Why energy control room operators should travel back in time: Substation control with the energy time machine

When Britain’s energy infrastructure was first established, no one could have anticipated the increased demand for power that the future would bring. To measure the performance of today’s energy supply, power distributors largely rely on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software to gather insights from each substation.

Substations generate a plethora of data, from information on energy effectiveness to the lifespan and performance of machinery inside the facility. However, the majority are unmanned. Therefore, when power supply companies identify an anomaly in data, they will send a maintenance engineer to export and analyse the information manually. However, without witnessing an error occurring in real-time, pinpointing the cause of a problem in a substation can be tedious and time-consuming, says Jürgen Resch, industry manager for energy at COPA-DATA.

Travelling back in time

Hiring an engineer to supervise the substation full-time is not a feasible option. As an alternative, energy distributors should invest in substation automation software with process recording capabilities. Process recording can serve as a time machine for maintenance engineers, allowing the software to automatically record every process that occurs in the substation. Maintenance engineers can then replay the processes at a future date.

COPA-DATA’s industrial automation software, zenon, includes a Process Recorder module designed for this purpose. The module can help engineers identify errors in data and provide diagnostics. As standard, the module continuously records all processes and saves the recordings automatically. The recorded data can then be played back in detail in zenon’s simulation mode — in a similar format to a standard media player.

In an ideal environment, process recording would be provided as standard with any SCADA or automation software used in substations. Using process recording, maintenance engineers can review every single process in the substation. Therefore, when attempting to identify an anomaly in data, engineers can use the recordings to isolate the exact moment the problem occurred.

Consider this: an energy supplier has spotted an irregularity in the data from one of its substations. Using zenon’s Process Recorder, an engineer can replay the process in which the irregularity occurred. Let’s say that the process recording software determined that the change in data coincided with a power surge in the substation. With this knowledge, the engineer can investigate the problem with a more informed approach.

Jürgen Resch

In this instance, the engineer can find the cause of the power surge. For example, a piece of operational machinery overheating would cause the cooling fan to kick in unexpectedly, creating a spike in power. Considering the ageing equipment in some substations, this wouldn’t be an unlikely occurrence. With this insight, the engineer can provide necessary maintenance to the equipment before the problem escalates, potentially preventing the machinery from failing completely in the future.

Since it was first established in the late 1800s, Britain’s energy network has endured rapid industrialisation and a colossal rise in the nation’s demands for power. The infrastructure may be ageing, but new technologies are available to ensure that the existing network can cope with new challenges.

Energy distributors have already invested in SCADA software to better […]

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How To Look Back To The Future Of Cybersecurity

As if to cap off an already eventful National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—and perhaps proving that there is no honor among thieves—a hacker breached a forum for hackers last week, and is ransoming fellow cyber-attackers’ user data for $ 50,000. And there certainly seems to be plenty of occasions to increase our awareness of cybersecurity issues.

About 1.9 billion data records got exposed in the 918 data breaches that occurred in the first half of 2017—up 164 percent from the last half of 2016—according to a digital security firm’s study. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning last week about the Bad Rabbit ransomware, which is disrupting government, hospital and other systems internationally. And cybersecurity researchers confirmed last week that an enormous botnet has already infected more than one million organizations—and is on the verge of unleashing “the next cyber-hurricane.”

It’s crucial that we learn from these attacks. And—just as some are using high-tech for cyberattacks—others are using blockchain, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology to improve cybersecurity.

Blockchain, AI, and IoT to the rescue

With so many cyberattacks targeting centralized services, blockchain’s decentralized technology offers cyber-defenses from many types of attacks, according to PC Magazine last week. Among the benefits are blockchain’s transparency and distributed nature, which eliminate the single failure points that many hackers prey upon. But …

“The best defense [organizations] have is the same thing that makes them such an appealing target for hackers: a mountain of data,” PC Magazine stated in a different story last week. “By using machine learning algorithms and other artificial intelligence techniques to identify data patterns, vulnerable user behaviors and predictive security trends, companies are mining and analyzing the wealth of data at their disposal to hopefully stop the next breach from happening.”

