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IIoT data protection demands new ways of thinking

Spend some time in a modern industrial enterprise and you’ll see a transformation underway: The network edge is getting smarter as the industrial internet of things continues to take shape. This transformation is changing the way data is used — and how it is valued.

Initially, edge systems were deployed simply to automate a process. The data generated by SCADA systems had a very narrow use, usually to alert operators of an impending issue that required attention (e.g., the pressure in a tank reaching a predetermined critical threshold). Operators would assess the information using their expertise and experience and execute a process to respond to the condition.

An emerging trend is for edge systems to provide the intelligence to make these decisions in real time, taking the human out of the equation. The data generated at the edge — data produced by sensors and automation systems throughout the plant or production process — is like the “sensory input” for these decision-making systems. Just as our five senses help us monitor and respond to changes in our environment, so it is with the intelligent industrial environment.

But the data generated at the edge isn’t just critical for real-time decision-making. The real value is in how the data collected can be analyzed over time, and the capability to identify trends and benchmarks. For example, we recently worked with a company that manages office buildings in Asia that realized it had 30 years of data gathered from 30,000 elevators. What insights could analyzing this data reveal for optimizing elevator control systems, maintenance or energy usage? Frankly, the company isn’t sure yet. But it is determined to find out.

This represents a significant shift in mindset from automation data being viewed as something of only passing importance to an asset of potentially strategic importance. Data generated by sensors and automation systems is now viewed as critically important. And that changes the way you think about the systems entrusted to store and analyze the data, and the risk to that data.

This changing view of data value demands an expanded view of how to protect the integrity of that data. It is no longer just about system availability. That’s critically important, but there’s more to it. It also means ensuring the data is secure and compliant. It means making sure that the applications processing the data are performing properly and that the information is not being corrupted. It means ensuring that the data is flowing to the real-time analytics engines with acceptable latency and that connectivity is maintained with proper security.

IIoT is changing the industrial enterprise in significant ways, including transforming the value of data and the ways it is used. Adopting a new mindset when considering how that data is stored and handled — from the sensors gathering data to the systems using it to the repositories where it is stored — is a critical success factor for creating an edge computing environment that is as safe and resilient as it is intelligent.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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