This Red Paper is the second part of our detailed study of technological advancements disrupting infrastructure sectors and follows Technology disruptions affecting infrastructure (Part 1) that addressed seven-sector specific themes.
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Four cross-cutting themes (Figure 1) are covered in this follow-on.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a technological leap by bringing digital connectivity to physical products and producing vast amount of data in the process. It interconnects all types of industrial devices through the internet to exchange data, optimise processes and monitor devices in order to generate benefits for users. For infrastructure operators, the IIoT promises to deliver a technological ecosystem centred on an information value loop. Data can be collected from disparate sources and discrete technologies, aggregated and analysed to provide insights (often in real-time) into physical operations that were just not previously measurable.
The introduction of the payment card network in the 1970s, building on the acceptance of cards with a magnetic strip and electronic terminals, was the big step forward towards a cashless payment system. The same technology has facilitated a change that moves not just away from cash, but from physical wallets in their entirety. In the process, it is contributing to the transformation of the mass transportation, banking and retail industries. We believe the combination of smartphone proliferation and increasing accessibility and reliability of high speed internet mean that mass adoption of mobile payments in the not too distant future is inevitable.
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as they’re properly known, have largely come to public notice because of their consumer and military use. Commercial UAVs already offer cost savings and reduce risks faced by people in dangerous work and improved performance over manned alternatives. The infrastructure sector is already benefitting with UAVs’ value lying in their ability to easily and cost-effectively access, survey and inspect assets and machinery, which otherwise would require many people or heavy machinery. UAVs fitted with an array of sensory equipment are currently being used to inspect geographically dispersed infrastructure such as electricity lines, gas pipelines, road and rail at a fraction of the cost and time of manned equivalents.
Cyber attacks are often treated as a problem of technology, but they originate with human actors who employ imagination and surprise to defeat the security in place. The corollary is that organisations need to be even more imaginative, systematic and determined to thwart cyber crime. Customarily, organisations have emphasised a defensive, protection-centred stance against cyber attacks. However, a more comprehensive approach that strives to make the whole organisation more resilient is likely to fare better. Under a resilience-driven approach, an organisation identifies its critical intellectual property and assets; develops and implements procedures to protect them; and puts in place technology, procedures and resources to detect cyber vulnerabilities.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a technological leap by bringing digital connectivity to physical products and producing vast amounts of data in the process. It interconnects all types of industrial devices through the internet to exchange data, optimise processes and monitor devices in order to generate benefits for users (Figure 2).
For infrastructure operators, the IIoT promises to deliver a technological ecosystem centered on an information value loop (Figure 3). Data can be collected from disparate sources and discrete technologies, aggregated and analysed to provide insights (often in real-time) into physical operations that were just not previously measurable.
Implications for infrastructure
Sensor driven decision analytics
One of the broad emerging applications of the IIoT to infrastructure is the use of sensor-driven decision analytics. Data collected by sensors can be analysed for trends and other factors, helping infrastructure operators improve management of their assets and better plan for future operations.
Examples include sensors and smart networks to help water and natural gas transport utilities manage pipeline pressure and reduce leakage, leading to service and transport costs being dramatically reduced.
In the water sector, one study concludes that a 5 per cent reduction in leakage could yield annual savings of US$4.6 billion by reducing the amount of money wasted on producing and/or purchasing water, consuming energy required to pump water, and treating water for distribution.
Significant capital investment savings can also be envisaged through dynamic asset management tools that could result in 15 per cent savings on water utility capital expenditures by strategically directing investments, saving up to US$5.2 billion annually.
From a transportation perspective, interconnected computerised signal systems can monitor variations in traffic flow and dynamically adjust signaling, helping to reduce congestion by optimising throughput capacity to match utilisation.
Sensing technologies are also being used to significantly enhance opex and capex budgeting and forecasting. For instance, transportation network operators are making budgets go further with LED smart street lighting that does not need regular maintenance, but can automatically report repair needs.
Sensor networks can also be used to monitor structural integrity of civil structures, for example bridges, by identifying localised damage. Industry experts estimate that between 30-40 per cent of bridges evaluated using advanced condition assessment technologies are in better or much better condition than presumed on visual inspection.
