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AXIANS UK: Network and security the key to robust Industrial IoT

Monday 24 September 2018

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is spreading across multiple verticals, but organisations must make sure their network and security infrastructure is up to the job.

Major incidents like the Mira botnet which hijacked thousands of IoT connected cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) to launch a crippling distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on in 2016 show just how dangerous an unprotected IIoT can be.

Though still at a relatively early stage of its development, the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is on the cusp of rapid and large-scale expansion as public and private sector organisations discover new ways for connected devices, real time data collection and analysis to help them improve existing processes and operations.

The Industries of industrial IOT

Key vertical sectors for IIoT adoption include automotive, healthcare, retail, agriculture, manufacturing and utilities, with a bridge between industrial and consumer IoT being built by evolving smart cities that use the technology to deliver a range of consumer services.

Most smart city projects are focussed on using IIoT to optimise the delivery of essential utilities such as water, electricity and gas, but many councils are also interested in deploying automated sensors to dim public lighting, monitor weather and road conditions, optimise the fleet management of waste disposal services and deliver free WiFi in public spaces for example.

Smart Cities

Smart city transformation projects such as Bristol, enable joint ventures between the city council and the Universities. Initiatives such as this explore a variety of different smart city applications using a range of different sensors and networks. Using smart phones and GPS devices to provide information on energy, air quality and traffic flows in city centres, with various digital inclusion activities provided over a series of wireless and mesh networks enabled by SDN/NFV technology.

All of this developing and delivering IoT services for energy usage, water quality, public transport, street lighting, healthcare, waste services and education.

Manufacturing leads the way

Arguably the industry that has led IIoT adoption to data is manufacturing however, as factories and product facilities are equipped with a range and volume of equipment and technologies - everything from GPS and RFID tracking devices to temperature, humidity and air pressure sensors - in parallel with cloud computing and artificial intelligence to optimise existing processes.

Process optimisation is driving activity to increase the efficiency of production systems, but manufacturers can also automate the switching on and off of machines that are under or little used to save on energy costs and deliver predictive maintenance that allows them to fix problems before they occur to avoid disruption to the production process.

Network and security core IIoT building blocks

Whether embedded into smart cities or factories the network is one of the core building blocks of any IIoT infrastructure project, connecting the thousands of devices which regularly transmit the data they collect back to edge devices and central processing and storage systems. With Gartner estimating that 20bn IoT devices will be online by 2020 (85m by 2025 according to Forbes), it is likely that high capacity backbones will be required to transmit large volumes of aggregated information between the network edge and cloud hosting facilities via the core. As such any organisations involved in IIoT data collection or service provision needs to make sure they have robust, reliable network connectivity required to transport information in real time, supplemented by network traffic monitoring and optimisation tools to track what is happening.

The prospect of IIoT security vulnerabilities must also be addressed, particularly at the device level where the level and sophistication of embedded security controls vary considerably from one sensor to the next. Efficient identity access management and authentication tools are needed to avoid hackers taking control or diverting resources elsewhere.

Indeed a Gartner survey conducted earlier this year [2018] found that nearly 20% of organisations observed at least one IoT-based attack in the past three years. Regulatory compliance initiatives too are likely to put IIoT security front and centre in the future, however, as new government and industry guidelines demand that CNI organisations do more to protect their IIoT enabled networks and infrastructure.

With so many devices, end points and networks to protect, automation will therefore be key in handling the IIoT security configuration, management and maintenance overhead, and organisations will have to work hard to find the right balance of human and machine oversight.

Axians UK are a network systems integrator and will be attending IP EXPO Europe to support networking needs from innovative technologies, management through managed services and network security.

Find out more at our stand at IP EXPO – EE8  


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