Flexibility and Security for the Factories of the Future (FlexSi-Pro)
In Industrie 4.0 environments, production facilities need to allow much higher flexibility than traditional industrial technology does. While established systems are already capable of real-time operations, they generally still require manual configuration. To fully live up to the need for flexibility and commercial efficiency, future production facilities need to allow quick and autonomous reconfiguration. IT security acquires crucial importance in highly automated production networks, not solely for maintaining the integrity of systems, but also for ensuring the protection of know-how. This applies to control over protected software and to the security of production data shared in the network.
Objectives and Approach
The intention of the FlexSi-Pro project is to develop, evaluate, and trial software-based networks for the factories of the future. In its target vision, the factory’s network administrator oversees the flow of data in the network by means of centralized control software, without requiring manual intervention in the individual network components on site. To achieve this, the current concepts of flexible network configuration and IT security that are already being employed in data centers are expanded and applied to the Industrie 4.0 context. The control software can, for instance, prioritize or hold specific data packages as needed. It fulfills the high real-time communication standards introduced by the Industrie 4.0 concept.
One important element of IT security integrated in the FlexSi-Pro project is the adaptive partition of the network into distinct security zones. Access to systems or services across zones is heavily controlled. Internal and external attackers are prevented from accessing the network.
Optimum software protection and software integrity on the level of communication servers and network components is the intention behind the choice of CodeMeter as a hardware security anchor, used to store sensitive data like encryption keys and configuration settings in access-controlled memory. The application of the OPC UA protocol in the CodeMeter hardware is another precondition for achieving flexibly configurable, but also fully compliant data transmission across different network topologies, especially at the interfaces with time-sensitive environments. The end result is a flexibly configurable network for production facilities that lives up to the most exacting standards in terms of robustness, security, and responsiveness.
Innovations and Prospects
The project applies the concepts of software-based networks to automated production facilities. These realize the benefits of software controls over networks and fully meet the requirements of real-time communication. The implementation of such networks promises substantial potential for Industrie 4.0 settings, including the potential for the optimized use of available resources. This is relevant e.g. in the efficient deployment of computation capacity and access-controlled IT services like databases.