Changing role for utilities
The IIoT is also changing the role of utilities, especially in the renewable energy space. Currently, integration of day-ahead forecasts into the unit commitment process somewhat mitigates wind and solar generation uncertainty.
One study shows that more accurate wind forecasting could cut US energy costs by between US$1.6 billion and US$4.4 billion, depending on production levels. These savings come from reducing the need for back-up power, better integration of renewable energy within the grid and reducing the need to turn to expensive spot-markets.
Such technological advances combined with energy storage solutions and smart grids will change the landscape for energy optimisation and cement the role for renewables in the energy supply chain. A study forecasts that by 2024, more than 40 per cent of all IIoT cloud connections will belong to smart grid ecosystems.
Tripwires and challenges to overcome
The IIoT will bring unprecedented opportunities for infrastructure businesses who truly embrace data-driven decision making. However, a number of challenges need to be overcome before the IIoT’s full potential can be reached.
Technological progress must continue to be made by the industry in engineering reliable products to account for specific IIoT system requirements. This includes ensuring devices are self-sustaining with sufficient long life batteries. Software will also be required for integration with wireless systems in order to avoid “dead spots.”
Connectivity load will also be another critical concern, since a significant number of devices will need to be connected at the same time. Interoperability between IIoT systems is also critical. There is a risk that proliferation of vendor standards results in situations where data is not normalised and properly merged resulting in inconsistent data and private implementation architecture problems.
Telecommunication regulatory aspects will also have to be considered, since all IIoT devices will eventually connect to the Internet using telecom bandwidth and regulated airwaves. High on the agenda to be addressed will be regulations to balance privacy rights with data security requirements and questions over data ownership and access, especially in cross-border scenarios.
Data collected through the IIoT ecosystem will provide infrastructure operators with insights (often in real-time) into physical operations. Sensor driven analytics will make it possible to analyse trends, helping to improve asset management and better plan for future operations. Potentially large savings could be achieved by detecting minor problems, such as water leakages and the beginnings of structural stresses, for instance, before they escalate.
People struggling with wallets bursting from storing too many coins, notes, credit cards and other old economy paraphernalia must be especially looking forward to a truly cashless world.
The introduction of the payment card network in the 1970s, building on the acceptance of cards with a magnetic strip and electronic terminals, was the big step forward towards a cashless payment system. The same technology has facilitated a change that moves not just away from cash, but from physical wallets in their entirety. In the process, it is contributing to the transformation of the mass transportation, banking and retail industries.
Fast forward 40 years and it would seem that the payment industry is near another inflection point – the mass adoption of mobile payments.
While “mobile payment” is a catch-all term referring to a financial transaction initiated with a mobile device, a wide spectrum of technologies have developed under this banner over the last decade. They range from remittances sent to a person some distance away from the sender using only the services of the mobile network operator, to a “credit card” transaction made at a retail outlet utilising a contactless chip in a phone.
For more on current technologies abetting cashless transactions, see Mobile payment technology 101.
Smartphone penetration into everyday life has been the great lifestyle altering force that has made all this possible. Consumer behaviour has been manifestly changed with smartphones becoming an integral, inescapable part of even the most common activities – from accessing the web while mobile, getting directions and location information, finding entertainment to mobile commerce.
The global count of active credit and debit-card accounts is 1.3 billion, according to credit card processer First Data, compared with nearly 7.3 billion active mobile phone accounts, according to the International Telecommunications Union, of which some two billion are smartphones.
We believe the combination of smartphone proliferation, increasing accessibility and reliability of high speed internet mean that mass adoption of mobile payments in the not too distant future is inevitable.
The mobile payment phenomenon is especially pronounced in emerging markets (Figure 4), where adoption is not hampered by legacy technologies (for example, few people in Africa have landline phones and traditional bank accounts). Kenya, for instance, has the world's highest rate of P2P payments familiarity at 89 per cent and a reported usage level of 70 per cent while by contrast in the United States, 50 per cent of consumers with incomes above US$100k show a willingness to use mobile commerce.
