Better Gripping With Intelligent Picking Robots

Festo has consistently presented me with some of the most impressive creativity within pneumatics, robotics, and automation. This is a fascinating use of artificial intelligence (AI) with robot gripping. Only a couple of years ago, I caught myself thinking that nothing could be as boring as robotic end-of-arm-effectors. How wrong could I have been! This is my second post on this technology in a couple of weeks. Check this out.

Production, warehouse, shipping – where goods are produced, stored, sorted or packed, picking also takes place. This means that several individual goods are removed from storage units such as boxes or cartons and reassembled. With the FLAIROP (Federated Learning for Robot Picking) project Festo and researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), together with partners from Canada, want to make picking robots smarter using distributed AI methods. To do this, they are investigating how to use training data from multiple stations, from multiple plants, or even companies without requiring participants to hand over sensitive company data.

“We are investigating how the most versatile training data possible from multiple locations can be used to develop more robust and efficient solutions using artificial intelligence algorithms than with data from just one robot,” says Jonathan Auberle from the Institute of Material Handling and Logistics (IFL) at KIT. In the process, items are further processed by autonomous robots at several picking stations by means of gripping and transferring. At the various stations, the robots are trained with very different articles. At the end, they should be able to grasp articles from other stations that they have not yet learned about. “Through the approach of federated learning, we balance data diversity and data security in an industrial environment,” says the expert. 

Powerful algorithms for industry and logistics 4.0

Until now, federated learning has been used predominantly in the medical sector for image analysis, where the protection of patient data is a particularly high priority. Consequently, there is no exchange of training data such as images or grasp points for training the artificial neural network. Only pieces of stored knowledge – the local weights of the neural network that tell how strongly one neuron is connected to another – are transferred to a central server. There, the weights from all stations are collected and optimized using various criteria. Then the improved version is played back to the local stations and the process repeats. The goal is to develop new, more powerful algorithms for the robust use of artificial intelligence for industry and Logistics 4.0 while complying with data protection guidelines.

“In the FLAIROP research project, we are developing new ways for robots to learn from each other without sharing sensitive data and company secrets. This brings two major benefits: we protect our customers’ data, and we gain speed because the robots can take over many tasks more quickly. In this way, the collaborative robots can, for example, support production workers with repetitive, heavy, and tiring tasks”, explains Jan Seyler, Head of Advanced Develop. Analytics and Control at Festo SE & Co. KG During the project, a total of four autonomous picking stations will be set up for training the robots: Two at the KIT Institute for Material Handling and Logistics (IFL) and two at the Festo SE company based in Esslingen am Neckar.

Start-up DarwinAI and University of Waterloo from Canada are further partners

“DarwinAI is thrilled to provide our Explainable (XAI) platform to the FLAIROP project and pleased to work with such esteemed Canadian and German academic organizations and our industry partner, Festo. We hope that our XAI technology will enable high-value human-in-the-loop processes for this exciting project, which represents an important facet of our offering alongside our novel approach to Federated Learning.  Having our roots in academic research, we are enthusiastic about this collaboration and the industrial benefits of our new approach for a range of manufacturing customers”, says Sheldon Fernandez, CEO, DarwinAI.

“The University of Waterloo is ecstatic to be working with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and a global industrial automation leader like Festo to bring the next generation of trustworthy artificial intelligence to manufacturing.  By harnessing DarwinAI’s Explainable AI (XAI) and Federated Learning, we can enable AI solutions to help support factory workers in their daily production tasks to maximize efficiency, productivity, and safety”, says Dr. Alexander Wong, Co-director of the Vision and Image Processing Research Group, University of Waterloo, and Chief Scientist at DarwinAI.

The FLAIROP (Federated Learning for Robot Picking) project is a partnership between Canadian and German organizations. The Canadian project partners focus on object recognition through Deep Learning, Explainable AI, and optimization, while the German partners contribute their expertise in robotics, autonomous grasping through Deep Learning, and data security.

