ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending April 24

The Game has Been Changed

Data isn’t meant only for scientists and analysts. Recently, athletic performance has been measured through data analysis, according to an article in The Guardian.


Photo courtesy Chilli Head

It’s possible to now track players’ speed and agility and touches of the ball, which can make a huge impact on athletic growth.

But that’s not all- the data side of sports can also affect the business side, as well.

“The good news is, managers and fans alike appear to be addicted to data. So, the opportunity to collect more will inevitably make sports more compelling for fans and attract larger audiences. The opportunities for brands, if they can get the fit right, is enormous,” according to the article.

Eventually, it can even mean a more exciting and engaging experience for the viewer.

“As Professor Steve Haake, director of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University, says: ‘Sport has adopted technology rapidly over the last ten years, collecting data to improve athletic performance. Now, professional clubs have realised that this data is valuable in other ways too, to make the match-day experience more exciting and to reach those at home, not even at the game. This is the current revolution in sport,'” quoted in The Guardian article.

Mobile Trends of 2015

What does “going online” or “browsing online” mean to you? Do you conjure up an image of accessing a PC or a laptop? Or do you see yourself pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to access the web?


Photo courtesy Jake Stimpson

According to a recent report done by Pew Research, that seems to be the reality these days.

Nearly two-thirds of all Americans now own a smartphone, up 35% from 2011.

The report revealed that mobile browsing is actually a crucial connection to the web, as 10% of Americans now use smartphones as the sole avenue to go online. These individuals choose to not have access to the Internet in any other manner.

And as many probably expected, the age bracket of 18-29 rely heavily on mobile browsing.

What are we looking up when we use our smartphones?

  • 62% use their smartphones to look up health-related conditions or ailments
  • 57% do online banking
  • 44% are interested in real estate or places to live
  • 43% look up information related to a job (18% actually submit a job application with their smartphone!)

 Read the full report here. 

Getting Digital in the Grocery Aisle

Phys.Org recently shared how start-ups are beginning to make appearances in the food industry.


Photo courtesy USDA

The app, Fetch Rewards, allows grocery shoppers to gain savings and loyalty points while shopping. The app even gives valuable data to both the grocer and the product manufacturers.

“As he makes his way through the store, Hansen, 65, scans bar codes from milk, cheese, mushrooms and other items as he puts them into his cart. The app keeps a running total of his selections, automatically applies discounts and allows him to speed through a special check-out line. ‘I just hate the electronics, but the money savings I like,’ Hansen said, ” in the phys.org post.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-04-startups-digital-technology-grocery-aisles.html#jCp

Keeping the Glass Half-Full

According to GE Reports, water scarcity is becoming a hot issue once again. Droughts like in California and in Texas prompt the need to possibly begin rationing water.


Photo courtesy jenny downing

Unfortunately, lack of water is a problem faced by many countries. GE reports that a study done by the U.N. found that  two-thirds of the world’s population could be vulnerable to water shortages and 1.8 billion people would be living in “countries or regions with absolute water scarcity” by 2025.


[su_quote]In Algiers, the capital of Algeria, residents could not depend on having enough water in their pipes to fill up their teapots for decades. But in 2008, the North African country built the continent’s largest desalination plant and tapped a huge body of water located on its doorstep: the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the plant, located in the central Hamma neighborhood, is using GE technology to supply the city with 53 million gallons of drinking water every day. That’s enough to satisfy one quarter of Algiers’ daily usage.[/su_quote]

Read the rest of the report by GE. 


Media we link to:

“A whole new ball game: how data and tech are changing sport” – The Guardian

U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015″ Pew Research 

Startups put digital technology in the grocery aisles” – Phys.org

“A Glass Half Full: These Water Treatment Technologies Are So Powerful They Can Fight Drought in the Desert” – GE Reports 


What the Klingon Empire Can Teach Us About Cyber Security

After talking with customers, it’s become all too clear: the enemy is just outside the gates, threatening to attack and break down the walls.

The firewalls, that is.

Cyber-attacks, malware, Trojans, and other types of digital intrusions are keeping our security staff up at night. High profile attacks involving sensitive information like the breaches within Community Health Systems and retail giant, Target, are putting your customers on edge, too.

I would guess that many of you wish that you could use a cloaking technology similar to what the Klingon Bird of Prey utilized in Star Trek.

After all, you can’t hack what you can’t see.cyber195

What holds true for the crew of the USS Star Ship Enterprise also translates to cyber security.

And while we haven’t captured all the secrets of the Klingons, we can certainly help safeguard your critical infrastructure- whether it’s within miles of pipelines, pumps within a critical water facility, or even a hospital.

In most critical infrastructure environments like water, oil and gas, and manufacturing, you are dealing with remote, unmanned assets that are vulnerable, out in the open, and ready to be hacked and comprised.

Our Klingon Bird of Prey solution helps customers cloak their infrastructure, segment their network, preserve legacy investments, easily add or revoke contractor/employee access, and troubleshoot and optimize their network.

This isn’t science fiction – it’s happening right now.

