Securing Remote Operations

Thursday, December 1, 2011 @ 08:12 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
When you want to talk about Remote Operations Management, and it seems more and more people want to have that discussion these days, then you had better make sure the solution is secure.

That is where the Fieldbus Foundation comes in as they have a secure solution that incorporates all their offerings from wired and wireless high speed Ethernet and wired and wireless sensor networks.

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“With the use of SCADA systems being susceptible to hacking, remote operations management is vulnerable to security issues,” said Larry O’Brien, Fieldbus Foundation marketing manager during the Foundation for Remote Operations Management Media Day in Houston, TX, Thursday. Not only is there a cyber component to ensuring a secure remote application, but there is also the physical security and safety aspect that plays into the situation also.

“The process must keep running safely in the event of a loss of communication,” O’Brien said.

Fieldbus’ remote operations management allows for greater diagnostic information to relay from all types of wired or wireless devices back through to the system. It is all about getting as much information as possible from the scene, relaying it back via high speed Ethernet and putting it in the proper context which then turns it into useful information for the manufacturer.

Traditionally, process control engineers would rely in historians. “They collected historical data and would then make decisions on that historical data,” O’Brien said.

Today, however, manufacturers can’t rely in historical data to make decisions. They need real time information to make informed and quick decisions.

“We are looking for natural resources in areas that are very hostile; subsea, arctic, pipeline projects,” O’Brien said. “We are transporting things further than we ever have and this is presenting a challenge to the traditional process automation environment.”

In addition, there is the “human resources challenge. We have a workforce crunch and we don’t have the people to go out and check on systems.”

Manufacturers today already bring in as much data from devices, but the systems are “cobbled” together, O’Brien said. With this system, “we are bringing in all the information. It is kind of collapsing everything into a single architecture.”

In terms of security for the specifications, the Foundation was able to set up a secure backhaul tunnel to keep data secure.

“To get the data from one section of devices to another section we were able to securely set up tunnels and firewalls,” said Dave Glanzer, director of technology development at the Fieldbus Foundation.

“The backhaul effort is strategic,” said Herman Storey, chief technology officer at Herman Storey Consulting LLC. “Backhaul reduces risk and maximizes opportunities through standards. We want a digital umbrella that can cover our facilities whether they are in the plant or out in a remote area. When you get into remote areas, this is a whole new ball game.”



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