However, networks and Internet of Things sensors will still require cybersecurity technology, VentureBeat stated this month. Unsecured devices can be terrible liabilities, so organizations should earnestly evaluate the opportunities and vulnerabilities offered by AI and IoT—and ensure that all users are well trained.

Build a tech-savvy phalanx

Technical savvy helps employees across the organization better understand their work environment and, as a result, operate more securely, according to SmartBrief last week. This will only get more important, as data analytics is increasingly crucial to business success—and as workflow automation continues to get cheaper.

And making rules isn’t enough. For example, in healthcare, HIPAA regulations require that organizations train their workers to maintain patient privacy—and punish those who violate policies and procedures. But employee security awareness is the top healthcare data security concern for 80 percent of health IT executives, according to a 2017 healthcare security study.

“Build a culture of cybersecurity among your executive and physician leaders,” Theresa Meadows, CHCIO, Senior VP and CIO of Cook Children’s Health Care System, stated last month. “Educate them about the threats, myths and importance of good cyber hygiene … they can champion the cause among their peers and staff and get them to buy into safety processes.”

Of course, cybersecurity cultures don’t sprout up overnight.

Learning our lessons

Chief information security officers face the increasingly difficult job of convincing their c-suites that cybersecurity expenditures are worth the big bucks, according to Government Computer News this month. CISOs can use their organizations wealth of data to frame cybersecurity in terms that managers and executives can understand, such as managing risk, business continuity and regulatory compliance.

In short, it’s about taking a step back and learning lessons from the big picture.

“We are so overwhelmed with present security concerns that we don’t have the ability to look into the future — or we hesitate to second guess what cybercriminals might end up doing,” IT Business Edge stated last week. “It’s up to us to recognize what we’ve seen in the past in order to rethink our security solutions of the future.”

And last week’s hacking of the hackers’ forum—as well as other events from this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—have given us plenty of source material to learn from.

This story originally appeared on SAP’s Business Trends. Follow me on Twitter@DKlobucher


Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

Internet of Things: Sony’s Aibo is back and Chamberlain’s CEO explains its moves

Want the Sony Aibo? Better have a big bank account.

On this week’s Internet of Things Podcast, Stacey Higginbotham interviews Chamberlain CEO JoAnna Sohovich about the company’s decision to start charging for integrations with its MyQ product. The discuss what the future of smart home subscriptions will hold.

Stacey and co-host Kevin Tofel also talk about the rebirth of Sony’s Aibo robotic puppy, San Diego’s smart city efforts, the Apple HomePod, and Ayla’s series D funding. Get first thoughts from the Amazon Echo Plus with ZigBee and Alexa’s new smart home interface. Also dig into Mozilla’s smart home data. Finally, which companies have released updates to deal with KRACK?

Listen now:

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

A lack of awareness of IoT is holding back its adoption more than technology issues

Tom Rebbeck, Analysis Mason

Tom Rebbeck, Research Director at Analysys Mason, comments the results of the Enterprise survey conducted by AM in February 20171.

Despite all the attention that IoT has received across multiple industry verticals, a significant percentage of enterprises have either not heard of IoT (29% of SMEs, 18% of large enterprises) or have no interest in adopting it (23% of all enterprises).1

More work is required by solutions providers to explain to enterprises what IoT is and why it should be implemented. This is especially important for smaller enterprises. This article discusses some of our enterprise survey results in more detail to highlight the significance of the market opportunity for IoT solutions providers.

The number of SMEs that are unaware of IoT – or have no interest in it – is four times greater than those with operational solutions

It may be incorrect to assume that the take-up of IoT is being held back by competing technology standards, an uncertain business case or security concerns: enterprises would need to have explored IoT to understand any of these issues. Indeed, IoT may be restrained by a more basic problem of awareness. There is a positive message to take from this: there is still a massive, untapped market for IoT solutions providers that get their product and messaging right.

