ABB and IBM to Bolster Cybersecurity for Industrial Operations

Another partnership in the news. I have visited IBM’s cybersecurity operations, and it has a powerful story to tell. This news should bolster ABB’s customers.

ABB process control systems can connect with IBM security platform for digital threat visibility.

ABB and IBM today announced a collaboration focused on connecting cybersecurity and operational technology (OT). As a first result of this collaboration, ABB has developed a new OT Security Event Monitoring Service that combines ABB’s process control system domain expertise with IBM’s security event monitoring portfolio to help improve security for industrial operators.

Industrial control system environments are increasingly targeted in cyber-attacks. In fact, IBM’s latest X-Force Threat Intelligence Index found that attacks on industrial and manufacturing facilities have increased by over 2,000% since 2018.

To better connect OT data with the broader IT security ecosystem, ABB has developed a new offering that allows security events from ABB to be sent to IBM’s security information and event management platform known as QRadar. 

The ABB solution was designed according to a reference architecture jointly developed by ABB and IBM. It provides the domain knowledge needed to swiftly react to security incidents related to process control and is especially suited for complex industrial processes in industries such as oil, gas, chemicals and mining. The new event collection and forwarding software which enables this integration is currently being used by early adopter customers and will be made broadly available by ABB in the coming months.

This collaboration marks the first time that OT data and process industry domain expertise is being brought directly into a Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) system, allowing threats to be managed as part of an organization’s broader cybersecurity operations and strategy. 

“ABB’s collaboration with IBM makes it possible to analyze process control events in the context of security and impact to the operational environment, delivering strong improvement in our OT cyber threat visibility across the board,” said Robert Putman, Global Manager of Cyber Security Service for Industrial Automation at ABB.

Disruption of production due to a cyberattack or technical glitches can be costly in terms of lost production and damage to physical assets. Most mature operational monitoring is focused on the performance of the asset, whether it be a gas turbine for electricity, a drive system used to crush ore, or simple monitoring of pollution output from a chemical facility.

The new ABB offering allows ABB’s process control system data collection and forwarding technology to harvest event log detail from ABB process control systems, and share that information with IBM Security QRadar, which uses automation and artificial intelligence to help identify security anomalies and potential threats.

“We see the integration of these solutions as bringing market-leading capabilities together for a singular view of OT security,” said Dr. Andreas Kühmichel, CTO, Chemicals, Petroleum & Industrial Products, IBM. “With more comprehensive OT and IT security visibility, clients can help reduce the risk of production being suddenly interrupted due to a security event, resulting in costly downtime and broader risk to the company.”

The ABB and IBM technologies involved in this solution are designed on open platforms allowing them to operate on the edge and deploy easily across hybrid cloud environments spanning on-premise, private or public clouds. The joint solution is designed so that security processes operate via automation and do not disturb industrial workflows. The security analysis in QRadar operates through a use case library, which automatically flags incidents and triggers corresponding alarms.

The two companies plan continued collaboration in the realm of OT security, in order to develop new capabilities and offerings that address customer challenges in this space. 

Collaboration Helps Employees Return Safely to the Workplace

Collaboration continues to be one of the key words in this pandemic season for operations in industrial plant safety—which includes Covid awareness. This collaboration targets employees in asset-intensive industries.

  • Collaboration will combine Honeywell’s IIoT connected devices and safety software with Wolters Kluwer’s risk and environmental, health and safety management software 
  • Offerings will help customers in asset-intensive industries protect workers, adhere to compliance requirements and facilitate business continuity 

Honeywell and Wolters Kluwer announced a collaboration to integrate Honeywell’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connected devices and safety software with the risk and environmental, health and safety (EHS) software from Enablon, a Wolters Kluwerbusiness. The collaboration is designed to enable enterprises in asset-intensive industries to improve their risk, safety, and operational excellence programs.

The collaboration enables customers to monitor their EHS performance, receive early warnings about issues from their Honeywell equipment, and take proactive steps to help prevent incidents and improve safety compliance.

“With companies concerned about making a safe return to their facilities, we are offering a solution that aims to provide peace of mind to management in terms of both safety and compliance to keep up with ever-changing health and environmental regulations,” said John Rudolph, president, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our new reality requires innovative solutions that enable both business continuity and help protect the health of their employees.”

Given the heightened uncertainty of today’s business environment, companies have an urgent need for a more holistic, integrated, enterprise platform to operationalize real-time data collected from human and machine input. By leveraging this data, companies can use actionable intelligence through the integration of technologies to mitigate safety risk and remain compliant with regulations.  

