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Job One: Securing IoT

Recently, I participated in the panel on Internet of Things (IoT) security as part of the Automation Perspectives media event hosted by Rockwell Automation, just prior to Automation Fair 2015 in Chicago. It is clear that the ability to deal effectively with security threats is the No. 1 make-or-break factor for IoT adoption. With this reluctance to implement IoT, companies will not benefit from the growing number of powerful IoT use cases that are emerging across all industries, which includes the digital revolution in manufacturing, where there is an identified 12.8 percent profit upside over three years for manufacturers that digitize.

IoT is now part of the very fabric of industry and the public infrastructure, including such essential services as transportation, the power grid, the water supply, and public safety. When these systems are compromised, the damage can go far beyond financial loss. Some examples in years following the Great Recession:

  • 2008 – A 14-year-old Polish boy hacked a local tram system, disrupting traffic, derailing trams, and injuring 12 passengers
  • 2009 – Due to a failure in the automated control system, a Washington D.C. Metrorail train struck the rear of a stopped train, resulting in death and injury
  • 2014 – An overflow of wastewater at a water treatment plant was due to suspected unauthorized employ access

In recent years, there have also been hacks on nuclear power plants, transportation systems, and connected cars. No one wants their company to show up on the front page of the paper as a cyberattack victim. In addition to the physical impacts, attack vectors on IoT security can cause losses that are less immediately perceptible—but very real and lasting—including downtime, brand damage, breach of trust, and theft of intellectual property.

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IoT Meets Standards, Driving Interoperability and Adoption

For years, industrial control systems have been characterized by proprietary devices, protocols, communications, and applications. However, at the Hannover Fair last spring, virtually every exhibitor showed products that support IP, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi interfaces—something that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is driving this change, with an exponentially growing number of connections among people, process, data, and things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key enabler of this evolution. By 2020, according to Cisco’s analysis, there will be 50 billion connected devices—all needing a common way to work together.

As I discussed in my last blog, the worlds of Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are converging—and they are converging around standards. The good news is that the industry is recognizing that a fragmented, proprietary model does not scale, and inhibits the value of IoT deployments. The IoT standardization efforts are focused on four different areas: Read More »

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IT Is from Venus, OT Is from Mars

Bringing Alien Worlds Together in the Internet of Things

In the 1990s, I, like millions of others, read the book Women Are from Venus, Men Are from Mars. This best-seller suggested that the frequent misunderstandings between genders make it seem as though men and women are from different, alien worlds. But it’s not just men and women who appear to be from different planets. Today, every organization that has begun an Internet of Things (IoT) deployment is bumping up against a fundamental disconnect between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). In many cases, these two groups are alien to one another—with separate technology stacks, network architectures, protocols, standards, governance models, and organizations.

In the first wave of the Internet, data and technology systems fell solidly in the realm of IT. IT systems focused on the flow of data across an organization, and with a few exceptions, did not get involved in production and logistics environments.

However, in many companies, a parallel organization—commonly called operational technology —has grown up to monitor and control devices and processes that act in real time on physical operational systems, such as assembly lines, electricity distribution networks, oil production facilities, and a host of others. Read More »

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Event Recap: Cisco at the EEI Annual Convention

I had a great time recently at the EEI Annual Convention on June 7-10 in New Orleans, LA. EEI is the Edison Electric Institute, the industry association of the Investor Owned Utilities in the U.S. with international utility membership from all over the world. The Annual meeting is a unique event that includes the attendance and presentations by the CEOs of member utilities. The theme of this year’s conference was “Electricity Matters”, exploring the exciting changes happening all across the electric power industry.

The first day was full of excitement, with presentations from Ted Craver and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz shared his thoughts about the dramatically changing U.S. energy landscape, outlining the recommendations defined in the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), particularly relating to grid modernization, resiliency, and infrastructure investment.

EEI Chairman Ted Craver led a thought-provoking discussion with Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, who was joined by Tesla Motors Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder JB Straubel. The three leaders discussed electric transportation, energy storage, and the role of technology and innovation for utilities and their customers. Other sessions on the first day included:

  • Approaches to Grid Security and Resiliency – panel moderated by PPL Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Bill Spence, discussing specific actions and approaches the electric sector is taking to improve grid security and resiliency.
  • The Role of the Utility in the Evolving Distribution Grid – Company leaders, regulators, and consumer advocates highlighted the role of the utility in four areas: planning, design and operation, infrastructure enhancement and customer education and protection.
  • Complying With the EPA Clean Power Plan – moderated by Gerry Anderson, Chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, the conversation centered on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and highlighted how new and innovative technologies can quickly change a state’s strategy for complying with the new rules.

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Digital Transformation in the Oil & Gas Industry: “Drill, Data, Drill!”

“Drill, baby, drill” makes for an easy mantra when it comes to energy exploration, but the oil and gas (O&G) industry moved past simply drilling long ago with the introduction of digital information processing. For example, integrated production modeling was introduced in the 1970s. With the recent turmoil in the energy industry, the stakes are even higher for O&G companies to work smarter and more efficiently. Forward-looking businesses are making the transition to true digital transformation, which requires the adoption of the Internet of Everything (IoE)—the networked connection of people, process, data, and things—throughout the entire O&G value chain. According to a recent Cisco study, of these four IoE elements, essential “data” is the component most in demand—and the element that needs the most improvement.

Survey respondents identified “data” as the area of IoE they need to improve most to drive insight and value.

Survey respondents identified “data” as the area of IoE they need to improve most to drive insight and value.

However, in many cases it’s not data that’s lacking; O&G firms are awash in data generated by sensors and machines spread throughout their far-flung operations. The struggle comes in capturing real-time operating data closest to the point it’s created, analyzing it in real-time and applying the results to improve functional and business capabilities. To capitalize on the wide range of data IoE generates, O&G firms must overcome three key challenges:

  • Automating the collection of data
  • Integrating data from multiple—and often far-flung—sources
  • Analyzing data to effectively identify actionable insights

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