Skip to content
All posts

Time Critical Automation – Why Secure Edge Computing Is Essential to Smart Manufacturing

The 4th Industrial Revolution, now commonly known as Industry 4, has continued its inexorable rise, powered by the Internet of Things, which in turn has been empowered by 5G technology. According to Gartner, ‘Smart manufacturing is the notion of orchestrating physical and digital processes within factories and across other supply chain functions to optimize current and future supply and demand requirements. This is accomplished by transforming and improving ways in which people, process and technology operate to deliver the critical information needed to impact decision quality, efficiency, cost and agility.’

Since there is an interdependence between each of these manufacturing elements, they must be connected to each other and transmit data constantly to and from each other. Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on either their internal systems, cloud-based systems, or hybrids of both. With the advent of robots in factories, the precision, and speed of operation, have continually evolved along with their IT control systems. There are, however, two inherent limitations to this evolution.

One is latency. The other is security. The full efficiency of the newest manufacturing technologies cannot be achieved without tackling latency. In the absence of securing the systems that underpin these techniques, gains may be lost, if not completely wiped out. As we examine each one, it becomes apparent that one cannot be solved without the other. There are many solid reasons for a manufacturer to prefer cloud-based architecture. Among them:

  1. Maintenance and operation are the responsibility of the supplier. This reduces overheads, initial investments, and ROI time-frame.
  2. Implementation that's simple and non-disruptive
  3. Scaleability
  4. Security
  5. Easy adoption for employees
  6. Relatively low-cost powerful data analytics
  7. Additional AI and machine learning functions.

All these seem to suggest a good working model from the outside. The question of latency upends all these advantages. Precision-timing requires less than 10ms of latency. Cloud latency is normally 300ms, or more. As defined by industry standards, a precision machine device is a piece of equipment with one or more moving parts whose accuracy determines the quality of the device. These can include machines such as lathes, milling machines, grinders, and water jets, all of which are used in various industries, from medical instruments to rocket engines. Production equipment and materials can be costly.

When a device is monitored in a cloud environment and malfunctions, by the time this is recorded, and a stop signal is sent to perhaps hundreds of sensors, moving parts, and precision instruments, there could be severe physical damage and financial losses. Security is equally important. The further the data travels, the longer the timeframe and the more entry points for attack. Sadly, the world has entered a darker period for malicious activities of all types. In the age of information, it is the infrastructure of information that offers the most significant rewards for criminals, states, and even competitors.

Around the globe, crypto-theft and ransomware dominate headlines, while global warfare is fought over the internet. The theft of intellectual property and customer data is less commonly reported but equally damaging. The industry determines impacts of interference in critical systems, but commercial bankruptcy is on the more benign end of the scale. An attack on critical infrastructures such as water or nuclear energy could have far more devastating consequences.

Of course, there are many ways to mitigate these problems, and they are not new. Mitigation, however, requires compromise. Whether it's having to sacrifice much of a precision manufacturer's economic benefit because of high latency or using a private cloud's sentinel software to detect intruders, these mitigations will either become commercially impossible to maintain or, in the latter case, ineffective. Low latency and detecting anomalies through sentinel software can be equally problematic.

Too little too late. It's no use installing a security camera and leaving the door open. By the time you get a phone alert and ring the police, the burglars have made off with the safe, trashed the house, or both. And yet, this is how many otherwise sophisticated enterprises protect themselves. To reduce latency and security, the key is to minimize the length of the data journey, which is at the heart of Edge Computing.

Whether on on-premise racks, cloud server farms, or embedded chips, HUB can offer the full benefits of its innovative confidential security where data is at rest, in transit, and at the point of use. HUB can provide all the benefits of existing cloud systems as discussed at the beginning while solving the problem of latency and ensuring maximum security. This includes both machine-learning and AI processes at the Edge itself.
In time-critical critical automation, precision and security are inextricably linked. We believe that our edge computing solution is the only way to unlock the full potential of today's Industry 4 enterprises.

Want to learn more about HUB Security Confidential Computing solution?