Scenario – How it could work in today’s environment:

  • Before visiting the facility, Honeywell’s Digitized Workforce Management software provides an electronic questionnaire which, when complete, provides an access code and time of arrival to reduce the need for transfer of paper documents and improve social distancing.
  • At the entryway, the connected safety software solutions allow Honeywell’s artificial intelligence-driven elevated body temperature monitoring solutions to conduct non-invasive, preliminary screenings of personnel entering a facility. 
  • The system also detects if individuals are wearing the required personal protective equipment needed for entering the building and if they are doing so properly, in compliance with safety regulations.
  • These data points and other manual data points are then reported to the Enablon EHS software. 
  • Through a dashboard view, management can monitor workers to ensure that they remain compliant with rapidly changing health and safety regulations. The EHS solution also allows frontline operations employees to carry out measurements, checks and recordings directly in the field, without the need to walk back and forth to a control room.

By combining Honeywell’s connected safety portfolio and with Enablon’s software suite, customers can eliminate errors in recorded data and improve hands-on-tool time for operators.

“Our goal is to help predict and prevent accidents and out-of-compliance events before they happen,” said Chirag Shah, senior director, Product Management at Wolters Kluwer’s Enablon business. “To do this, companies need to act on data that comes directly from equipment and assets as well as data from workers and contractors in the field. Combining real-time human and machine data in an integrated solution will enable our joint customers to achieve the benefits of a digitized operation. By joining forces with Honeywell, we are helping our customers leverage the benefits of a true Industry 4.0 solution.”

Besides monitoring the health and safety of employees, the solution can also deliver environmental benefits. Today, industries must comply with environmental permits containing hundreds of specific requirements. The technology can monitor, control and report back on the health of these controls. Honeywell’s stationary and mobile solutions can be configured directly from the local environmental and regulatory permit conditions within local jurisdictions, providing early warning alerts to prevent non-compliance.

Industrial Enterprises to Achieve Step Change Operational Improvements

The Open Process Automation Forum strives for a software-defined industrial control system where the hardware and software are dissociated. The specific reason is that upgrades become less expensive. Software must be upgraded more often than hardware in a control system. If the two are tied together as in all proprietary control systems, then upgrades run on a continuum from painful to impossibly expensive.

I’ve been puzzling out this press release from Schneider Electric about a new control software dubbed EcoStruxure Automation Expert. The company says, “it is the world’s first software-centric industrial automation system.” I’m not sure that claim would stand up exactly, but it seems to me that this is a step on that journey toward dissociating software and hardware in the control system. Executives have told me in the past few years that achieving this is an essential long-term strategy. 

Any comments you all have about this are welcome (as long as they’re civil and enlightening).

The press release is written in the tone of a challenge to the rest of the industry to write “apps” that will run on this standards-based (IEC-61499) system.

Schneider Electric promises to unleash a new wave of innovation by championing the widespread adoption of open automation standards unveiling its vision for universal automation with EcoStruxure Automation Expert, “a new category of software-centric industrial automation system.”

Claims closed and proprietary automation platforms restrict the adoption of best-of-breed technologies, present challenges to integrate third-party components, and are expensive to upgrade and maintain. Industry has suffered from a lack of adaptability, modularization and interoperability, which is stunting innovation.

Universal automation is the world of plug and produce automation software components based on the IEC61499 standard that solve specific customer problems in a proven way. Adoption of an IEC61499-based standardized automation layer, common across vendors, will provide limitless opportunities for growth and modernization across industry.

By greatly extending the capabilities of existing IEC61131-based systems and enabling an app-store-like model for automation software components, Schneider Electric believes that the advancements possible in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be fully realized. As its benefits become visible, Schneider Electric believes other vendors will adopt the universal automation approach, and end users will soon begin to demand it from their automation suppliers and ecosystem.

“The IT world has realized the benefits of open operating platforms; now it’s industry’s turn,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president industrial automation, Schneider Electric. “Industrial automation architectures have done a good job of advancing industry to where we are today, but they are not capable of providing the agility and resilience that are paramount for modern industrial operations. To fully realize the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we need to reimagine our technology model by opening our platforms, decoupling software from hardware, and radically improving system agility and scalability.”

EcoStruxure Automation Expert is a new category of industrial automation system with IEC61499 at its core. EcoStruxure Automation Expert:

  1. Enables automation applications to be built using asset-centric, portable, proven-in-use software components, independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.
  2. Allows the user to distribute applications to any system hardware architecture of choice —highly distributed, centralized, or both — with minimal to no additional programming effort.
  3. Supports established software best practices to simplify the creation of automation applications that interoperate with IT systems.

The first release of EcoStruxure Automation Expert supports traditional automation platforms, such as Modicon PLCs, and Altivar Variable Speed Drives and PCs. Completing the line-up, a virtualized software controller running in Docker-powered Linux containers supports distributed information and control systems across edge computing architectures.