Mobile payment technology 101
Mobile money systems in developing economies are predominantly used for funds transfer (via SMS/USSD interface), with over 80 per cent of the value of transactions processed in such systems related to person-to-person transactions. This underscores the growing role of mobile payments in facilitating domestic remittances (for instance, from urban to rural areas) and international remittances in a more accessible and affordable way than established bank branch networks.
In advanced economies where consumers and businesses typically already have access to established electronic payment systems, the focus has been on rolling out mobile internet and contactless transactions to provide incremental convenience to consumers.
The ability to take contactless transactions to the next level of “mobile wallets” is expected to be a game changer for the mobile payments industry. “Wallet” is a reference to the ability of the user to select between a number of payment options in a similar way that a person carrying a physical wallet might choose to pay with cash, debit card or credit card.
While mobile wallets can facilitate mobile internet transactions, a major focus is likely to be facilitating multiple types of payment transactions (ie. different schemes, issuers and systems) using the phone’s NFC chip. For these transactions, the cardholder’s credentials must be held securely in the phone itself, similar to a chip on a payment card.
Going forward (Figure 5), wallets are likely to be coupled with ways of managing loyalty programs, coupons, receipts, tickets for entertainment or transport.
Implications for infrastructure
The transport industry presents a prime example of a sector that has benefitted from the proliferation of smartphones. These devices are being used in the transit industry for payment of parking fees, purchase at retail outlets, providing real-time service information to customers, displaying interactive route maps and service schedules, reporting maintenance condition, sounding alarms in case of emergency, accessing Wi-Fi at stations and in trains, and on it goes.
Many transport providers across the world are providing free access to the internet to allow passengers to manage personal ticketing accounts, buy and reload tickets, view transaction history, and access real-time vehicle schedule information.
For public transport users, mobile payments represent a frictionless experience that overcomes the need for wallets, credits cards or cash. Additionally, the ability to access real-time scheduling and traffic information significantly streamlines the everyday commute.
For transit providers, mobile payments reduce the cost of upkeep on ticket vending machines and booths. Mobile payments offer the possibility of shrinking the number of machines needed and also decrease wait times associated with travel payments.
Consumers become more loyal customers when the payment system is elegant and, ideally, packaged with loyalty programs and incentives. Financial institutions and public transport authorities can also leverage the wealth of data that comes with the (now trackable) consumer behaviour.
In the utilities sector, there have been a plethora of innovations centred around mobile-to-mobile payments aimed at providing a seamless user experience. Innovations include the ability for users to control heating remotely via mobile devices, set water and energy consumption preferences through a mobile app, track analytics on consumption and payments to optimise demand patterns and mobile billing.
In short, increased customer engagement through mobile phone apps and smart appliances will enable better demand management of energy and water resulting in over-all cost savings.
As it is, telecoms operators are now already getting a percentage share of the fee as mobile payments gain traction. To make all this possible, there will be a need to build-out mobile phone charging infrastructure. This in turn will likely become a new revenue model for distributed mobile phone charging stations everywhere.
Most importantly, by providing access to individuals’ “mobile wallets”, mobile payments technology allows for the more efficient monetisation of common use infrastructure – for example local parks and facilities. By giving local authorities the capability to ‘tap into’ users individually, micropayments could allow for the creation of new classes of investable infrastructure not previously “commercialisable.”
Tripwires and challenges to overcome
While mobile payment technology has progressed greatly in recent years and the proliferation of smartphones continues at a remarkable rate, the industry remains fragmented and wide open. Success is particularly elusive in developed economies because mobile payments are elbowing their way into an established, complicated ecosystem.
Getting financial services players, card networks, merchants, smartphone manufacturers, and telecommunications providers to collaborate was never going to be easy.
Merchants and providers of infrastructure services are also hesitant to invest. New payment solutions may require costly new point-of-sale devices and software implementations. If payment transactions are handled by another party in the process, merchants also fear losing insight into customers’ buying choices and patterns. See Improving the merchant and consumer experience for more on this.
At the same time, consumers are reluctant to switch to a payment system that has not been proven to be more convenient or more secure than what they already use. Indeed, lacking additional incentives, consumers have little reason to switch to something that requires downloading a new app and shifting ingrained habits from a card swipe to a relatively more complicated smartphone. The question of how best to avoid fraud risks is also critical.
