"Industrial Internet" entries

Where will software and hardware meet?

Software is adding more and more value to machines. Could it completely commoditize them?

I’m a sucker for a good plant tour, and I had a really good one last week when Jim Stogdill and I visited K. Venkatesh Prasad at Ford Motor in Dearborn, Mich. I gave a seminar and we talked at length about Ford’s OpenXC program and its approach to building software platforms.

The highlight of the visit was seeing the scale of Ford’s operation, and particularly the scale of its research and development organization. Prasad’s building is a half-mile into Ford’s vast research and engineering campus. It’s an endless grid of wet labs like you’d see at a university: test tubes and robots all over the place; separate labs for adhesives, textiles, vibration dampening; machines for evaluating what’s in reach for different-sized people.

Prasad explained that much of the R&D that goes into a car is conducted at suppliers–Ford might ask its steel supplier to come up with a lighter, stronger alloy, for instance–but Ford is responsible for integrative research: figuring out how to, say, bond its foam insulation onto that new alloy.

In our more fevered moments, we on the software side of things tend to foresee every problem being reduced to a generic software problem, solvable with brute-force computing and standard machinery. In that interpretation, a theoretical Google car operating system–one that would drive the car and provide Web-based services to passengers–could commoditize the mechanical aspects of the automobile. Read more…

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Four Short Links: 7 May 2013

Four Short Links: 7 May 2013

Raspberry Pi MITM, Industrial Robot SDK, Cheap Mill, and Open Source State Replication in Go

  1. Raspberry Pi Wireless Attack ToolkitA collection of pre-configured or automatically-configured tools that automate and ease the process of creating robust Man-in-the-middle attacks. The toolkit allows your to easily select between several attack modes and is specifically designed to be easily extendable with custom payloads, tools, and attacks. The cornerstone of this project is the ability to inject Browser Exploitation Framework Hooks into a web browser without any warnings, alarms, or alerts to the user. We accomplish this objective mainly through wireless attacks, but also have a limpet mine mode with ettercap and a few other tricks.
  2. Industrial Robot with SDK For Researchers (IEEE Spectrum) — $22,000 industrial robot with 7 degrees-of-freedom arms, integrated cameras, sonar, and torque sensors on every joint. […] The Baxter research version is still running a core software system that is proprietary, not open. But on top of that the company built the SDK layer, based on ROS (Robot Operation System), and this layer is open source. In addition, there are also some libraries of low level tasks (such as joint control and positioning) that Rethink made open.
  3. OtherMill (Kickstarter) — An easy to use, affordable, computer controlled mill. Take all your DIY projects further with custom circuits and precision machining. (via Mike Loukides)
  4. go-raft (GitHub) — open source implementation of the Raft distributed consensus protocol, in Go. (via Ian Davis)
Comment: 1

Strata Week: The power of the Internet, wielded by machines and things

Jon Bruner's industrial Internet report; IBM, Belkin, and the Internet of Things; cars as software platforms; and coding is the job of the future.

Soon, everything will be an Internet platform

Ben Schiller at Fast Company took a look this week at a recent report by Jon Bruner on the industrial Internet. “According to Jon Bruner [the industrial Internet] is ‘machines becoming nodes on pervasive networks that use open protocols,'” writes Schiller. “And, to many others, it is as a big a deal as the Internet itself: essentially completing a job that’s only half-finished with web sites, email, Twitter, and so on.”

Shiller pulls some highlights from Bruner’s report, especially noting how the industrial Internet will effect various industries, such as energy, health care, and transport. Read more…