Leveraging the object-oriented nature of IEC61499, software components known as Composite Automation Types (CATs) are used to model assets by combining real-time control functions with other facets, such as the human machine interface. This asset-centric approach delivers unprecedented cost and performance gains and frees engineers to innovate by automating low-value work and eliminating task duplication across tools. Benchmarking of EcoStruxure Automation Expert against today’s automation systems has demonstrated a 2 to 7X reduction in the time it takes to perform traditional automation tasks.

EcoStruxure Automation Expert’s support for mainstream IT best practices enables step-change improvements in asset and workforce efficiency using advanced technologies like predictive maintenance and digital twin. The system also reduces total cost of ownership by incorporating legacy systems with a wrap-and-reuse approach.

“EcoStruxure Automation Expert is the first step in the journey toward universal automation” said Fabrice Jadot, senior vice president, next generation automation, Schneider Electric. “To fully realize the potential of next-generation industries, we must embrace a new way of thinking. Working to common, open standards is vital to ensuring multivendor interoperability and seamless interfaces from supply chain through manufacturing and production to the end customer. Now is the time for all vendors to fully embrace open implementations with code and function portability to become more connected. Today is the first step in a new direction. We invite industrial developers everywhere to create their own software components and solutions based on the IEC61499 standard, which can easily interoperate with EcoStruxure Automation Expert.”

AI Solutions to Accelerate the Journey to the Self-Optimizing Plant

Before Artificial Intelligence (AI) became such a marketing hype-word, process automation suppliers had versions of it in a variety of guises. I always felt that Aspen Technology, aka AspenTech, was at the engineering forefront if not quite there financially and in the market. The company has turned around over the past few years. It seems to be back on track. 

This announcement discusses the latest release of its flagship aspenONE V12. Before diving in, I digress to look at the AspenTech definition of hybrid as it applies to this announcement.

Hybrid Modeling uniquely combines the first principles of engineering and mathematics and the built-in industry experience (as encapsulated in Aspen Plus and Aspen HYSYS) with empirical relationships derived from plant data, employing the latest advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This combination enables the best of both worlds (rigorous and first principles) to provide effective modeling of complex units that cannot be easily modeled today. It also speeds up model construction, applies AI to plant data to streamline data cleansing and model calibration, and can substitute for engineering experience in developing predictive insight into process units and complex assets.

Then on to the meat of the release:

Aspen Technology announced the general availability of the aspenONE V12 software release, which embeds artificial intelligence (AI) across the portfolio and uses the cloud for delivery of enterprise-wide analytics and insights for increased safety, sustainability, and improved margins. AspenTech’s Industrial AI solutions democratize the application of AI where it can deliver most value and is a vital step towards the Self-Optimizing Plant.

“Aspen Hybrid Models are a major advance in the field of chemical engineering. Hybrid models are a major step forward in bringing together AspenTech’s process models and machine learning and are a game changer in process engineering and plant improvement,” said Dr. Karuna Potdar, Vice President, Technology Centre of Excellence, Reliance Industries Limited.

aspenONE V12 solutions have the first Industrial AI hybrid model capability that is purpose-built for the process industries and other capital-intensive industries. Aspen Hybrid Models capture data from assets across the enterprise, and then apply AI, engineering first principles and AspenTech’s domain expertise to deliver comprehensive, more accurate models at enterprise speed and scale. With AspenTech’s four decades of knowledge about the unique challenges of building solutions for process industries and other capital-intensive industries, aspenONE V12 enables customers to apply AI to critical processes without additional data science expertise and offers better support for new users without deep process knowledge or experience.

The process industries have embraced digital transformation to drive operational excellence and innovation as they respond to meet the needs of growing populations and expectations for sustainability. The new solutions in aspenONE V12 address these unique challenges with better modeling accuracy, greater insights and improved total cost of ownership that can support evolving business needs and take advantage of the new digital native workforce.

“The process industries and other capital-intensive industries are experiencing new levels of volatility in supply and demand, and the need to be agile in response to all market conditions requires a new approach to asset optimization,” said Antonio Pietri, President and CEO, Aspen Technology. “In addition, they face higher expectations for efficiency and profitability, and increasing pressure to meet sustainability targets. This next generation of Industrial AI solutions will change how process industries work. The Self-Optimizing Plant represents the future of operational excellence, and we continue our commitment to innovate and deliver solutions that can accelerate our customers’ journey toward it.”

Francesco Mura, Digital Platform Manager, Process and Technology for Saras, sees the advantage for updating planning models. “Aspen Hybrid Models provide very efficient nonlinear planning model generation, taking information from Aspen HYSYS rigorous refining reactor models and offering a great deal of promise as a new approach for updating planning models.”

