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Can cloud tech break into factory security?

Can cloud tech break into factory security?
Factory security is gaining a renewed interest in many parts of the world, thanks to a realization that no country can depend entirely on another for production.
Factory security is gaining a renewed interest in many parts of the world, thanks to a realization that no country can depend entirely on another for production. Although the conditions in different regions vary, Deloitte suggests US manufacturing demonstrated continued strength in 2022, building on the momentum it gained emerging from the pandemic and surpassing expectations from the prior two years.
Policy initiatives such as the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America Act (CHIPS Act) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have the potential to help sustain recovery in the manufacturing industry. Looking ahead to 2023, Deloitte projections based on Oxford Economics’ Global Economic Model anticipate a 2.5 percent growth in GDP in manufacturing.
For security systems integrators, this focus on manufacturing could mean more projects in this vertical. But does it also mean that new technologies like the cloud can make inroads? This article explores views from industry experts.

Dealing with the cost factor

Jamie Barnfield, Senior Sales Director at IDIS Europe, feels that the use of the cloud in factories depends on the application. Cloud-based solutions are still costly, and many involve perpetual license fees with additional costs for each analytic tool used. Or they are bundled rather than modular, making them harder to break down and understand.

“The result is that organizations can often wind up paying for analytics functions they don’t need,” Barnfield said. “In addition, the cost of storing video and event/metadata in the cloud can quickly mount up, depending on retention periods. Technical problems can also occur, such as reboots and network outages, which can lead to costly downtime.”

Roy Stephenson, Director of Business Development at Utah Yamas Controls, pointed out that the average size of factories makes it difficult for them to adopt cloud solutions.

“This is dependent upon the customer, but in my experience, most production facilities will require larger systems with many cameras that record 24/7 based on usage and occupancy,” Stephenson said. “This typically precludes the use of cloud-based solutions due to bandwidth and storage requirements.”

Data safety concerns

For sensitive sites or those with patents or proprietary manufacturing processes to protect, misconfiguration is a serious risk that can lead to breaches, unauthorized access, hijacking of accounts, and a raft of cyber threats.

“Very often cloud vendors own and manage the cloud video infrastructure, giving the minimal user control and limiting user ability to access key administrative tasks, such as updating and managing firmware,” Barnfield added.

Richard Gibbs, Senior Applications Engineer at Honeywell, said that as with all network-attached devices, harmful code in chipsets or firmware could leave vulnerabilities that can be exploited by bad actors who attempt to bring down critical infrastructure.

“These issues can be overcome through education on proper security practices and making sure security is kept of the highest priorities and requirements for all systems,” Gibbs said.

While any IP-based system poses a cybersecurity risk, this can be greatly reduced with adequate security protocols in place, according to Stephenson.

“Many large production facilities will opt for a network video system (NVR) that is installed on a separate network from the building IT infrastructure,” Stephenson said. “This can reduce network vulnerability by limiting the system's exposure to intrusion from an outside source.”

Open to hybrid

Adding to all this is the difficult business climate that the world is bracing against. Barnfield pointed out that many customers are now facing tough economic times with high energy bills, and that makes cloud solutions less attractive than on-prem or hybrid solutions.

Gibbs also suggested that while the adoption and use of cloud-based solutions have been a challenge in terms of the overall volume of input, there is an interest in a hybrid system.
“This is in part due to the notion that the hybrid cloud approach in these environments allows onsite integration with building controls and other localized systems while still satisfying the cybersecurity requirements to protect their critical systems from outside interaction,” Gibbs said.


There are several advantages that cloud-based solutions offer. Along with AI-enabled video analytics, the cloud is one of the key factors bringing innovation to the physical security industry. However, its adoption is probably not going to be equal across verticals. For instance, some verticals like residential, small retail stores, and offices may benefit from pure cloud more than sectors like manufacturing.
Having said that, hybrid systems appear an attractive proposition to many, offering the best of both worlds. How the combination of cloud and on-premise storage works out may depend on several factors, including the location and size of the site. Finally, as the cloud becomes an inevitable option for many sectors, cybersecurity would also throw up several concerns, necessitating a rethink of traditional surveillance solutions.
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