It’s time for an Industrie 4.0 Security Plugfest at Hannover Fair
Hannover Messe is getting more impressive every year, with its sprawling halls dedicated to the Digital Factory, Industrial Automation and Industry 4.0. The sheer number of machines, platforms, and robots on display was world class, but what impressed me the most this year was the progress that has been made in Digital Transformation. Companies are realizing that they don’t need to wait for universities (or marketing departments) to tell them what Digital Transformation is: they need to understand what is possible and define their own path for future progress.
An increased focus on security
I spoke to many delegates at the event and regardless of the sub-industry they were working in, they consistently said that one of the key things that influences the speed at which they adopt Digital Transformation is IT security. Their main concerns weren’t centred on any specific product, but on the end-to-end view of security – a combination of standards, integration, administration, and daily operations.
With increasing numbers of devices, equipment and machines connected to the network, there are new operational risks that smart manufacturers must be aware of, and as a result, IT security strategies need a focus on vigilance and resilience. While some companies are large enough to realize that they can solve these issues, smaller companies often don’t have the resources, and more conservative large companies won’t be investing in the effort.
While it is not realistic to think that next year’s Hannover Messe will have a full hall dedicated to IT Security, a ‘plugfest’ – whereby multiple suppliers could come together to test the interoperability of their products – would provide a good opportunity to clear away some of the “adoption blockers” and show the entire industry how much progress has been made with end-to-end security.
What is a plugfest?
Plugfests (or testfests) are already well established in the telecommunication industry. Equipment designers connect their products to get detailed reports on which features are working and which aren’t. Experts are on hand to ensure accurate configuration, to gather as much log information on errors so they can fix them later, and to explain to each other why specific implementation choices were made (especially if standards are incomplete or slightly contradicting). Results are initially shared between the companies whose products are involved in specific tests alone, and results are only published if agreed to unanimously by all of those involved in those specific tests.
Because so many companies are showcasing their manufacturing equipment at Hannover Messe already, a dedicated security plugfest that could start before the fair takes place (or after the crowds have left) would be the perfect opportunity to plug things together and do full end-to-end security testing. Considering the pragmatism of the industry and their knowledge of how heterogeneous production facilities are, the success stories of end-to-end security testing would be a high-visibility opportunity for exhibitors to demonstrate the additional benefits to the industry at Hannover Messe. Lot's to do before April 23rd and the start of Hannover Messe 2018!