Four short links: 1 April 2013

Four short links: 1 April 2013

Machine Learning Demos, iOS Debugging, Industrial Internet, and Deanonymity

  1. MLDemosan open-source visualization tool for machine learning algorithms created to help studying and understanding how several algorithms function and how their parameters affect and modify the results in problems of classification, regression, clustering, dimensionality reduction, dynamical systems and reward maximization. (via Mark Alen)
  2. kiln (GitHub) — open source extensible on-device debugging framework for iOS apps.
  3. Industrial Internet — the O’Reilly report on the industrial Internet of things is out. Prasad suggests an illustration: for every car with a rain sensor today, there are more than 10 that don’t have one. Instead of an optical sensor that turns on windshield wipers when it sees water, imagine the human in the car as a sensor — probably somewhat more discerning than the optical sensor in knowing what wiper setting is appropriate. A car could broadcast its wiper setting, along with its location, to the cloud. “Now you’ve got what you might call a rain API — two machines talking, mediated by a human being,” says Prasad. It could alert other cars to the presence of rain, perhaps switching on headlights automatically or changing the assumptions that nearby cars make about road traction.
  4. Unique in the Crowd: The Privacy Bounds of Human Mobility (PDF, Nature) — We study fifteen months of human mobility data for one and a half million individuals and find that human mobility traces are highly unique. In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier’s antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information. This formula shows that the uniqueness of mobility traces decays approximately as the 1/10 power of their resolution. Hence, even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. These findings represent fundamental constraints to an individual’s privacy and have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protect the privacy of individuals. As Edd observed, “You are a unique snowflake, after all.” (via Alasdair Allan)

The coming of the industrial internet

Our new research report outlines our vision for the coming-together of software and big machines.

The big machines that define modern life — cars, airplanes, furnaces, and so forth — have become exquisitely efficient, safe, and responsive over the last century through constant mechanical refinement. But mechanical refinement has its limits, and there are enormous improvements to be wrung out of the way that big machines are operated: an efficient furnace is still wasteful if it heats a building that no one is using; a safe car is still dangerous in the hands of a bad driver.

It is this challenge that the industrial internet promises to address by layering smart software on top of machines. The last few years have seen enormous advances in software and computing that can handle gushing streams of data and build nuanced models of complex systems. These have been used effectively in advertising and web commerce, where data is easy to gather and control is easy to exert, and marketers have rejoiced.

Thanks to widespread sensors, pervasive networks, and standardized interfaces, similar software can interact with the physical world — harvesting data, analyzing it in context, and making adjustments in real-time. The same data-driven approach that gives us dynamic pricing on Amazon and customized recommendations on Foursquare has already started to make wind turbines more efficient and thermostats more responsive. It may soon obviate humans as drivers and help blast furnaces anticipate changes in electricity prices. Read more…

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Security on the industrial Internet

Roel Schouwenberg on Kaspersky Lab's forthcoming industrial OS and building a system with security in mind.

Security must evolve along with the industrial Internet. The Stuxnet attack on Iran’s centrifuges in 2010 highlighted both the risks of web-borne attacks and the futility of avoiding them by disconnecting from the Internet (the worm spread, in part, using USB keys). Potential attackers range from small-time corporate spies to sophisticated government units that might use infrastructure disruption as a weapon.

Comparing industrial Internet security to consumer and enterprise web security is difficult; requirements, challenges, and approaches differ significantly. In industrial systems, stability is crucial, and isolating an infected system — or adding an air gap as a preventative measure — can be enormously costly. Some tools that are difficult to apply to the unstructured web are effective in industry, though: since industrial systems usually have known, simplified network structures with highly regular traffic patterns, anomaly detection and other machine-learning techniques hold great promise as ways to find and stop attacks. The addition of more computing power at the network level as companies connect their industrial systems will make these approaches more powerful.

Back in October, Eugene Kaspersky announced that his security firm is developing an industrial operating system — a “highly-tailored system,” one that “by design won’t be able to carry out any behind-the-scenes, undeclared activity.” Last fall, I interviewed Roel Schouwenberg (@Schouw), a researcher at Kaspersky Lab who is working on the new industrial OS. What follows is a lightly-edited transcript of our wide-ranging conversation.

Tell me a bit about how the OS project came about — does it have its origins in Kaspersky’s Stuxnet research?

Roel Schouwenberg: Eugene [Kaspersky] and a few others started talking about this a decade ago, actually. Eugene’s idea was that the only way to solve the malware problem would be to build something that was constructed with security in mind — what he called secure OS. That was just a concept for a while, and then Stuxnet came along and it became increasingly clear that the secure OS implementation would be best suited for the industrial control world, where you have this very specific set of circumstances where it would just work best.