Any successful mobile payment solution must start with a strong foundation of merchant and service provider support, and it must address their concerns about potential fraud risks.
Success will largely depend on consumers, merchants and service providers, whose adoption of mobile payments will hinge on whether the system is widely accepted, makes transactions easier, has robust consumer protections and security, can target and drive sales, and has low costs for merchants.
Mobile payments have gained especially great traction in emerging economies where adoption is not hampered by legacy technologies. Going forward, digital wallets are likely to be coupled with the management of loyalty programs, receipts, tickets for transport or entertainment.
The intersection of mobile payments, financial institutions and communications infrastructure will be one to keep an eye on. The role of telecommunications operators will become increasingly blurred with that of financial institutions paving the way for a possible merging of both models, down the track.
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as they are properly known, have largely come to public notice because of their consumer application for hobbyists and military application for reconnaissance and combat. Within the commercial space, they have broad applications and the infrastructure sector is already benefitting.
A UAV is essentially an aircraft, with no on-board pilot. They can be controlled remotely or fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight plans or more complex dynamic automation systems.
There are different types of UAVs. Complex systems that connect to satellites are usually designed for military use and government agencies. Smaller, mass-produced drones can be controlled through mobile devices and are also becoming popular for recreational use. In between the complex and mass produced systems are drones designed for specific commercial applications (Figure 6).
Their value to the infrastructure sector lays in their ability to venture where people and heavy machinery cannot owing to their hardiness, size, mobility and agility with minimal payload.
Implications for infrastructure
UAV usage is expected to exhibit strong growth as a safe, low-cost way to inspect and monitor infrastructure spanning significant distances, such as roads and energy transmission and distribution assets.
Drones can, for instance, be used to detect and locate methane around unconventional gas and oil field production sites. Current methods for surveying, detecting and locating leaks, are inefficient and costly to conduct. Likewise, condition inspections for assets located over hard to reach terrain (for example transmission-lines, wind turbines, solar panels and pipelines reservoirs) can all be handled by drones, saving time and lowering costs.
They could be equally effective in a similar sense for transportation infrastructure, where aerial inspection of road networks bridges and railways can be cost effective and less time consuming. UAVs could also undertake surface condition monitoring for damages in extreme weather and thus reduce safety risks or deployment of expensive equipment.
As a practical example; engineers at the Denver Department of Public Works use DJI Phantom 2 drones to inspect dams including their inlet and outlet structures and spillways. Reports indicate that full inspections have been reduced from 90 minutes to 15-20 minutes and enable rich photo and video media collection for analysis.
Finland provides another example where SharperShape has formed a partnership with the local civil aviation authority, TARFI, to develop a fully automatic asset inspection solution utilising UAVs. Combined with highly accurate monitoring and data collection equipment, SharperShape have been able to construct a three dimensional computer model of the infrastructure to optimise asset maintenance and improve financial returns.
Beyond inspection and monitoring functions, drones could be used for information tracking whereby commuters and transport system operators would benefit from real-time data availability for traffic, car accidents and road work.
Furthermore, drones could also significantly impact existing communication system infrastructure. As an example of their application, they could supplant conventional assets by providing internet access to remote areas. Wireless internet delivery through drones would then overcome (or displace) the need for installing and maintaining fibre or conventional communications network infrastructure across remote parts of the country where marginal capital expenditure is significant.
Tripwires and challenges to overcome
The biggest stumbling block for widespread commercial use of drone aircraft is regulation and deciding who gets to use the airspace. An adequate regulatory framework on a global level does not exist.
The United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) issued guidelines for small UAVs in 2015. Rules governing commercial drone operations are expected to be in place by June 2016. Meanwhile, Australia (which was actually the first country in the world to regulate ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft’), is also currently modernising its Civil Aviation Safety Regulations to accommodate the rapid development of drone technology, with the release of the new regulations scheduled for September 2016.
Relaxation of regulatory constraints will be required for the full benefits of UAVs to be realised. Restraints on altitude and range, and restrictions on how close to people UAVs can operate are especially inhibiting, at this time. As restraints get loosened, pre-programmed UAV flights will be able to efficiently survey longer distances and cover larger areas of infrastructure and agricultural land.