A recent 2014-2015 Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) Monitor Report for the U.S. showed that the energy sector led all others again in 2014 with the largest amount of incidents, followed by critical manufacturing, and water/wastewater sectors.

Incidents included SQL injection, spear phishing, abuse of access authority, networking scanning or probing and the startling majority was described as having an “unknown” access vector.

This report is useful for detailing the incidents occurring in the United States, but if you think the U.S. is alone in an increase of cyber-attacks, think again.

A 2014 study showed that cyber-attacks have hit 36% of Canadian businesses, and over one-third of Canada’s IT professionals know for sure that they have had a significant data breach over the past year. While 56% of respondents said that they believed that threats do fall through cracks, unnoticed at times.

This isn’t science fiction- it’s happening right now.

IT World Canada even reports that Ottawa plans to spend as much as $100 million to protect its computer systems against cyber-attacks. A contingency plan that more organizations are beginning to adopt.

The list of statistics and studies go on, but the point is, your city or organization is more vulnerable to cyber threats than you might think.

So, how can organizations do more to prepare long-term for possible cyber threats?

Cloak Your Critical Infrastructure so Devices Can Only Be Seen by Trusted Peers

Modern cyber-security solutions let you ‘cloak’ your devices and critical infrastructure.carsImportant

Rather than placing trust in spoofable IP and MAC addresses, today’s security appliances base trust management on baked-in, hardened cryptographic identities.

Communications between protected devices are only acknowledged if they come from devices with explicitly trusted cryptographic identities. For example, if an attacker were to gain access to your shared network and attempt to ping a device behind a tough security device, like those offered by Gray Matter Systems, that ping would not be acknowledged.

Segment Networks into Smaller, More Manageable Networks (That are More Robust and Secure)

Unlike traditional firewalls and VLANs, today’s cyber security solutions go above and beyond segregating and inspecting communications and adds availability, integrity, and confidentiality (encryption) protection as critical data and information traverse the control systems network.

Gray Matter’s approach on this lets organizations create secure, encrypted channels to isolate connectivity to and between production facilities and critical infrastructure, aligning with the ISA99/IEC62443 zones and conduits model.

Strengthening security by segmenting your flat network into smaller private networks is facilitated in a single-pane-of-glass management console.

Securely Extend Your Network to Any Remote Location

Connectivity at remote locations is often in the form of an untrusted network (customer, third party, the internet) or perhaps connectivity does not exist at all.

Gray Matter Systems can help you efficiently and securely extend your existing network to new and remote locations. Using the modern security appliances, you can securely leverage 3rd party and untrusted networks to connect your devices to your users and enterprise systems.

Pick a Solution that Integrates with Your Existing Devices and Infrastructure for Defense-in-Depth Security

Today’s cyber security landscape requires a solution that can be easily integrated with your existing IT security and network infrastructure, as well as partner networks, including any mix of wired Ethernet, WiFi, cellular or SatCom networks.

It’s vital to have a solution that allows you to continue to leverage your existing IT infrastructure and security solutions (including VLANs, VPNs and FWs) that connect legacy devices, users, and enterprise systems – without exposing device communications or being dependent upon complex IT configurations.

No network configuration changes are required to add a layer of hardened, resilient security to existing and new operations environments. Once Gray Matter’s solutions are deployed, there is no visibility of legacy devices (i.e. no configuration footprint) from outside the private network.

Implement Highly Constrained Remote Access That is Simple to Grant and Revoke

Network access is required for maintaining devices and a resilient network. This means you need to grant remote access to employees, contractors and vendors, which creates another security vulnerability.

Networks are often designed and implemented as flat, trusted networks with external access mediated through a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Remote access all too often grants access to all devices on the network and is often left granted for extended periods of time.

Our solution facilitates highly constrained remote access for your staff, contractors and vendors that can be granted and revoked in just minutes–without the risk of breaking the underlying network.

Increase Visibility into Network Traffic to Enable Diagnostics, Debugging and Performance Optimization

 Troubleshooting problems on ICS networks can be a challenge, especially as the scale and complexity of the network increases. Furthermore, there is often a lack of complete documentation for existing configurations, which can be problematic when changes need to be made or problems arise. In modern networks, a powerful tool available to network operators is the Switched Port Analyzer (SPAN) port, which is used to passively capture traffic flowing through a specific location within the network infrastructure.

If you want to gain deeper insight into what cyber security solutions are available to you, check out this Industrial Cyber Security Webinar available to watch on-demand.

Watch On-Demand


ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending April 17

Journos Need Secure Passwords, Too


Photo Matt Buchanan

With the increasing media coverage on the importance of cyber security, those who work in the media should also consider the impact.

In an article published by the BBC, it’s suggested that words in passwords should not exist in the dictionary, and dates should not be important or relevant.

In fact, the author suggests taking a long quote or phrase and using the  initial letters of each word.

Take the quote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. 

The password would look like:


Of course, this is after adding some “rare” characters.

Fitting Millennials into Tech Careers

Executive Career Coach, Jeff Snyder offered his opinion on what millennials can bring to the technology and cyber security careers table for Security Recruiter. 