  • KIT-IFL: consortium leadership, development grasp determination, development automatic learning data generation.
  • KIT-AIFB: Development of Federated Learning Framework
  • Festo SE & Co. KG: development of picking stations, piloting in real warehouse logistics
  • University of Waterloo (Canada): Development object recognition
  • Darwin AI (Canada): Local and Global Network Optimization, Automated Generation of Network Structures

Executive Order’s Impact On Embedded Device Security

While I am on a cybersecurity marathon today, here is information about a round table discussion I watched last week. Long-time acquaintance and cybersecurity guru Eric Byers drew my attention. And the event was hosted by old friend Greg Hale of ISSSource. To be honest, I’d never heard of Red Balloon. This was the more intriguing of the press releases I received regarding Biden’s Executive Order on security.

Although this reminds me of a comment in the history of JFK’s presidency by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “A Thousand Days”, which I read at university. Kennedy issued an executive order and commiserated with Schlesinger about how nothing really happened because of it. Yep, that’s the way government works. But there is the power of setting the agenda and priorities.

Embedded system cybersecurity provider, Red Balloon Security, and ISSSource.com are teaming up to host a discussion on the effects of industrial security incidents and the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on embedded device security.

With all the ransomware incidents in the news lately, the attention of the industry has focused on the effects on industrial control systems. However, one area that has been overlooked is the critical role embedded devices play. A panel of experts will discuss why embedded devices are critical, what the current state of security is and if the current focus and the executive order are specific enough to drive improvements.

Members of the panel include Ang Cui, Chief Executive at Red Balloon Security and embedded device expert; Eric Byers, Chief Executive at aDolus, software bill of materials (SBoMs) provider for the ICS/OT sector; Ian Crone, former DARPA/I2O Program Manager, and Enrique Salem, Managing Director at Bain Capital Ventures and former Chief Executive of Symantec. The panel will be moderated by Gregory Hale, Editor and Founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (ISSSource.com). 

The webcast will be June 30 at 4 p.m. eastern time. Click here to register for the event.

Hexagon Announces New Version of Cyber Integrity

While I’m on a cybersecurity kick today, following is a news release from Hexagon which acquired PAS Global a few months ago. PAS had brought its holistic, enterprise-wide view of risk analytics to OT cybersecurity solution to drive remediation efforts. News release follows.

PAS Global, part of Hexagon, announced the availability of Cyber Integrity 7.2, a leap forward in visualizing, comprehending, and directing resources to mitigate vulnerability risk. As the cyber risk for critical infrastructure and process industries continues to escalate, with recent attacks including the JBS cyberattack impacting OT environments and a war on the country’s infrastructure with 65,000 ransomware attacks in 2020 alone, there has never been a more important time to safeguard these systems.

Within just a few clicks, Cyber Integrity 7.2 uniquely enables users to rapidly identify the highest risk assets, expediently prioritize and select a remediation method while deploying remediation assets and adhere to best practices with closed loop documentation. Cyber Integrity 7.2 provides the following capabilities:

● Reduces the attack surface and quickly conducts remediations in the order that reduces the greatest risk.

● Develops an enterprise-wide, holistic image of vulnerability risk and develops enhanced risk-based decision-making.

● Maintains situational awareness of the attack surface and vulnerability severity, aging and propagation paths as they relate to known weaknesses in the infrastructure.

● Rapidly identifies locations in the environment with the highest number of vulnerabilities while simultaneously considering the patching level of various assets.

● Instantly reviews meaningful and actionable data regarding patches and upgrades paths providing the highest value.

“We are excited to launch Cyber Integrity 7.2 to provide the industry’s best situational awareness and rapid remediation of vulnerabilities,” said Scott Plunkett, Senior Product Owner, Cyber, Hexagon’s PPM division. “While we could previously show vulnerabilities en masse, this version provides much more direction for customers by rapidly uncovering the most critical problems, easily prioritizing those problems and offering automated selection of the most efficacious route to remediation.”

“This is another excellent example from PAS of the practical application of analytics that enable end users to make better decisions about how to address the most pressing and impactful vulnerabilities at the OT level. OT is unique because it incorporates such a diverse range of systems and assets, from decades-old control system platforms to brand new IoT-based systems, containers, and cloud computing. This makes it even harder for end users to achieve a truly holistic view of cyber risk. PAS brings the OT level knowledge to the table to make the holistic view possible, enabling users to make good, actionable decisions to reduce risk quickly across multiple sites,” said Larry O’Brien, Vice President of Research at ARC Advisory Group.