Drone usage across the infrastructure sector currently faces technological challenges too. Monitoring and surveying infrastructure assets demands longer flight times and longer life batteries.
Currently, flight times are restricted by short battery lives ranging from 20 minutes to an hour for quadcopter UAVs.
Fixed wing alternatives offer greater range and endurance than rotary-wing counterparts, however they often require greater user training. Similar to military use, fixed wing UAVs are designed for beyond line of sight operations and can be designed to fly autonomously along a predetermined flight path.
Drones are a fairly new, unproven technology in many applications and environmental conditions. While they hold great promise, a significant skill gap exists when it comes to the on-ground operators of drones. Accordingly, drone software solutions are still needed in order to provide a simple enough interface for practical usage.
Notwithstanding these challenges, it is expected that ongoing improvement in drone technology will continue to increase their relevance and use across the infrastructure sector.
Sensor equipped drones offer a safe, low-cost way to inspect and monitor assets which span over large distances including roads, railways, energy transmission and distribution assets. They could also be used for information tracking whereby commuters and transport system operators would benefit from real-time data availability for traffic, car accidents and road work. Finally, drones could significantly impact existing communication system infrastructure by, for example, supplanting conventional assets for providing internet access to remote areas.
It’s an unfortunate comment on human nature that downsides seem to accompany technological advancements. Think nuclear medicine and nuclear weapons as the most dramatic case in point.
The pattern carries into the cyber sphere where technological innovations capable of creating new industries and products that make businesses more efficient and consumers more powerful also open the door to more sinister activities – cyber crime.
Cyberspace has been woven into the fabric of modern society, making it an essential public utility. Consequently cyber security – the technologies and policies used to protect data from unauthorised or unintended access, deletion, alteration or destruction – needs the highest attention.
Cyber attacks are often treated as a problem of technology, but they originate with human actors who employ imagination and surprise to defeat the security in place. The corollary is that organisations need to be even more imaginative, systematic and determined to thwart cyber crime.
A key challenge in ensuring cyber security is that technology solutions and new applications evolve faster than the development of preventative measures that organisations need to take. As it is, trend lines are disconcerting (Figure 7) with the number of cyber-related incidents detected in 2014 up 48 per cent from 2013. More worrying is that around 71 per cent of incidents go undetected.
Quantifying the cyber threat
The cost of cybercrime in Australia during the period from October 2012-October 2013 has been estimated to be A$1 billion and the actual costs of cybercrime at the systemic level include financial losses from fraud, system remediation costs and the costs of immediate responses.
The economic damage to the world economy from a cyber attack on the US power grid would total between US$243 billion to more than US$1 trillion, depending on the nature and severity of the attack. According to the Atlantic Council, in the worst possible scenario, rampant cyber crime could cost the world nearly US$90 trillion of potential annual net economic benefit by 2030.
Beyond the estimates are actual attacks that have inflicted varying levels of disruption and cost with both public and private sector organisations reporting increasing cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.
In 2013 The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that drug traffickers hacked into the Port of Antwerp terminal system to modify information on selected containers that were used to ship drugs.
Although the target was undisclosed, the cyber attack on a steel mill reported by the German Government in December 2014 is an example of an attack causing physical damage to industrial control systems.
The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (detailed earlier in this Red Paper), which brings together private and public networks and integrates open technologies, is introducing unprecedented security challenges to infrastructure operators who face an increasingly complex technology landscape.
Implications for infrastructure
A system malfunction due to a security issue in an industrial internet application could lead to threatening event for the infrastructure asset or business involved.
Attacks on infrastructure have the potential to disrupt operations and impact the service and reputation of the owners, as well as potentially damaging public confidence across an industry. The effects of cyber-attacks are wide ranging and can ultimately disrupt trade networks across the globe.
Hosting one of the most integrated and complex information and communications technology (ICT) systems that is increasingly inter-connected, the aviation industry faces cyber threats on multiple fronts.
Infrastructure in modern airports relies heavily on information and communications technology for passenger check-in, baggage check, and border control inside the terminal, as well as for the complex operations involved in handling aircraft.
Increasing interconnectedness of electronic components and the digitalisation of services used, for example to communicate between airlines and air traffic controllers, means increased risk of cyber attack. A recent report by the Center for Internet Security (CIS) revealed that 75 US airports were targeted in cyber attacks in 2015.
