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Industry 4.0: Cybersecurity, other hurdles yet to be overcome

Industry 4.0: Cybersecurity, other hurdles yet to be overcome
Industry 4.0 is all about industrial automation enabled by sensors and connected devices. While this Industrial Internet of Things is having a transformational effect on the manufacturing sector, quite a few manufacturers are still hesitant to adopt it, due to many ongoing issues. One of them is cybersecurity.
Right now, IIoT is mostly deployed in large-scale, advanced factories owned by companies with the resources and means to do so. Other manufacturers, meanwhile, are still taking a wait-and-see attitude. A lack of interoperability between different systems and a potential shift in culture within the company itself have all been cited as reasons for this hesitancy.
“A large risk from my perspective is that suppliers of equipment and tools to manufacturers don’t always make it easy to reliably extract data from their hardware. In some cases, these suppliers are keen to promote their own software and tools using proprietary and incompatible data formats. This can make IIoT projects difficult and expensive for manufacturers and potentially reduce the effectiveness of machine-learning and data analysis,” said Alex Sparrow, CTO of Quartic Technologies. “Hopefully over time market forces will help to standardize and consolidate data formats and protocols to reduce this friction.”
“Operations technology (OT) and IT are becoming more integrated as a result of IIoT. This convergence means project management initiatives will become more critical as these teams work together on IIoT implementations. Lack of clarity between these groups on roles and responsibilities can slow deployment progress or success,” said Eric Ehlers, Marketing Manager for Manufacturing and Energy at Cisco.
Cybersecurity, meanwhile, has also become a main concern, considering the spate of recent events dealing with networked devices being hacked or used to launch further attacks. “Absolutely this is a problem,” said Ehlers. “Vendors have increasingly been working on improving their technology, but there is no guarantee and overall standard across all these devices. Also, early adopters increasingly have to recognize the supply chain inputs to devices, as multiple vendors are working together towards a finished product. The result is there are many potential vulnerabilities, and patching of a factory floor is not always an option as uptime is paramount.”
“Manufacturers are rightly concerned about the security of their data. That said, I think that moving to modern, cloud-hosted environments is actually likely to increase security in most cases. Public and private cloud provider are highly incentivized to take security very seriously – more so than an average corporate IT department. When used correctly, there is no reason why these environments should be any less secure,” said Sparrow.
In spite of the current challenges, most experts point out that the benefits of investing in IIoT will ultimately outweigh the potential downsides, as long as manufacturers are able to property gather, handle and protect data. “I think, and hope, that we are likely to see some level of consolidation and standardization in terms of protocols and data formats. As other industries have already discovered, data integration and cleaning is absolutely key to enabling innovation,” Sparrow said.
“This tidal wave of manufacturing data will need to be extracted from various sources, compute power applied, and data moved to the right applications at the right time to drive desired business outcomes. This will require new ways of orchestrating data flows, and significant enhancements of compute/storage power on the enterprise side to deal with this valuable data,” Ehlers said. “Edge networking combined with analytics will redefine how infrastructure is deployed and will be critical for time-sensitive IOT applications, management of data, and security. Analytics will drive more monetization of the data which will be critical in identifying new business models and new opportunity for revenue generation.”
“We’ve spoken with a lot of manufacturer clients, and there is this sense of uncertainty. For them, they often ask ‘if I make this investment, how much return will it generate and how long will it take,’” said Eric Leung, Senior Manager of Infrastructure Solutions at Dell Taiwan. “While a return in the short-term may not be so clear, the long-term benefits will be obvious. When you make a one-time investment in IIoT, all you need to acquire later on are the sensors. And, with time and as your scope gets bigger, this will reduce cost, and yes, generate a return.”

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