve set up a digital world for myself and reach out to it according to the given situation – be it the navigation app, Swisscom TV, my mail account or a mobile payment system.
Can you remember the first mobile phone you ever had?
It was a Natel C from Ericsson with a fold-down antenna. After about a half hour of telephoning, the battery was already dead. And each minute cost a franc. Then came the GSM cell phones, which were much smaller and less expensive – and that triggered the breakthrough in mobile telephony.
What kind of wallpaper do you have on your mobile phone?
I change it occasionally. Currently, it’s a photo I call “Snow Ghost Trees”. I captured the powder-laden pines against a steel-blue sky during a trip to Canada.