Honeywell Users Hear About Security, Technology

When the 36th iteration of the Honeywell User Group (HUG) Conference kicked off in Phoenix in June, it had more than 1,000 people in attendance. This is up significantly over the past couple of years—getting back to 2007 levels—and Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell was there.

When the 36th iteration of the Honeywell User Group (HUG) Conference kicked off in Phoenix in June, it had more than 1,000 people in attendance. This is up significantly over the past couple of years—getting back to 2007 levels—and Automation World Editor in Chief Gary Mintchell was there. He reports that Honeywell Process Systems (HPS, www.honeywell.com/ps) President Norm Gilsdorf began by talking about being in the “business transformation” business.

In a later private interview, Gilsdorf said that he meant that HPS and its customers are moving beyond solutions to genuinely transforming their businesses. To that end, he announced a reorganization at the top of HPS that will bring all the recent acquisitions into relevant groups with existing businesses and focus them on this transformative vision.

Says Mintchell, “One of the interesting points was when I asked about field devices—since that is one of the new groups. He admitted that with all the focus on acquisitions, investments in basic field instrumentation and devices had lagged, and said remedying this will be a focus this year.”

Gilsdorf’s four themes in his keynote were globalization, integration, collaboration and regulation. HPS is working with many partners including Microsoft and IBM, as well as other Honeywell divisions, to provide solutions more tightly coupled to the enterprise.

Jason Urso, HPS chief technology officer, gave his usual fast-paced and polished presentation. HPS has a lot of new technology and products in the pipeline that will come out later this year or into 2012. “One that Urso called ‘game changing’ three times in his presentation is a gas detector that, combined with wireless communication, is worn by plant personnel. It can send a signal if dangerous gases are in the area,” says Mintchell. “In fact, much of the wireless discussion was about plant personnel locators and mobile operators.”

Security certification

Another attendee and speaker at the conference was cyber security expert and blogger Eric Byres. In a post to his Tofino blog (www.tofinosecurity.com/blog), he said the biggest security news of the week was hidden in Urso’s talk. “Jason simply announced that the Honeywell Safety Manager (a Safety Integrated System or SIS control system) achieved ISA Security Compliance Institute (ISCI) ISA Secure Level 1 certification.”

So what’s the big deal? Haven’t other PLCs, SIS and DCS products also been security-certified through programs like Achilles Level I testing? “The fact is,” says Byres, “obtaining ISASecure Level I certification is significantly more difficult than passing a Communications Robustness Test (CRT) like Achilles Level I (or II or III). ISASecure certification is based on a security validation process that is an order of magnitude more rigorous. It indicates a far higher level of security in both the product and its intended use. For ICS and SCADA equipment end users, understanding the difference is important. It may mean the difference between buying a product riddled with vulnerabilities and buying a product that was designed to be secure.”

Honeywell Process Systems (HPS, www.honeywell.com/ps)

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