In our survey of 1600 IT and telecoms decision makers in enterprises worldwide, we asked whether they had heard of IoT and, if so, whether they had any plans to deploy IoT solutions. The results revealed that a small percentage of firms already had an operational solution: 12% of SMEs and 18% of large enterprises (see Figure 1). More striking, though, is the share of enterprises that was unaware of IoT or not interested in it: combined, this group of respondents was made up 52% of SMEs and over 40% of large enterprises.

One of the assumptions behind the large forecast numbers for IoT, including Analysys Mason’s own forecasts, is that most companies or sectors will have some use for IoT solutions. However, while this may prove to be accurate in the long term, this perception is not shared by most enterprise firms today.

Figure 1: Percentage of enterprises at each stage of IoT development, 20172

Analysys Mason chart: percentage of enterprises at each stage of IoT development

Also notable from these results is the stark difference between large and small enterprises, both in terms of the share of firms with operational solutions, as well as those that are interested in IoT (27% of large enterprises and just 15% of SMEs).

Much of this can be explained simply by size – large enterprises have more projects (of all types) than SMEs and will therefore be more likely to have an IoT project. Large enterprises may also have more resources to explore new areas and ideas such as IoT. Conversely, SMEs may not be willing or able to commit resources to IoT projects, especially if they are experimental and come with uncertain returns.

For organisations that are hoping to sell IoT solutions, these results suggest that there is an untapped opportunity to provide IoT solutions to the lower end of the market (assuming that IoT is equally applicable to small, as well as large, organisations). However, few companies have the necessary skills to sell, deploy and support IoT solutions for the majority of SMEs and there is a lack of ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions that address the needs of these organisations.

China is behind in adoption today, but may catch up quickly

Our survey has revealed significant regional variation in the levels of interest in, and adoption of, IoT solutions.

The USA has the highest levels of adoption of IoT solutions. It is likely to maintain this position as a large share of enterprises that have not yet deployed solutions are interested in doing so (20% of SMEs and 30% of large enterprises).

Western European enterprises are more likely than Chinese firms to have an operational IoT solution in place, but Chinese companies are expressing a strong interest in IoT and may well close this regional gap. In Western Europe, the difference between the results for SMEs and large enterprises is also greater than elsewhere, possibly because IoT providers are focusing most of their attention on large enterprises.

The interest in IoT suggests that Chinese providers, including mobile operators, are doing a better job of raising awareness of IoT than those in Europe.

Figure 2: Percentage of enterprises with operational IoT solutions, by country/region, 2017

Analysys Mason chart: percentage of enterprises with operational IoT solutions

Overcoming a lack of awareness in IoT is more important than technology issues

For telecoms operators, or any other provider trying to sell IoT solutions, these figures should act as another reminder that IoT is still in its very early phases. Any IoT plan will need to have long time horizons. It is also a reminder that the technical issues facing IoT – in terms of standards and security – are secondary to the more-basic issue of helping enterprises to understand the potential benefits of IoT.

The results also mean that, for a provider that gets its product and marketing right, there is a significant market that remains largely unaddressed.

1 In February 2017, Analysys Mason interviewed 1600 enterprises across eight countries (Australia, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, UAE, UK and the USA) about their usage, providers and satisfactions levels of various telecoms and ICT products. For more information, see Analysys Mason’s Enterprise survey 2017: enterprise interest in, and adoption of, IoT.
2 Question: “Which of the following applies to your business when it comes to the Internet of Things?”; n = 1091 SMEs less than 250 employees), 509 large enterprises (greater than 249 employees), (1600 enterprises in total).

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IoT Business News

Communications coming full circle – are we moving back into a voice-first world?

With the wave of personal assistants, such as Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant, and new start-ups leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to build personal companions, it’s becoming clear we are moving toward a new voice-controlled relationship with technology. As we have already seen in the consumer market, it is all but a given that […]

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