Industrial internet of things applications help manufacturers better understand their machines and apply predictive maintenance to forgo unexpected downtime. Achieving this easily — and securely — is critical. But machines on the manufacturing floor have a funny way of not talking internet.
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When TRUMPF, a family-owned machine, laser and electronics manufacturer with customer locations across the globe, wanted to bolster its internet of things strategy, it knew the importance of vetting potential solutions for connectivity beyond the local control console.
Headquartered in Ditzingen, Germany, TRUMPF was already using IoT to make data from its machines and laser components available on the IT shop floor. It also used a telepresence portal to enable remote access. However, when it came to sending data back and forth, it needed a better solution.
“We needed a rock-solid and super-secure transport channel from the machine into the customer IT environment and into the cloud,” said Stephan Fischer, head of software development at TRUMPF. “This data transport had to be fully integrated into the IT policies of the customer, irrespective of their size.”
TRUMPF turned to IIoT software provider C-Labs.
“Companies have a desire to get data out of their systems,” said John Traynor, COO of C-Labs. “But it is proving challenging to do that.”
After a “rigorous evaluation period,” TRUMPF adopted C-Labs’ Factory-Relay software, which some may refer to as an IoT gateway, but as Traynor explained, “A gateway is a one-way product; you can’t necessarily get data back the same way.” This relay between the OT and IT networks provides secure access from wherever needed — across the office, multiple sites or the world.
Acting as a secure intermediary, the Factory-Relay software — available as software only or a drop-in ruggedized appliance — sends communications through C-Labs’ cloud node, preventing direct connections with the machines and thereby avoiding potential threats such as replay, telegram injection or data manipulation attacks.
“C-Labs is the only software which we know is a) very flexible and meshable, and b) guarantees the best possible IT security,” said Fischer.
Out of the box, Factory-Relay relies on username/password security; additional authentication including measures including LDAP or AD integrated can be integrated using C-Labs’ open SDK. Communications run through C-Labs’ cloud node, eliminating the need for risky ports.
Since deploying Factory-Relay, Fischer says TRUMPF’s more secure communications has helped drive IIoT initiatives.
“The concept was implemented within our production,” Fischer said. “Here we can show our customers how we are dealing with data transport, leading to a whole new level of enthusiasm of our customers around the industrial internet.”