Cyber Integrity 7.2 will be available to new and existing partners today at little to no additional deployment cost. A demo video is available here for more information.

End Users Lack Awareness of Major Cyber Attacks

This survey reveals that most end users in the industry lack awareness of many basic cybersecurity issues. I told the marketing person, “I’m hardly surprised.” But a little data is useful confirmation. Take a hint (although readers of this blog are probably not the problem on either side of the issue).

The news release follows. Note that the many superlatives come from Armin marketing, not me or independent studies.

Armis, the leading unified asset visibility and security platform provider, today released new data uncovering the lack of knowledge and general awareness of major cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and an understanding of security hygiene. The survey of over 2,000 respondents from across the United States found that end users are not paying attention to the major cybersecurity attacks plaguing operational technology and critical infrastructure across the country, signaling the importance of businesses prioritizing a focus on security as employees return to the office. In the past year, 65,000 ransomware attacks occurred in the United States. In other words, approximately 7 attacks per hour, a rate that is expected to continue to rise. As the U.S. looks at its vulnerable industries, the responsibility is falling on businesses to ensure that they are keeping the organization and employees safe and secure.

From the Colonial Pipeline attack shutting down services, to the Florida Water Facility hack endangering the water supply, to the ransomware attack on JBS, which could raise meat prices and also restrict access to necessary nutrients in developing countries — the impact of cyber attacks on our critical infrastructure has been evident. We’ve also seen ransomware hit healthcare in a major way, with attacks on Scripps Health’s technology systems and a chain of Las Vegas hospitals. Despite the spotlight on these attacks, the data shows that many consumers are simply not taking notice — and the responsibility of security falls on the businesses themselves.

As the risk of attack continues to rise, and businesses move toward a hybrid in-office/work from home model, it is imperative that businesses are considering security and ensuring the proper policies and protections are in place. Thinking critically about security early on, and weaving it into your company’s everyday practices, can be the difference-maker as employees return to the office.

“The attacks on our critical infrastructure are clear evidence of the need for cybersecurity and assurance to all our utility providers and players,” said Curtis Simpson, CISO at Armis. “It is also an unfortunate example of the huge vulnerability of an aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet. Organizations must be able to know what they have, track behavior, identify threats, and immediately take action to protect the safety and security of their operations. This data shows that there is less consumer attention on these attacks as we might expect, and so that responsibility falls to businesses to shore up their defenses.”

Key Findings of the Survey include:

● Education and Awareness Of Cyberattacks Is Still Lacking: Despite these major attacks making headlines on the national stage, respondents showed a lack of awareness of these attacks and their impact on consumers and businesses. Over 21% of respondents have not even heard about the cyberattack on the largest U.S. fuel pipeline, and almost half (45%) of working Americans did not hear about the attempted tampering of Florida’s water supply.

● The Severity Of The Attacks Is Not Sticking: Despite the complete shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline following the attack, and the halting of production at JBS, consumers don’t see the lasting effects of these attacks. 24% of respondents believe that the Colonial Pipeline attack will not have any long-lasting effects on the U.S. fuel industry.

● Healthcare Could be The Next Frontier For Hackers: According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Armis, 63% of healthcare delivery organizations have experienced a security incident related to unmanaged and IoT devices over the past two years. Yet today’s data shows that when it comes to device security, over 60% of healthcare employees believe that their personal devices do not pose any security threat to their organization. What’s more, 26% said that their companies do not have any policies in place to secure both work and personal devices.

● Employees are Putting Businesses at Risk Through Devices: As COVID restrictions begin to lighten, enterprises are starting to talk about the return to the office, but as we go back, businesses need to be thinking about overall enterprise security, especially as employees have expressed their intention to continue some potentially risky habits. The data shows that over 71% of employees intend to bring their WFH devices back to the office, with over 82% of that group being IT professionals, whose main job function is to ensure the security of the organization. Despite the risks prevalent, 54% don’t believe their personal devices pose any security risk/threat to their organization.

