A Matter of Trust: Automation Data Within the Cloud

Feb. 11, 2013
With globally distributed production facilities, machine and production data from all factories need to be consolidated and evaluated, and operating figures need to be illustrated. This can be implemented easily with a centralized cloud solution. But some still have reservations.

Mobility is advancing in all parts of life, including mechanical engineering and automation technology. For certain technological developments, we are able to foresee their subsequent dominance very early on. This applies to cloud computing as well.

It’s become apparent in the last few years already that remaining unaffected by the move towards cloud computing is pretty hard. Whereas, until a few years ago, people were very conscious of what and how they shared on the Internet, attitudes have changed greatly today. Most people synchronizing their calendars and addresses from smartphones, tablets or PCs via iCloud or Google don’t really worry about data security.

I still remember the efforts you had to go through a few years ago just to provide data directly to a target audience via FTP servers. Nowadays, we know that banks conduct their business online and major industry enterprises entrust all their construction data to the cloud.

Trend towards cloud computing
At the 2012 SPS IPC Drives fair in Nuremberg, Frost & Sullivan showcased its “Industrial Map 2.0,” identifying product innovation, collaboration and process optimization as the three most important factors for the future of industry. In regards to functional or technological considerations, the following were considered important:
• Wireless intelligence;
• Distributed production;
• Collaborative IT solutions;
• Integrated Enterprise Ecosystem (ERP, PLM, MES); and Smart Cloud.

The key factors, according to Frost & Sullivan, are integration and seamless interaction of all disciplines. Whenever the interaction extends beyond a local site, cloud computing enters the game.

Looking at the products and services offered by many companies, what stands out is what Frost & Sullivan referred to as “Smart Cloud.” With globally distributed production facilities, for example, machine and production data from all factories need to be consolidated and evaluated, and operating figures need to be illustrated. This can be implemented easily with a centralized cloud solution, ensuring that the information is available up-to-date at any time to a specific circle of persons. Such architectures lend themselves well to areas of remote monitoring and condition monitoring, too.

Security gains in importance
To be perfectly honest, I still have some reservations in regards to uploading all my personal data to the cloud via Dropbox or SugarSync. Not that it wouldn’t be convenient—I travel a lot and being able to access my data from anywhere, even without my notebook, does seem alluring. But in the corporate sector, you have companies specializing in secure data management within the cloud. For me it’s just a matter of trust.

In general, we like to take banks and major corporate enterprises as examples of secure online data saving and transferring. On the other hand, the U.S. government considers cyber crime as one of the most dangerous future threats there is. Hence, my reservations.

One thing is certain, though: Independent of how much data we upload into the cloud, IT security will gain hugely in importance—in automation technology as well.

>> Martin Buchwitz, [email protected], is Editor in Chief of SPS-Magazin in Germany.

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