According to Snyder, millennials are

  • Smart, teachable & hungry for more

Snyder said millennials seek coaching for resumes, personal branding, and general career guidance from him frequently, which shows a hunger to learn more.

  • They want your jobs

Basically, Snyder asserts that these young folks want to take on more, and eventually be in leadership positions.

 President Obama Approves Sanctions on Cyber Criminals


USA Today reported recently of President Obama’s authorization of new sanctions that would penalize cyber criminals that “engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities” and undermines U.S. security and financial stability.

Specifically, cyber attacks that harm critical infrastructure, or impact trade secrets and personal financial information.

“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the United States, and my Administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront them,” Obama said in a written statement announcing the new sanctions regime.

Healthcare Providers Using Wearable Technology

We’ve read about wearable technology and seen what can be accomplished. But can they impact someone’s life?


Photo courtesy NEC Corp of America

In an article and study by Technology Advice, researchers found that while some individuals lose interest in their Fitbits or Apple Watchs, they would be interested in the technology if it was suggested by their healthcare provider, or even could lower health insurance premiums.

The next step for healthcare providers would be to solve the challenges related to data in Electronic Health Records (EHR)s.

After all, the article also shared that there are currently tens of thousands of these apps and devices- a statistic that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says  will grow by 25 percent a year. And by 2018, 1.7 billion people worldwide will download a health app.

 This Just In: Big Data Trends

Big Data News boasts 13 trends that the data science field can expect to see.

  • The rise of data plumbing along with data plumbers, system architects & system analysts

The goal being to make big data run smoothly, safely, reliably.

  • The rise of “right-sized data”
  • Increased awareness of data security against business hackers
  • The rise of the “automated statistician”

Click here to read the full list of suggested trends by Big Data News. 

Media We Link To:

 “Cyber security for journalists: How to devise the perfect password” – BBC News

“Where do millennial-aged professionals fit into technology and cyber security careers?” – Security Recruiter 

“Obama authorizes sanctions on cyber criminals” – USA Today 

“How Can Providers Use Wearable Technology to Improve Patient Care?” – Technology Advice 

“13 New Trends in Big Data and Data Science” – Big Data News


Quadrupling the Use of Cloud-Based Technology in Manufacturing

In the late ’60s, cigarette companies and their marketing executives targeted young professional women in their strategy to make smoking more appealing, saying “You’ve come a long way, baby.”


Imagine just 10 years ago when manufacturing software solutions introduced cloud-based software for the first time, and when five years ago the market share of these solutions increased to almost four percent of the total global manufacturing technology market.

It seems appropriate to say it-you’ve sure come a long way, baby.

But fast-forward to the past year, and that percentage has doubled again.

This time with more than one-in-twelve manufacturers running a cloud-based solution (often a derivative of ERP, enterprise resource planning).

Industry analysts’ cumulative assessment is that more than half of all manufacturing operations worldwide will be in a cloud-based platform by 2024.

Manufacturing.net reported that the popularity of cloud software for manufacturing operations management is growing based on the LNS Manufacturing Operations Management Survey of more than 100 manufacturing executives.

Only seven percent of respondents said they use cloud technology.

“Despite this low number, more decision makers are considering switching over to Software as a Service (SaaS) for their manufacturing operations management. In the survey, 17 percent of executives indicated they were planning to use SaaS to improve their operations. Manufacturers are more likely to see more cloud-based solutions as 90 percent of companies that offer manufacturing operations management software currently have or plan to adopt cloud technology,” reported the LNS analysts.


Photo courtesy FutUndBeidl, Creative Commons

A recent study titled, “Disrupt, Collapse, Transform: The Role of the Cloud in Industry Transformation,” sponsored by NetSuite and conducted by global industry analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, surveyed 1,500 senior executives across multiple industry sectors in seven countries the US, Australia, Singapore, the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines- of which 200 respondents were from the U.S.

The study was conducted to examine the drivers for disruption across all industries and how modern businesses are responding to that disruption.

Among respondents, 81 percent of US cloud-based software users told Frost & Sullivan that the cloud has provided them with a competitive advantage over their rivals particularly with regard to entering new markets and has helped them react more quickly and effectively to change.

Global Supply Chains Driving Cloud-based Manufacturing Solutions

Developing global business metrics is commonplace among multi-national manufacturers, and analysts say this trend will continue.

Having developed a “proof of concept,” manufacturers now must replicate the best-practice supply chain process- after all, the supply chain is for the entire enterprise, not merely the four walls of a manufacturing plant.


Photo courtesy Kevin Dooley, Creative Commons

It is absolutely crucial that manufacturers extend their enterprise resource planning (ERP) technology investment to both leverage and collaborate with suppliers and customers.

Inventory reduction across all market segments drives better margins, particularly in automotive, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and medical device companies.

The best sales and marketing strategies do not matter if customers are lost due to poor performance, poor on-time delivery, or poor product quality.

The cloud-based inventory re-sized inventory levels based on consumer demand which improved the number of turns across finished goods, work-in-process (WIP), and raw materials.

Ultimately, it’s what drives customer retention.

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