I see a parallel here, sort of, between control and machine vision. In control there's been a gulf separating the functionality and usability of Ethernet/IP versus the control-specific protocols like EtherCAT and Ethernet Powerlink. In machine vision, there's been a parallel guilf, perhaps not so large, between various open-sourced protocols like USB or GigE and their vision-specific versions like the very new USB3 Vision, and the not so new GigE Vision. And the gulfs all about that pesky determinism issue.
Ann, you have hit the nail on the head by mentioning protocols like EtherCAT. There are applications where standard Ethernet/IP can be used, but to replace the more specific bus standards like Fieldbus, you need a deterministic protocol. These have now been developed. In the IP realm, the increase in speed to gigabit and beyond helps mitigate some of the determinism issues.
The gets into the whole remote monitoring issue -- the fact that improved data links throughout the factory are enabling sensors to send data back to a central monitoring station. This, in turn, is enabling both tighter control of processes and also a reduction in outages, because failure points can be fixed right away.
That sounds like a good solution, Jack -- much more like the former process of sending reports. The real-time network, however, could send the data on a near-continuous stream. Not quite the same as letting other areas of the enterprise peek into the process to ascertain performance and results, but it would solve some of the security issues.
Rob - One possible solution to that particular problem is creating a one-way or read-only link. The data can be sent out to the IT systems, but nothing can come in that way. Yes, that adds a layer of complexity regarding updates, but it also makes sure that both the IT and Controls people sign off on the update schedules and implementations.
I hadn't heard that about safety, Rob, but unfortunately, it makes sense. Sounds like the same principle operating in both cases, of security and safety procedures. At least in the case of security, both employee training and more robust safeguards in mobile equipment were required.
Yes, I've heard that personal smartphones have entered the workplace big-time, and it's causing problems for IT departments. But it's understandable. Employees are accustomed to their Androids and iPhones, and by comparison, their work BlackBerrys are not as advanced.
Part of what's fueling the security issue is the whole trend around the consumerization of IT. More and more employees, including plant managers and operators, are bringing their own smart phones to work and want to use those devices as part of their work tasks as opposed to maintaining two devices. That makes it hard for IT or the controls group to uphold proper security standards. Also, as Ann notes, the device can get lost or the kids can log on to download some Apps and presto, you have a breach or potential security problem on your hands.
Turning off security because it gets in the way of operating the machines! That's a good one. I've seen that with safety as well, I've seen employees and managers bypass or circumvent safety in order to speed up the line.
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