TechHub: Industrial Market Growth, Advancement in Smart Cities & Homeland Security Urges Cyber

The Industrial Market Opportunity

Manufacturing and industrial companies are the backbone of the U.S. economy. With the advancement of the digital age, more factories and utilities are looking to cut costs, decrease downtime and streamline operations.

This industry’s operations are extremely different from IT enterprises and rely on partner companies that specialize in operational technology in order to connect and protect their assts.

GrayMatter was highlighted in CRN, a news analysis online publication for technology companies.

“We help customers in these markets connect their factories, connect their big expensive assets,” said James Gillespie, CEO of GrayMatter, in CRN. “Those are things we’ve been working on, to digitize the information, and to help customers get better results.”

Jim Gillespie, CEO of GrayMatter

The article explores various aspects from the operational issues companies face, to a continuously growing partnership with GE and the possibilities the Industrial Internet has for companies.

Part of that partnership is collaborative engineering on cutting-edge ideas like Brilliant Manufacturing by GE Digital, a suite of software enabling predictive analytics on a scalable intelligent system powered by the cloud-based operating system Predix.

“It’s enabling digital transformations at a scale that would have been harder to do in the past,” said Gillespie. “Predix is like the iOS of the operating systems and now there’s people coming together to write apps — there’s a whole group of people emerging in a community of developers and solution providers.”

Cloud technology is now in an advanced place where it’s becoming universally affordable, dependable and reachable. The community around the operating system is pushing the industry forward, and everybody needs to jump on board.

View all of the technology services GrayMatter has to offer:

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Homeland Security Urges Industrial Cybersecurity

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) issued an alert about a malicious BrickerBot permanent Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack.

BrickerBot exploits hard-coded passwords in Internet of Things (IoT) devices to cause a permanent denial of service, locking operators out of their systems.

The team encourages asset owners to know that their control systems are deployed securely and not exposed to threats through open internet connections by thoroughly auditing their networks.

Control systems often have devices accessible to the internet without operators knowing, leaving them at a greater risk for an attack. Completing a vulnerability assessment allows operators to know what devices are connected, how strong authentication methods are, vulnerable firewalls and use of unauthorized remote access.

To learn more about cyber security for the OT, download the GrayMatter cyber security guide for operational technology:

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The Advancement of Smart Cities

San Diego announced a new partnership with GE to deploy the world’s largest Internet of Things platform using smart streetlights. This will reduce energy costs by 60-percent and transform them into a single, connected digital network that can optimize parking and traffic, enhance public safety and track air quality.

Over 3,000 smart sensors will be deployed, with a potential to expand an additional 3,000 in the future, to upgrade over 14,000 city lights.

By reducing energy needs, greenhouse gas admissions will be reduced. Light pollution will also decrease with the implemented new technology enabling dimming and brightening features either automatically or remotely, depending on natural light conditions.

GE’s intelligent lighting in San Diego. Image: GE Lighting

The GE Current CityIQ sensor nodes will support a range of applications varying from gunshot detection, to smart parking and air quality control.

“This technology is powerful. Downtown visitors will be able to find parking easily and in real time using a smart phone, and the environmental and transportation data will help Downtown meet the goals of the Climate Action Plan. This is a huge win for San Diego,” said Kris Michell, the President & CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

Deployment of the platform will begin in July and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

It’s expected to save the city over $2.4 million annually in energy costs.

5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Plant Floor to SAP Integrations

Plant floor systems come in a wide variety of flavors, and successfully connecting them to your SAP system can be a difficult, intimidating, expensive, and risky prospect that ultimately has the potential to deliver disappointing results.

From years of experience talking  with CIOs and directors of IT supporting  manufacturing, operations, and supply  chain,  a grim picture  of SAP integration project has been painted.

A common criticism is that even though  the overall system is pretty good, the integration was a custom-coding nightmare.  Having to dedicate  key programming resources to month-long projects spent punching single-use code ended  up costing  tens of thousands of dollars and put the company at risk if something happened to the person that developed the custom code.

In other situations, the project team was skilled  with underlying protocols, data formats, and plant floor systems but depending on them to also become experts in the SAP development environment for integration was another story altogether.  Staffing  the integration project with the right skill sets can be a real problem and add higher  project risk and increased the expense to the already  complex implementation.

Sometimes, companies are left in the uncomfortable  position of dependence on the outside consultants they hired to do the integration; not to mention the significant impact on their budget.

