2020 will be remembered as the year where a microscopic organism called COVID-19 put the whole world against the wall. An extremely contagious virus is forcing governments across the globe to take exceptional measures such as closing shops and other businesses, or forbidding their own citizens to move freely outside.
Most people in the countries where these measures are being applied are aware of the importance of them staying home as a means to avoid the huge escalation of cases and the collapse of the Health System. Hashtags such as #FlattenTheCurve, #StayAtHome or #YoMeQuedoEnCasa in Spain, are reminders on Twitter of our role as citizens to stop the spread of the virus.
The economical consequences of this crisis is difficult to foresee, but it seems there is a consensus that this will hugely impact the commercial activity worldwide. Most companies in the (so far) affected areas are closing their offices and sending their workers home. This is challenging companies’ ability to keep business as usual when all their workforce is working from home.
As a consequence, there is a ‘boom’ in the use of remote tools to communicate and collaborate among colleagues and companies, such as Zoom, Teams, Slack…, specially in the services sectors. In fact the increase is so big that some of these tools are struggling to offer their usual service. But, what happens with the industrial companies? How are they facing this crisis? Are they being able to keep their normal activities? Are they, at least, being able to monitor and control part of their activity remotely?
Remote is the new normal… or it should be
In a situation such as the one we are currently facing with the risk of a virus spreading and collapsing our healthcare systems, companies should be able to send their workers home. However, the lack of tools in the industrial sector so that workers can remotely access, monitor, and maintain their assets and infrastructure is preventing many companies from proceeding in that sense.
Of course companies producing physical products (cars, hardware pieces, appliances…) will suffer a bigger impact as there is part of the job that needs manual intervention that can’t be done remotely. But even in those companies there are many tasks and activities that actually should not require physical access to the factory. Why not reduce the human presence as much as possible so that the really necessary people in those factories can effectively do their job in a safer environment? For instance, everything related with the monitoring of assets, the maintenance of machinery or data gathering can be done using IoT platforms. By digitizing these activities through industrial IoT systems, companies are able to perform them not only remotely but also much more efficiently
It’s in this kind of situation where the power of Industrial IoT truly reveals as a necessary component of every company.
However, there is one thing, an extremely important one, that has to be taken into account: cybersecurity.
Security for your most vulnerable moments
The reason our company is called Barbara is because there is a saying in Spanish “sólo te acuerdas de santa Barbara cuando truena”; it means that we usually tend to forget about things until you desperately need them. This is exactly what happens with cybersecurity.
A situation where most people are working from home and where offices and factories are accessible via the Internet us the perfect setup for a cybercriminal. The main risks of the remote work is the exposure companies have to cyberattacks. What’s more, in a scenario where that situation is global, citizens are much more dependent on the basic services supply, and cybercriminals know that. An attack on power plants on a situation like the current one is simply fatal.
This is why security must be taken seriously. In addition to all sorts of traditional security measures, the exposure of data, devices and systems to the Internet must be carefully done, especially in the industrial sector. You are as secure as your weakest link in the chain, and that link is typically what is closest to the physical world: the devices. Companies digitizing processes and data must use secure solutions to protect themselves and their employees.
Barbara, the secure platform for the Industrial IoT
It’s, again, in situations like the one we’re currently living where solutions such as Barbara makes more sense. Barbara is a software that enables companies to connect industrial devices securely to the Internet. The goal is precisely to help the industrial sector to digitize their processes, data and systems, in a secure way.
It consists of a secure-by-design Operating System for Industrial IoT gateways and a remote device management panel to control them. With those tools, companies can monitor their industrial devices (such as PLCs, inverters, smart meters…) and gather data from them remotely and minimizing the security risks
The arrival of the new COVID-19 is challenging the whole society, the way we interact, the way we work. Now is the perfect time to learn from this, make companies much more efficient and build a stronger foundation of the Industry 4.0. Next time we will be prepared.