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Availability, security and the internet of things

March 01, 2013
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The question is not what the process industries are trying to accomplish by means of industrial information technology. But rather, Patricia T. Sparrell of Exxon Mobil says, “As you drive performance by opening up data and collaboration, how do you ensure cyber-security?”

Sparrell, who is department manager, automation, optimization and global support, Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering, was speaking at the 17th annual ARC Advisory Group’s World Industry Forum, held recently in Orlando. The immediacy of the issue Sperrell cited was underlined given that several people attending the conference were said to have been called away early in anticipation of the release from the White House of an executive order bearing on infrastructure cyber-security.

The now-released executive order calls for new cost-effective regulations based on the Cyber Security Framework. A policy directive issued at the same time changes the focus of infrastructure security from terrorism to a more general assessment that includes natural disasters, cyber attacks and other possible threats.

In an interview in the newspaper, The Hill, Andy Ozmet, a senior director for cyber-security at the White House said the executive order was an expression of strategic intent, doesn’t replace the need for legislation and that the administration is only interested in developing best practices for companies that operate critical infrastructure, a small sector of U.S. industry.

At the ARC event, in a very much related development, the continuing evolution and application of one of today’s most significant tools for industrial automation, Open Platform Communications (OPC), was the subject of several announcements.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), representing the manufacturers and suppliers of communications networks, announced publication of key updates to the TR-50 Machine-to-Machine protocol standard series. The purpose of the standard is “to inspire makers to implement connectivity to the things they manufacture.”
In promulgating the standard, TIA joined forces with the OPC Foundation. The two groups have consolidated development efforts in automation and cloud and network standards in order to bridge the divide between two previously distinct inquiries, says a TIA press release.

Why bother with it all? Craig Resnick, an ARC vice-president, summed up as follows: “In the industrial world, the emerging ‘internet of things’ will enable seamless data and information exchanges among machines, automation and information systems, as well as software applications such as advanced analytics, visualization, equipment monitoring and remote operations.”

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