New Features of aspenONE V12 software include:

  • Aspen Maestro – new capability for Aspen DMC3and Aspen Mtell which automates the development of better models faster by guiding a less experienced user on how to build a particular model or agent.
  • Aspen Deep-Learning IQ – enables the building of more accurate models and predictions.
  • Aspen Verify for Planning – uses AI to capture knowledge and check against plan to prevent costly mistakes.
  • Aspen Multi-Case – easily runs thousands of simulations cases concurrently, on-premise or in the cloud, allowing a more complete analysis so results can be used to navigate operational complexity and make more accurate decisions faster.
  • Aspen Event Analytics – provides rapid insight into production events. Fast, easy investigation of unexpected production events accelerates corrective action decision-making. Monitors and detects real-time events to enable rapid early intervention.
  • Aspen MES Collaborative – delivers the connected enterprise. Aggregates data with an enterprise-level historian and connects small sites to eliminate stranded data.
  • Aspen Cloud Connect – provides flexible connectivity with high performance and security to transfer data from edge to cloud.
  • Aspen Capital Cost Estimator Insights (ACCE) – streamlines the user experience with out-of-the-box integration with ACCE and Aspen Enterprise Insights to provide visualization and collaborative workflow within a hybrid cloud environment.

Free Training on Open and Secure Automation

Automation suppliers without a solid training program miss a great opportunity to serve customers and also generate good-will and long-term relationships. Hearing that call, Bedrock Automation has announced that the School of Bedrock is now open for free technical training in Open Secure Automation (OSA).  The School of Bedrock provides online virtual training in the essentials of implementing open standard 61131 engineering tools as well as all the Bedrock high-performance hardware and software products. 

“In our constant pursuit to radically reduce lifecycle costs, Bedrock is transitioning training to a zero-cost virtual service.  This will provide a great benefit to all users of Bedrock by eliminating a significant upfront cost of automation,” said Albert Rooyakkers, Bedrock Founder, CEO.  

The core curriculum today is focused on the content that Bedrock Automation requires for certification in its technology, which had previously been delivered primarily through live workshops supplemented by email, video links and PDF exchanges. It is now significantly more automated and available on-demand.

“Trainees can now interact with all program elements through a single portal. They can work toward the certificate at their own pace. They can track their progress easily, pick up where they left off, and see the history of all their interactions. The whole process is very user-friendly visually pleasing and free,” said Bedrock Customer Service and Technical Support Manager Craig Allen. 

The opening module includes a general introduction to Bedrock Automation and its Open Secure Automation offerings, including the Bedrock OSA, OSA Remote, as well as OSA Power products. It also covers the free IEC 61131-compliant integrated application development environment (IDE) and the Bedrock Device Management Tool which can be used to update all controllers and modules to the latest firmware with a single click.

The hardware portion of the curriculum focuses on the I/O and analog and digital Fieldbus management. The software curriculum covers working with variables and data types, ladder logic, sequential function charts, structured text, functions and user-defined types, a demonstrated understanding of which is necessary for certification.

Industrial Readers—Watch Where IT Is Going

The manufacturing market is finally discovering the cloud in a big way. This reminds me of similar technologies such as Ethernet in 2003 when the market suddenly moved from “we don’t trust it” to “get me more”. Professionals in the industrial market are also testing out “edge-to-cloud” calling it Industrial Internet of Things. OPC Foundation has climbed aboard that train. We’ll see more.

But here is news that HPE has finalized its acquisition of Silver Peak, bolstering its vision of “edge-to-cloud transformation.” This vision goes far deeper and broader than IIoT, although it encompasses that…and more.

HPE announced the acquisition of Silver Peak in July. The deal totaled $925 million and brought Silver Peak into the Aruba business unit. Executives said Silver Peak’s SD-WAN [software-defined wide area network] capabilities would pair well with Aruba’s wired and wireless capabilities.

HPE president and CEO Antonio Neri called WAN transformation a crucial element of his company’s Intelligent Edge and edge-to-cloud strategy.

“Armed with a comprehensive SD-WAN portfolio with the addition of Silver Peak, we will accelerate the delivery of a true distributed cloud model and cloud experience for all apps and data wherever they live,” Neri said.

Keerti Melkote, Aruba founder and HPE’s president of Intelligent Edge, said customers want to increase branch connectivity and secure remote workers. As a result, Aruba launched a software-defined branch (SD-branch) solution in 2018 and revamped it earlier this year.

“By combining Silver Peak’s advanced SD-WAN technology with Aruba’s SD-branch and remote worker solutions, customers can simplify branch office and WAN deployments to empower remote workforces, enable cloud-connected distributed enterprises, and transform business operations without compromise,” Melkote said.

New WAN Business

Silver Peak founder and CEO David Hughes now serves as senior vice president Aruba’s WAN business. He said he looks forward to accelerating “edge-to-cloud transformation initiatives.”

“Digital transformation, cloud-first IT architectures, and the need to support a mobile work-from-anywhere workforce are driving enterprises to rethink the network edge,” Hughes said. “The combination of Silver Peak and Aruba will uniquely enable customers to realize the full transformational promise of these IT megatrends.”