Methodology

Censuswide conducted the survey on behalf of Armis of more than 2,000 professionals in various industries from across the United States in May 2021.

Armis is the leading unified asset visibility and security platform designed to address the new threat landscape that connected devices create. Fortune 1000 companies trust our real-time and continuous protection to see with full context all managed, unmanaged, and IoT devices, including medical devices (IoMT), operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS). Armis provides passive and unparalleled cybersecurity asset management, risk management, and automated enforcement. Armis is a privately held company and headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

Coalition for Open Process Automation Launches COPA QuickStart

The Open Process Automation Forum has made progress over the past few years. You can see a chain of reports and thoughts I’ve written over that time. These ideas remind me of a phrase we had amongst the graduate assistants when I was in grad school (we were all political philosophy majors), “Operationalize your eschaton!” In other words of Wendy’s restaurants, “Where’s the beef?” Is anything practical going to evolve from all this standards work?

Then an organization called “Coalition for Open Process Automation” contacted me with information about its formation, members, and, best of all, certified products. This is a giant step forward. Check out the press release and website.

The Coalition for Open Process Automation (COPA) is pleased to announce the launch of COPA QuickStart to accelerate the adoption of Industrial Control Systems (ICS). This is aligned with The Open Group O-PAS Standard, a “standards of standards” for industrial process automation developed by the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF).

COPA is a diverse group of leading IT and OT technology companies, led by innovative newcomers Collaborative Systems Integration of Austin, Texas and CPLANE.ai of Silicon Valley, California. Its partners include veteran industry leaders such as Phoenix Contact, R. Stahl, Supermicro, Nova SMAR, and CODESYS. With the release of COPA QuickStart, the Coalition is applying years of research, collaboration, and investment by members of OPAF to bring ICS systems to market that are built on industry standards for open, secure, and interoperable architectures.

Securing ICS’s from ransomware attacks and state-sponsored hacking is now one of the top priorities of governments and corporations. These cybersecurity issues along with outdated and crumbling infrastructure adds to the imperative to increase value generation and reduce total cost of ownership through digital transformation. The first step in digital transformation for industrial manufactures is Open Process Automation.

The COPA partner companies have engineered COPA QuickStart to incorporate components and technologies from multiple vendors into a single, advanced, and cohesive ICS. The COPA QuickStart system is the catalyst for industrial manufacturers to accelerate their adoption of state-of-the-art ICS systems that greatly improve security, flexibility, and profitability of their operations.

Industrial manufacturers can no longer take a “wait and see” approach to adopting modern and open control systems into their manufacturing operations. Until now, there have been no open control system products available for companies to buy. The COPA QuickStart system provides the critical first step in helping industrial manufacturers to start learning, proving, and adopting open architecture ICS solutions into their operations.

Don Bartusiak, who is known widely as the “Father of Open Process Automation,” previously served as ExxonMobil’s Chief Engineer for Process Control. He said, “industrial manufacturers have repeatedly told me that if O-PAS Standard aligned systems were available, they would buy them. The COPA QuickStart system is our answer to that challenge.” Dr. Bartusiak’s company, Collaborative Systems Integration (CSI) is the systems integrator for the COPA QuickStart offering.

The COPA QuickStart system is designed to accelerate the innovation efforts of leading industrial manufacturers, allowing them to realize the benefits of open systems sooner. The system includes:

A pre-packaged industrial control system, aligned with the O-PAS Standard and carefully engineered with best-of-breed components from Phoenix Contact, R. Stahl, Nova SMAR, Supermicro, CPLANE.ai, CSI, and CODESYS.

CPLANE.ai’s Fusion management software for seamless automation and orchestration across the entire life-cycle of an industrial control system from startup to operate to evolve. CPLANE.ai Fusion leverages capabilities engineered by Intel and is powered by Intel Edge Controls for Industrial.

The Advanced Computing Platform, built by Supermicro and powered by Intel Xeon D processors installed in a versatile short-depth 1U chassis.

