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Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 07:09 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
One of the big questions going into the Foxboro & Triconex Global Client Conference ‘13 here in San Antonio is talk about Invensys’ $5.2 billion pending merger with Schneider Electric.

“There has been a lot of talk about this out in the industry and I just want to set the record straight. Schneider made an offer and the Invensys board will recommend the takeover,” said Invensys President and Chief Executive Mike Caliel. “Hopefully, the deal will close by the end of the year or early next year.”

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IT Report: Security Still Lacking

He then said by law, there is quite a bit he cannot say. Right now they are two separate companies and they are operating as such, however, the synergies between the two show great potential to go to market from the discrete and processes angles.

While the discussion of Schneider’s history of takeovers is suspect, Invensys leaders are saying they are seeing very good signs of what the combined company will be able to do.

While a full integration of the two companies can take by estimates 18 months to two years, the thought is for end users, business should pretty much remain the same for a period of time.

Invensys even showed a video from Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Schneider’s chief executive, who said he was happy to learn about the new Evo system and is looking forward to moving forward with Invensys.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 07:09 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Information is coming at automation professionals at greater levels than ever before and believe it or not it could lead to indecision or bad decisions. That indecision can end up leading to greater potential for a safety incident.

That is why the greater the information, that data needs to come across with a higher degree of context so engineers, operators and maintenance workers can make proper decisions in real time, said Mike Caliel, president and chief executive of Invensys during his keynote address at the Foxboro & Triconex Global Client Conference ’13 in San Antonio, TX.

Invensys: Foxboro Evo Integrates Safety
Security Comm Schism with Execs
IT Report: Security Still Lacking
Cyber Alert: Attackers in Driver’s Seat

“Systems today provide exponentially a higher level of data than ever and that may not be helping, Caliel said. “Information overload is becoming more prevalent.”

People, he said, will want to make a decision, but without seeing that data on proper context, workers may end up being slowing in moving or not moving at all and that can lead to problems.

That is where the new Foxboro Evo system comes into play. Invensys launched the system at the conference and it is their next step to giving more context and value to manufacturing automation users.

“We believe the speed of business technology will continue to increase,” said Peter Martin, Invensys vice president business value solutions who also spoke during the opening session at the conference. “We believe safety and cyber security will continue to be in demand. With fewer people working in industrial plants, each person will need to work with increased productivity.

Through a video message, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Schneider’s chief executive, said he was happy to learn about the new Evo system and is looking forward to moving forward with Invensys.

Monday, October 22, 2012 @ 06:10 PM gHale

By Gregory Hale
Good safety isn’t just about good products and technology, it also involves getting data to the right people in the proper context so they can make the right decisions.

“This business is always changing,” said Gary Freburger, president of Invensys Operations Management’s systems business during his keynote address Monday at the 2012 Americas Triconex Technical Conference in Galveston, TX. “The rate of change is much more aggressive than it has been 20, 10 and even 5 years ago. We don’t change very quickly. We have to support systems that are 25 to 40 years old. That is challenging and an opportunity at the same time.”

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Invensys: Security Plan in Action

Part of today’s view of safety is much different than it was in the past, Freburger said. “There is functional safety, process safety and occupational safety. Safety today really means all three of these things.”

All the data that is flowing into systems today makes it much more difficult for operators to understand what is truly going on. While this data overload is a problem, there are solutions.

“Software development is going to be more relevant,” said Rick Morse, vice president for the Control and Safety Solutions business at Invensys. “It will have the context of what is going on. Integrated context will give you an idea of what you should be looking at.”

“There is a lot of change in the industry to real time critical control,” Morse said. “There are different ways to do things. The devices on the plant floor today are just as powerful as the technology for the moon shot.”

To catch up on the new advances and boost productivity and safety, the catch is people have to be willing to change the way they do things and approach their jobs.

“Change is not comfortable word for this industry,” Morse said.

He added Invensys was making changes in their approach on how they approach the market.

“We are not changing the basics,” Morse said. “We are talking about adding stuff that allows you to get more out of your technology. We are also changing internally to get better synergy among product groups.”

One of the ways they feel they have to go is to take the complicated processes and make things as simple as possible.

“We have very sophisticated products, which means we have to send an engineer out to help with technical issues,” Morse said. “We have to simplify. If we have to send an engineer out to help, we have missed out on something. We need to simplify and streamline all processes throughout the workflow.”

“The commitment to be thoroughly current is important,” Freburger said. “We have some customers that have technology that is 20 to 30 years old and they say it works and whatever we add to it just has to plug in.”

Another area that has a huge safety concern is the aging workforce that has the potential to lose a good share of its knowledge base in the next few years. Freburger said Invensys is looking at ways to capture knowledge to help keep plants up and running.

