The Internet of Things (IoT) has become normalised within our vocabulary. From the smart home to the connected office, the IoT is quickly becoming ubiquitous for both work and play. But the march of the IoT doesn’t stop there. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a force to be reckoned with and according to General Electric will be worth around $60 trillion over the next 15 years.
The reason for industry embracing the IIoT is simple. The Industrial version of the IoT improves the way that manufacturing and related industries work. By utilizing the data generated by IoT sensors, and using technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to make our industrial machines, ‘smarter’, industrial processes can be improved upon.
The result of using hyper-connectivity with communications and smart machines is to open up multiple industrial use cases. Industrial processes as diverse as fleet tracking across the supply chain, farm productivity improvements, and land surveys carried out by drones, are being enhanced using IIoT devices and sensors to improve operations.
The result is a revolution across industry that is moving ahead at full speed.
Security and the Industrial IoT: Challenges But Not Hurdles
Securing the IIoT is a challenge but not a hurdle. Incorporating the Internet of Things devices into an overall security strategy is a fundamental first step. And, like any other connected computer or Cloud based application, certain security precautions need to be in place. The IIoT needs to be handled like any other IT resource, that is, use of industry standards that cover authentication, encryption for data at rest, in transit and in use, and asset management.
Other issues, which lie at the door of the device manufacturer, such as operating system level security are being guided by a number of industry bodies. Organisations like the Industrial Internet Consortium work across multiple industrial sectors to develop frameworks and advisories on best practice security for IIoT device manufacturer as well as IIoT implementation.
Investing in the Industrial Internet of Things is like bringing any other IT resource or platform into the fold of the organisation. It requires an execution plan that includes understanding the security nuances of the devices, as part of your overall security strategy. Implementation of an Industrial-based IoT within your company has many benefits, especially in terms of the big data it can generate and the efficiency and productivity improvements analysis of these data can offer. Just as an example, some of the benefits afforded by executing an IIoT strategy were outlined in an earlier blog post we published. In this post, we looked at the advantages that the use of smart meters gave to the energy sector.
The advantages of using the IIoT far outweigh any security issues that may be afforded, especially when taking a pragmatic and inclusive view of the challenges.
A Security-First Approach to the Industrial IoT
Good security makes for better customer engagement and trust. Following some fundamental best practices will give you the massive benefit offered by using the Industrial IoT, whilst mitigating risks associated with hyper-connectivity and big data generation. Having a security-first approach to the IIoT includes:
- Being IIoT security aware. Keep on top of trends and changes in the security landscape making use of the unique character of the IIoT.
- Keep a track of your IIoT assets. This includes keeping on top of IIoT asset management and maintenance. Keeping any device patched and optimised is essential, this is just as important with an IIoT device.
- Manage the risk, by understanding that risk. As your IIoT infrastructure grows and moves across jurisdictions, ensure you understand how this impacts your risk. The supply chain may become fuzzy, but legal and compliance expectations of data ownership need to be understood and recorded.
- Understand the IIoT data flow. From system to device to Cloud and onwards. Ensure that across that flow you have pertinent security in place.
- Follow security best practices. In particular, for authentication, authorisation and system hardening.
Strength Through Security: How A Secure IIoT Builds a Better Industrial Future
Innovation is something out of which growth happens. Without innovation, we have a strong chance of our organisation stagnating and the competition steaming ahead. The Industrial Internet of Things is one of the most innovative ventures that has occurred in a lifetime. The IIoT offers us potential for productivity growth and improved communications. It can also be used to improve our green credentials, as is the case with a system used by British trains which uses the vibrations of the train to generate the power needed for the IoT sensors, which in turn monitor the vibrations of the train to improve efficiencies.
One of the most important ways that we can use the IIoT to give us competitive edge is to ensure that we use a safe IIoT. A safe IIoT removes the barriers to usage. The IIoT allows industry to soar to new levels, giving us all better industries for both the future and now.