In industrial settings, the life cycle of equipment can be long, and having the latest connected devices isn’t always an option. Here are some tips for making IoT and non-IoT assets work together.
I can attest from personal experience that IoT, like cloud, will take longer for companies to implement than many people think.
This was confirmed in a recent site visit I had with a large utility company. The company was accounting for all of its assets across its entire utility grid—and the results were surprising. Among these assets was a pump that had been installed in 1898, and was still in service!
“Tracking these assets and trying to connect everything with IoT can be a substantial challenge for company IT managers who are charged with this responsibility,” said Dean Weber, chief technology officer at Mocana, which sells an IoT security platform.”In the IT world, equipment becomes obsolete in three to five years, and asset management schedules are calibrated to this. In the industrial controls and manufacturing environment, equipment can be in service for as long as forty years.”
The primary concern that Weber voiced was for security break-ins that could occur because not all technology assets could be IoT-enabled.
“It’s a challenge for IT departments because you have to think differently about a manufacturing environment with its long equipment life cycles,” said Weber. “What you usually end up with in manufacturing is a mix of both green field and brown field devices, and you have to somehow cobble together a connected infrastructure.”
Weber defines a green field device as one which is IoT enabled. In contrast, brown field devices are not IoT-enabled, and the goal is to make those that are able to be IoT-enabled usable with IoT.
Companies like Mocana deliver gateways between the IoT and non IoT worlds by digitalizing non-IoT devices so they can be secured and monitored over IoT networks. “We use cryptography, which consists of sophisticated algorithms and secret keys to encrypt and decrypt data to IoT-enable brown field devices,” said Weber.
For example, a ruggedized device that might be used on a manufacturing floor like a programmable logic controller, might not be IoT-enabled, but it might have a processor and a memory array that are digitally signed by the manufacturer. By using these codes and digitally signing them cryptographically, a company can onboard these non-IoT drives into their total IoT security scheme.