The View from SPS IPC Drives 2016

The leading show in Europe for industrial automation, the must-go event on everyone’s list, SPS IPC Drives in Nurenberg, was another roaring success this year.  The 1,600 exhibits in 14 separate pavilion halls attracted over 60,000 industrial engineers, managers, and executives from Germany, the rest of Europe, and the world.  This year Skkynet participated jointly with the OPC Foundation, introducing the latest Beta version of the Cogent DataHub that supports the OPC UA protocol, along with a new Camera feature and a next-generation Excel product.

“Everyone we met was talking about OPC UA,” said Xavier Mesrobian, VP of Sales and Marketing for Skkynet, who was responsible for the Skkynet display and demo.  “They were intrigued to see how we have incorporated OPC UA into the DataHub.  With its existing ability for integrating data protocols, the DataHub becomes a highly versatile OPC UA client, able to serve as an OPC UA/Classic gateway, connect to databases and Excel, put data on the web, send emails, and much more.

“OPC UA is seen as the leading protocol for secure data communications within the plant and on a protected network.  Outside the plant, connecting to corporate offices or between facilities, and for other IoT and Industrie 4.0 scenarios, the common wisdom here at SPS IPC Drives is that using a VPN is sufficient for providing security.  We had a number of opportunities to explain why this is not so.  Most of the people I talked to were not aware that a VPN doesn’t really provide the level of security needed for an industrial system.  They were surprised and pleased to find out about our secure-by-design approach.”

“This was my impression as well,” said Paul Thomas, President of Skkynet.  “My sense is that security (by design) is still largely ignored.  Most of the people I spoke to at this year’s SPS IPC Drives show rarely mentioned security.  And when they did, they would say, essentially, ‘Oh, we use a VPN, so we are secure’.

“But some people understand the deeper questions.  I had a good conversation over a beer one evening with Professor Stephan Simons from the Automation and Control Technology department of the Hochschule Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany.  He said that within the next year or two the great majority of control vendors will come to the realization that security has been massively overlooked. He was excited to find out that we have a tested and working solution available now, and wanted to know more about it.”

This experience at the SPS IPC Drives show confirms what we at Skkynet have been hearing from a number of different sources.  Security requirements for Industrial IoT and Industrie 4.0 have been largely downplayed or overlooked in the excitement of connecting up remote locations and gaining access to live production data from the shop floor.  As the need for IoT security is better understood—whether through education, experience, or mishap—the value of a secure-by-design system will become more obvious.