Siemens has launched its next generation of controllers for high-end plant automation. The Simatic S7-1500 are aimed at increasing performance and efficiency, as well as improving plant communications, safety, and security. (Source: Siemens)
The levels of protection on the "blocks" raises a big question. How rampant is design theft or tampering on the assembly line? Or is this specifically for keeping the same revision current across the design chain?
It's exciting to think that corporate espionage tactics are at play somewhere. A James Bond style thief, under the guise of a machine operator, houses a micro computer in his jacket. When no one is looking, he copies the memory card with a card reader in his sleeve. The process a mere five seconds. Completed, and in a magicians like grace, he turns puts the original card into the production machine. No one ever knew.
The company that I formerly worked for manufactured equipment with the majority of the machines going to China. We dared not to ship any machines with unlocked PLC programs, as the IP theft stories were not just rumors....
Even if the chips are locked, you are only delaying theft marginally. De-capping chips is a fairly easy, practiced, and documented procedure for getting at the data. If it is worth it to a person, they will go through great lengths to obtain the data.
It's amazing how Moore's Law is transforming the benefits of advanced automation control. A next generation line of controllers from Siemens basically offers high performance, enhanced security and the ability to integrate add-on applications such as safety within the framework of the single controller. More processing power=greater flexibility for automation engineers to implement advanced solutions. It will be interesting to see moving ahead what types of additional applications (condition monitoring, for example) end up becoming widely implemented because of these continuing increases in fundamental processing power.