Read more…

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Four short links: 5 March 2013

Four short links: 5 March 2013

Video Magnification Code, Copyright MOOC, Open Access Cost-Effectiveness, and SCADA Security (Sucks)

  1. Eulerian Video Magnification — papers and the MatLab source code for that amazing effect of exaggerating small changes in file. (*This work is patent pending)
  2. CopyrightX — MOOC on current law of copyright and the ongoing debates concerning how that law should be reformed. Through a combination of pre-recorded lectures, live webcasts, and weekly online seminars, participants in the course will examine and assess the ways in which law seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Cost Effectiveness for Open Access JournalsThis plot reveals the prestige (Article Influence score) and publication charges for open access journals.
  4. Results of SANS SCADA Survey 2013 (PDF) — Unfortunately, at this time they seem unable to monitor the PLCs, terminal units and connections to field equipment due to lack of native security in the control systems themselves. (via InfoSecIsland)
Comment: 1

New vision in old industry

A software startup builds itself to work with Michigan's manufacturers.

Nathan Oostendorp thought he’d chosen a good name for his new startup: “Ingenuitas,” derived from Latin meaning “freely born” — appropriate, he thought, for a company that would be built on his own commitment to open-source software.

But Oostendorp, earlier a co-founder of Slashdot, was aiming to bring modern computer vision systems to heavy industry, where the Latinate name didn’t resonate. At his second meeting with a salty former auto executive who would become an advisor, Oostendorp says, “I told him we were going to call the company Ingenuitas, and he immediately said, ‘bronchitis, gingivitis, inginitis. Your company is a disease.'”

And so Sight Machine got its name — one so natural to Michigan’s manufacturers that, says CEO and co-founder Jon Sobel, visitors often say “I spent the afternoon down at Sight” in the same way they might say “down at Anderson” to refer to a tool-and-die shop called Anderson Machine.

Sight Machine is adapting the tools and formulations of the software industry to the much more conservative manufacturing sector. Changing its name was the first of several steps the company took to find cultural alignment with its clients — the demanding engineers who run giant factories that produce things like automotive bolts. Read more…

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Masking the complexity of the machine

The industrial Internet will bring abstraction and modularity to the physical world.

The Internet has thrived on abstraction and modularity. Web services hide their complexity behind APIs and standardized protocols, and these clean interfaces make it easy to turn them into modules of larger systems that can take advantage of the most intelligent solution to each of many problems.

The Internet revolutionized the software-software interface; the industrial Internet will revolutionize the software-machine interface and, in doing so, will make machines more accessible. I’m using “access” very broadly here — interfaces will make machines accessible to innovators who aren’t necessarily experts in physical machinery, in the same way that the Google Maps API makes interactive mapping an accessible feature to developers who aren’t expert cartographers and front-end developers. And better access for people who write software means wider applications for those machines.

I’ve recently encountered a couple of widely different examples that illustrate this idea. These come from very different places — an aerospace manufacturer that has built strong linkages between airplanes and software, and an advanced enthusiast who has built new controllers for a pair of industrial robots — but they both involve the development of interfaces that make machines accessible. Read more…

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Frozen turkeys are thermal batteries

Balancing grid supply and demand one pump and compressor at a time.

I went to San Diego two weeks ago for DistribuTECH as part of our ongoing investigation into the industrial Internet. DistribuTECH is a very large conference for electric utility operators in the U.S. and while I was there ran into Keyvan Cohanim of Enbala Power Networks. We had an interesting conversation, the upshot of which was my realization that given the magic of absolute values, as far as the grid is concerned, slowly warming frozen turkeys are thermal batteries.

Enbala’s business is conceptually simple. They use information to optimize the match between electrical supply and demand to help utilities avoid capital expenditure in under-utilized peak-load generation assets. Then they share those supply side savings with the participating loads. The deal is simple, let Enbala control your loads within your process constraints, and you’ll earn additional revenue. At the risk of gross over-simplification, they are sort of like an Uber or AirBnB of the electrical grid, but made interesting by the complexity of constraints and the fact that it all has to happen in real time. Read more…

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