The customizations made during  the integration have the potential to cause  uncertainty when a SAP upgrade comes  along,  particularly if the original  project team has either moved on or is dedicated  to other tasks.   The question, “What if the upgrade overwrites my customizations?”, is often heard.

There’s  no doubt about it; the above statements are rooted in truth. Some SAP integrations have significant room for improvement.

The misconception lies in the idea that there are only a few ways to go about it. There are alternatives to hiring costly consultants, piling on valuable resources for months  at a time, or going about it all on your own with a custom-coding venture.  The question is, how can you successfully connect your plant floor systems in a reasonable timeframe, without  hiring expensive SAP consultants, and without  writing  custom code or modifying your SAP system?

Plant floor systems come in a wide variety of flavors and successfully connecting them to your SAP system can be a difficult, intimidating, expensive and risky prospect that ultimately delivers disappointing results.   This document is intended to shine a light on a few myths about SAP integrations and offer alternative approaches to alleviate the pain of the myths.

1. SAP Integration Projects Require Lots of Custom Coding

Although hard to believe, SAP integration can be completely configuration-based through an intuitive visual environment that requires no end-user programming.

Junot Systems’ NLINK Suite of products allows functional business users to perform complex and sophisticated integration tasks and provides a scalable and maintainable integration solution as business processes and systems change  over time.

NLINK’s patented and SAP Certified technology has been designed from the ground-up to provide real-time bi-directional communications between disparate plant floor applications and SAP.

2. SAP Integration Projects Require Lots of Corporate IT Involvement

Traditional integration solutions require IT staff with Hard to Find Skill Sets , skilled  not only in the underlying protocols, data formats and plant floor systems, but also in the development environment of the integration tool itself.

Staffing  today’s integration projects with the right skill sets is a real problem adding  higher  project risk and increasing the expense of already  complex implementation projects.

The NLINK  approach allows business users and IT staff with Easy to Find Skill Sets to design, build and deploy SAP interfaces to the plant floor.

No programming knowledge or in-depth information technology skill set is required to complete a successful SAP integration project, on-time and within  budget. Experience has shown us that new users become productive immediately upon completion of initial NLINK  product training.

3. SAP Integration Projects Require me to Customize my SAP System

In many approaches and tools, this is true.

However, NLINK’s SAP Connector  does not force you to install  anything into your SAP landscape or modify  your SAP system in any way.

You can choose  to call any standard or custom BAPI or RFC, or any standard or customized IDOC.   When all else fails, use a SAP BDC to post data to SAP where  no suitable API exists.

In addition, the NLINK  SAP Query component can retrieve data from any standard  or custom SAP table or view in the data dictionary.

It includes functionality that allows users to quickly build simple queries to extract exactly the data they require from multiple tables or views in a single call. Giving  you the ability to get to every single piece of data in your SAP system with absolutely  no custom ABAP programming.

4. SAP Integration to the Plant Floor Fails when SAP Becomes Unavailable

Not true when you have robust store-and-forward capabilities.

NLINK  provides persistent local data storage that allows transactional information to be temporarily stored during unscheduled systems or network downtime.

Once the SAP system comes  back online and re-establishes communications with the NLINK  Server, the transactional data is processed and forwarded onto the now functional SAP system.

The NLINK  Server ensures that there is no loss of data and that the messages are processed once and only once and sent in the correct  sequence.

NLINK’s small deployed footprint and simple to use Management Console make it easy to deploy and manage at the plant floor level.

Integration architectures that can only be deployed at the corporate level (because they require lots of expert care and feeding) are on the wrong side of the store-and-forward equation.

When plant connectivity goes down, so does your ability to operate. With the integration hub at the plant floor, store- and-forward buffers and then resynchronizes  the data automatically, smoothing out connectivity interruptions.

5. SAP Integration is Expensive

It does not need to be.

Traditional SAP integration solutions have failed to gain widespread acceptance because they are too expensive and complex for all but the largest  of companies and the most critical  of applications.

This makes Enterprise Application Integration an underutilized technology due to the large initial cost and even larger cost of implementation. NLINK is component-based; NLINK  CoNNectors, eXtenders and Modules can be mixed

and matched to create the optimal  integration solution.

NLINK  customers pay only for the components that they actually  use.  Over time, as the integration project evolves, incremental costs are added  only when significant new functionality is required.

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