Advanced digital technologies demonstrating the value of new capabilities such as fast-cycle Model Predictive Control, Reinforcement Learning Control, AI, and advanced cybersecurity.

Hands-on training modules allowing engineers and executives to rapidly gain a deeper understanding of the next-generation control systems and the value they can deliver.

“Powered by Intel Atom x6000E series and Intel Pentium and Celeron N and J series processors with the Intel Edge Controls for Industrial software, the COPA QuickStart will help accelerate the adoption of OPAF-based control systems,“ said Richard Kerslake, General Manager of Industrial Controls and Robotics at Intel.

Steve Nunn, CEO and President, The Open Group said: “Through defining and promoting Open Process Automation™, OPAF and COPA are united by a common goal of helping industrial manufacturers accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. The launch of COPA QuickStart coupled with new developments to the O-PAS Standard represents a key milestone in the creation of open, secure, and interoperable architectures, which are critical to the future of industrial process automation systems. We are looking forward to continue working with COPA to address industry challenges and drive progress in process automation.”

“COPA QuickStart is the fruit of many years of collaboration by OPAF and COPA members. It is exciting to see the first, standards based open system become commercially available. Open Process Automation is the future, and we are excited to be a catalyst to accelerate that transformation,” shared Bob Hagenau, CEO, CPLANE.ai

First availability of COPA QuickStart system will be in Q3 of 2021. More information is available at www.copacontrol.org or by contacting CPLANE.ai.

About CPLANE.ai

CPLANE.ai automates the orchestration of distributed edge computing across a diverse landscape of hardware and software components. CPLANE.ai removes the complexity of provisioning, managing, securing, and evolving distributed systems. CPLANE.ai’s intelligent software platform automates the coordination and configuration of policies and procedures across multiple layers of distributed cloud infrastructure.

Announcing a unified vulnerability schema for open source

Open source is a topic that pops up often these days. I have seen this blog from Google’s open source team about some advances in cybersecurity based upon the recent US Executive Order—something that has spurred many news releases, if not a lot of work.

For you security and open source geeks, check out this Blog post for security.googleblog.com,Thursday, June 24 @ 9 AM ET by Authors: Oliver Chang, Google Open Source Security team and Russ Cox, Go team.

In recent months, Google has launched several efforts to strengthen open-source security on multiple fronts. One important focus is improving how we identify and respond to known security vulnerabilities without doing extensive manual work. It is essential to have a precise common data format to triage and remediate security vulnerabilities, particularly when communicating about risks to affected dependencies—it enables easier automation and empowers consumers of open-source software to know when they are impacted and make security fixes as soon as possible.

We released the Open Source Vulnerabilities (OSV) database in February with the goal of automating and improving vulnerability triage for developers and users of open source software. This initial effort was bootstrapped with a dataset of a few thousand vulnerabilities from the OSS-Fuzz project. Implementing OSV to communicate precise vulnerability data for hundreds of critical open-source projects proved the success and utility of the format, and garnered feedback to help us improve the project; for example, we dropped the Cloud API key requirement, making the database even easier to access by more users. The community response also showed that there was broad interest in extending the effort further.

Today, we’re excited to announce a new milestone in expanding OSV to several key open-source ecosystems: GoRustPython, and DWF. This expansion unites and aggregates four important vulnerability databases, giving software developers a better way to track and remediate the security issues that affect them. Our effort also aligns with the recent US Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, which emphasized the need to remove barriers to sharing threat information in order to strengthen national infrastructure. This expanded shared vulnerability database marks an important step toward creating a more secure open-source environment for all users. 

A simple, unified schema for describing vulnerabilities precisely

As with open source development, vulnerability databases in open source follow a distributed model, with many ecosystems and organizations creating their own database. Since each uses their own format to describe vulnerabilities, a client tracking vulnerabilities across multiple databases must handle each completely separately. Sharing of vulnerabilities between databases is also difficult.

The Google Open Source Security team, Go team, and the broader open-source community have been developing a simple vulnerability interchange schema for describing vulnerabilities that’s designed from the beginning for open-source ecosystems. After starting work on the schema a few months ago, we requested public feedback and received hundreds of comments

Check out the blog if interested in contributing.