The Internet of Things (IoT) is just that: the connectivity of ordinary things. The connectivity of the internet (IPv6), the move to the cloud and big data analytics, combined with the emergence of processing power at the edge, have all allowed products to become connected and smart. From phones, to connected watches, cars to fridges, IoT has had a disruptive impact on our everyday lives. With the ability to replenish our fridges autonomously, to monitoring our daily activity levels, our lives have been influenced and simplified as we know it.
Devices monitoring our every step and heart beat are physically impacting a consumer’s daily decisions and have been a key contributor to what is now a massive IoT ecosystem. According to new research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) big data analytics and the IoT are expected to add some £322 billion to the UK economy between 2015 and 2020. This is twice the size of the combined education, NHS and defence budgets for 2014-15, and 22 percent of the UK’s net public debt (circa. £1.5 trillion in 2014-15). This goes to show the enormity and impact IoT has had upon the UK’s digital revolution.
Consumers now expect everyday objects to be connected and have the ability to think autonomously. This has meant that traditional hardware manufacturers have had to keep pace by embracing this IPisation of products and in essence, morphing themselves into software providers. This presents a drastic change of approach for the hardware manufacturing industry, as they have had to adopt a completely new way of thinking and working.
Additional pressures from the IoT revolution
Hardware manufacturers are having to change their strategy and start building hardware around software, rather than treating it as a traditional add on later down the line. IoT also has the added layer of complexity of the device often needing to be able to communicate across a variety of different platforms, such as 5G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This has forced hardware companies to think more like IT professionals than manufacturers, encouraging the adoption of a ‘software first’ approach.
Need to embrace robust security measures into product life cycles
Companies, traditionally built around the physical manufacturing of their products, already have knowledge of how to test them from a hardware perspective, for example testing a braking system on a car. However, they are not used to having to test software processes that integrate with the hardware, other software from their supply chain and external data sources.
The alternative to releasing untested software onto the market is, at best, embarrassing, but at worst could be catastrophic. Just last year, automotive giant Tesla was forced to issue a software update twice in a month after two researchers found a way to subvert its on-board system.
Need to embrace robust software Test and Validation into product life cycles
Japanese car maker Subaru was another to fall foul, and was forced to recall 72,000 vehicles with the company's Eyesight Driver Assist system, following identification of a software problem that could cause the automatic braking system to fail. It turns out that the dependency between the brake light switch and the automatic braking system had not been considered, leading to potential failure of two vital elements of the vehicle.
Luckily, these examples were both caught in time but they highlighted the need to embrace robust software quality and security measures into traditional physical product life cycles. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a connected lightbulb have a MAC and IP address, meaning that a once disposable commodity could potentially be cloned and used to access a network without sufficient security measures in place.
With this mind, many hardware manufacturers faced with embracing a software first approach may have their priorities confused and have become caught up in worrying about delivering functionality and monetisation, when it is information security that should be at the forefront of their minds.
Many updates for connected IoT products are provided over the air, however, this has presented additional challenges for the testing industry, as it has been the first time that they’ve been tasked with testing things on the move rather than in a controlled environment. This demand has resulted in third party specialists needing to modify their offering to assist with the unique agility of the IoT market.
Whilst software is omni-present in our increasingly connected lives, time and again traditional hardware companies have shown that they still have a lot to learn. There is no turning back. This is exemplified by recent collaborations between automotive companies and IT firms. For example, the pioneering partnership between Google and Fiat Chrysler; a move that bridges the technological unknown in a bid to manufacture the next generation of connected car.
The opportunity that IoT presents, particularly to the hardware manufacturing industry, is too big to miss out on and security measures must be put in place to not only safeguard consumers, but to protect brand reputation and avoid losing out to competitors.
Colin Bull is Principal of Consultant Manufacturing and Product Development at SQS
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.