How to become cyber resilient
Over the years, numerous organisations have developed models to help guide investment by organisations in cyber security, however, there is still no generally accepted model.
Customarily, organisations have focused on protection against cyber attacks. However, a resilience-based approach is vital for organisations to better adapt to change, reduce exposure to risk and learn from incidents (Figure 8).
The four key foundations of this approach require:
Emphasising the importance of the issue, governance is required to bring the core functions together across the entire organisation – from board level to operational level.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) “Cyber Resilience: Health Check” which draws from the US National Institute for Standards and Technology Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cyber security is a useful guide for all industries.
Sustaining watchfulness and the ability to deal with low-probability, high-impact events is the single most difficult policy issue facing critical infrastructure providers and national security agencies today.
Legislatures are acting. In Europe, the EU Network and Information Security Directive applies not only to critical infrastructure sectors (energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, and the health sector) but also to market operators such as social networks.
In the US, financial disclosure laws for cyber security incidents (eg. US Securities and Exchange Commission), and criminal laws deal with data security and disposal standards.
Most of the recent cyber security trends point to a darker future, with every year worse than last: more disclosures of critical vulnerabilities, and more nations building and employing offensive capabilities.
This being the case, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which governments are unable to regulate and dominate the new technological space. Under this scenario, Internet, communications and technology (ICT) companies would invent new defences, but without effective policing and control, criminal groups continue to thrive.
But that grim scenario need not be the future. It’s also possible that despite the relentless efforts of criminals, well-resourced organisations, especially in the finance sectors and governments will so harden their defences that they will build secure minimum essential information infrastructure which is as difficult to enter as a high-value government building.
Cyberspace has been woven into the fabric of modern society, making it an essential public utility. Against this backdrop, the rising trend lines of cyber attacks are disconcerting. Rather than taking a defensive, protection-centred stance against cyber attacks, organisations should adopt a resilience-driven approach. This should focus on the identification of critical intellectual property and assets; the development and implementation of procedures to protect them; and putting in place technology, procedures and resources to detect cyber vulnerabilities.
The four-cross cutting themes are of such a magnitude that they permeate the infrastructure realm as a whole with potentially massive disruptive potential.
A key takeaway from our work is that in isolation these themes, like the seven addressed in Part 1 of our study, may not worry investors or operators. However, their combined and compounded effects make them worthy of assessment.
Given the duration and lifecycles embedded in infrastructure assets, infrastructure investors and operators ignore them at their peril. Those who survey the horizon and recognise trends early-on and are quick and flexible to adapt their business models to new circumstances can gain significant first mover advantages.
By contrast, those who miss the great turning points stand the risk of having assets stranded and ultimately being obsolete. In either event, the pace and breadth of technology disruption is accelerating driven by digitalisation and big data analytics.
This is reinforcing the case for active management in infrastructure assets to defend their attractive high barriers to entry, to manage lifecycle risk given their durations and to offensively leverage their incumbent positions in sector value chains.
This Red Paper results from collaboration across QIC Global Infrastructure including but not limited to: Ross Israel, Albert Daniels, Kirsten Whitehead and Matthew Zwi.
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 Brown, Justine. Sensors, Wireless Tech Help States …Emergency Management (2014).
 Marquis et al. Forecasting the Wind to Reach…Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (2011)
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 Various, Mobile Payments Readiness Index Master Card World Wide (2015).
 Trends in Mobile Payments in Developing and Advanced Economies, Darren Flood, Tim West and Daniel Wheadon, http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2013/mar/pdf/bu-0313-8.pdf
 Dialing up a Storm: How Mobile Payments Will Create the Most Significant Revenue Opportunities of the Decade for Financial Institutions. PWC.
 Various. Australian Cyber Security Threat Report. The Australian Government – Australian Cyber security.
 Various, Business Blackout, Lloyd’s of London and University of Cambridge Center for Risk Studies. Page 4 May 2015
 Various, Risk Nexus: Overcome by cyber risks? Economic benefits and costs of alternate cyber futures. The Atlantic Council and Zurich Insurance. Page 4
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