Part of the change is showing where and what the company will be doing in the future. That is where Michael Chmilewski, vice president, control at Invensys comes in.

He showed a fairly detailed 10-year roadmap for Triconex hitting some of the highlights like wireless peer-to-peer, process safety management, virtualization, and security.

“We have to be vigilant and provide the tightest security as possible,” Chmilewski said.

“The shift is from being reactive to proactive for safety,” Chmilewski said. “You have to look at the current performance and reporting and making sure you know what will happen.”

In the end, whether it is safety or process control, it always comes back to communication.

“We need feedback. We need to listen and learn. There are areas where we haven’t done as good a job, but we are getting better. We have to ask ‘what is it we can do to help you be successful?’ ” Freburger said. “We have the commitment to be continually current.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 @ 03:03 PM gHale

Framesniffing isn’t a typical cyber attack; it doesn’t seek to deposit a Trojan or rootkit on the target computer.

Rather, it simply harvests private data that can see use for different purposes like building a detailed personality profile for a potential spear-phishing target, or to determine the likelihood of a potential merger or acquisition.

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LinkedIn, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer all fall into the trap, although a patch on Firefox last year prevents framesniffing, said researchers at security consulting firm Context.

The technique bypasses web browsers’ iFrame security defenses by using HTML anchors to determine the presence or absence of specific data on a target Sharepoint server. All the attacker needs is the Sharepoint URL.

“Using Framesniffing, it’s possible for a malicious webpage to run search queries for potentially sensitive terms on a SharePoint server and determine how many results are found for each query,” said Paul Stone, a senior security consultant at Context. “For example, with a given company name it is possible to establish who their customers or partners are; and once this information has been found, the attacker can go on to perform increasingly complex searches and uncover valuable commercial information.”

Context reported its findings to Microsoft and LinkedIn. Microsoft replied, “We have concluded our investigation and determined this is by-design in current versions of SharePoint. We are working to set the X-Frame options in the next version of SharePoint.” LinkedIn has not yet responded.

“We encourage other browser vendors [Firefox is already protected] to apply similar protection to their browsers,” Stone said, “but in the meantime the onus is on individual websites to add framing protection via X-Frame-Options.” This is simply a matter of adding the X-Frame-Options header – and the Context analysis provides a guide on how to do this.

Thursday, April 7, 2011 @ 09:04 AM gHale

The data hitting the plant floor every day continues to rise, but the idea of what all that information means still remains a mystery. Operators need that data put in context, especially in a safety environment.

That is where Machu Picchu comes into play as ACM Automation Inc. and Invensys Operations Management inked an exclusive deal to bring a process safety support solution to market. Invensys will now offer ACM Facility Safety’s process safety decision-support software, Machu Picchu, to the global process industry.

Despite all the moves toward safety, “the incident rate in process safety continues to increase,” said Steve Elliott, environment & safety excellence principal for Invensys. “We want to help our clients become better in terms of operational safety management.”

Designed to work with a plant’s process automation, control and safety systems, the Machu Picchu decision-support tool provides visibility into process risks, as well as contingency plans and detailed instructions on how to address abnormal situations.

Designed to work with a plant’s process automation, control and safety systems, the Machu Picchu decision-support tool provides visibility into process risks, as well as contingency plans and detailed instructions on how to address abnormal situations.

The whole idea is to capture safety information early on in the design phase and then when the user gets to operations and maintenance, they will have help in maintaining decision making, Elliott said.

“ACM takes data from HazOps, adds its own expert knowledge, and puts it into the HMI. When an event or trigger happens, it takes the information and contextualizes it and then gives the possible consequences,” Elliott said. “It looks at the safeguards taken out of service and looks at the consequences.”

In a safety situation, data is coming at operators in all directions, and sometimes they can become overwhelmed with the information.

“Part of it is having the right contextual impacts and understanding the consequences,” Elliott said. “There is no shortage of data. The challenge is putting it in context for better decision making. This helps people understand what the consequences are in the decision making before they say yes or no.”

This tool does not replace alarm management at all, said Constantine Lau, global marketing director at Invensys. “We are providing additional value to the system by giving a complete holistic view of things.”

The tool is able to give guidance to mitigate and minimize the process risk. Additionally, it can capture enough knowledge to enlighten newer workers coming on board after the Boomers start the retirement phase. It will build all the experienced workers knowledge into the system for all to work with.

This new tool should enhance Invensys’ Triconex safety software.

Machu Picchu provides visibility into process risks and combines expert knowledge of the plant’s risk parameters, diagnostic alarms and historical operator observations to monitor the integrity of all safeguards it then calculates the level of risk caused by a deviation and provides operators a set of pre-engineered contingency plans or detailed instructions on how to address abnormal situations.

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