The Industrial Internet of Things: Why We Must Connect Older Machines and Keep them Secure

The industrial equipment used to build our society and keep it humming is not like the smartphones we have in our pockets. Machines like airplanes, bulldozers and locomotives are generational assets that were meant to last decades. In fact, a good portion of the airplanes in the sky today are older than the people who are newly entering the workforce.

How can we retrofit machines that have 20- to 30-year life spans? How can we get those expensive assets – which businesses simply cannot afford to repurchase – connected and online? This is an essential challenge we must solve.

Additionally, these generational assets – plus other machines – for decades were falsely thought to be inherently secure. Why? Because they worked on closed communication protocols and with unique operating systems. There was also limited physical access to them and a limited number of people possessing comprehensive knowledge of how their systems worked. Few individuals fully understood those worlds. This obscurity kept the machines “secure.”

But once those machines are connected, the perceived advantages fade away fast. Communication protocols are not easily updated, if they are able to be updated at all. Their narrow use means there is unlikely to have been wide-scale security research conducted to discover weaknesses.

We have to find new ways and new tools to secure these connected machines. The various IT tools and techniques of today are frankly inadequate.

As we work to connect these aging machines, new challenges will arise. Fortunately, with the right technologies, these challenges are possible to overcome.

What else does the journey to a fully connected world have in store for us? Learn more in our report, Five Challenges We Must Solve on the Way to a Fully Connected World: