What can business learn from recent tech blunders?

The adoption of new technologies has continued to surge at an unprecedented rate. Though recent blunders - Huawei espionage accusations, drone disruption and Google’s £44m GDPR fine - show the fragility and misuse of today’s tech.

With mass digitalisation comes certain responsibilities for businesses of all sizes and even users.

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The WEF lists cybersecurity as a top business concern this year.

Recently we’ve seen; several countries security concerns over Chinese tech firm Huawei rise; drone chaos at two airports in the UK causing thousands of flight cancellations, and Google fined £44m over breaches to GDPR.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) also lists cybersecurity as a top concern for businesses across the globe in the year ahead.

It seems firms should tighten up regulations and if using advanced technologies, like big data, the cloud and 4IR tech – update their understanding, implementation and ethics concerning them.

It is hard especially for smaller firms to keep up with rapid digital transformation. Though that is no excuse for ignorance. As individuals we also need to understand the power of technology, and also the implications our own misuse and firms’ can generate.

What went wrong?

Drones caused chaos at Gatwick airport in December and then further disruption at Heathrow earlier this month.

Airline Easyjet has reported that the Gatwick drones cost it £15m in passenger compensation and lost revenues, and hit 82,000 customers.

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that are often small, remote-controlled and can cost from under £40 to several thousands of pounds. The tech is becoming increasingly sophisticated and popular across industries.

Drone - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Drones can offer manufacturing businesses the ability to scan areas of land quickly and accurately, and be used in large warehouses to measure quality control and inventory.

They could enable companies to manoeuvre small spaces and reach more difficult locations in order to repair equipment, detect failures on the production line and transport heavy components.

However, the tech needs to be more tightly regulated and used responsibly. Disruption to any sector on the scale of the airport chaos cannot happen, as the potential consequences could be even more problematic then what we have already seen.


An employee of the telecommunications giant Huawei was arrested in Poland and accused of espionage this month. This came after Canadian authorities arrested the CFO of the Chinese tech firm at the end of last year.

5G and faster telecommunications is to become industry standard - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
5G and faster telecommunications is to become industry standard – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Concerns about the security of its technology has been growing, particularly in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany. With countries reportedly discussing blocking the firm from its next generation network upgrade, 5G.

Currently, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor is banned from bidding for government contracts in the US, where intelligence services have raised questions about the company’s connections to the Chinese government.

5G and faster telecommunications is to become industry standard, it could offer connectivity at yet unseen speeds to factories, autonomous cars and vehicles, smart towns, houses and even cities.

The UK will rollout 5G at the latter end of 2019, according to the government’s 5G strategy, with testbeds currently being trialled across the country.


GDPR replaced the Data Protection Act in the UK and was introduced on 25 May last year. The original Act (1998) was designed for a world without social media and cloud computing – an update to data protection law was inevitable.

The principles of the GDPR, identifying how personal data should be handled and used, are largely based on the existing law, for example personal data should only be used fairly and lawfully.

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GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a new EU-wide set of rules on data.

Any business or organisation that stores data on their customers, employees or other stakeholders are subject to the legislation.

Earlier this week though, Google was fined £44m by the French data regulator CNIL, for a breach of the EU-wide data rules.

CNIL said it had fined the company for “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding ads personalisation.”

Breaches of personal data are regularly reported in the mass media. Tech giants like Google, should not be able to misuse their data, it is not ethical. Data may be described as the ‘new oil’ but it doesn’t mean it should be exploited in the same way.


What can manufacturing learn from these tech blips?

From these blunders businesses and manufacturers should realise the opportunities technology and a full digital adoption presents them. Enhanced connectivity, advanced data analytics and what Fourth Industrial Revolution tech like drones and the cloud can offer.

The benefits technology provides manufacturing outweighs the negatives by far. Though they should adopt these with caution, as cybersecurity is pipped to become a chief concern of 2019, they should also know the full capabilities of the technologies they are introducing.

Advanced tech is improving the world we live in, though from these examples, it needs understanding, expertise and responsibility.

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