The Convergence of IT and OT

The connected industrial landscape has been rapidly evolving over the past five years, with greater demand for solid, secure communications to meet the automation revolution in manufacturing, logistics, and order fulfillment

When Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) first became a thing in the ’70s and ’80s, the two fields independently developed the systems that were employed. 

IT is about managing enterprise applications and data flow for the commercial and financial world.

people sitting at desks in an offices using computers

OT is about the operations of industry and physical processes in the command centers of complex factories, refineries, shipping yards, power plants, and more.

As computing and networking technology evolved from being isolated control boxes, OT’s preoccupation, due to the nature of these operations, was always about mission-critical functionality, safety, and security. 

When minicomputers became available, they were used right away for both IT and OT applications, as were PCs and networks. Security was definitely an afterthought when those technologies were young. With the proliferation of PCs, wireless networking, and mobile computing over the past 20 years, IT and OT have steadily converged or, in many cases, collided. One thing they both have in common is continual risks from cyber threats. There are lots of issues being faced, or in many cases ignored, surrounding systems security. Over the past few years, there has been increasing threat awareness and a steadily improving response.

Industrial organizations must put updated policies in place to address shortcomings and remain vigilant that those policies are followed. New IoT devices must be thoroughly vetted before being incorporated into a network. Cyber-security best practices should also be implemented. 

For example, the International Society of Automation (ISA) wrote an ISA99 set of standards for secure industrial Automation and Control Systems (IACS). The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) introduced it as IEC 62443. The standard defines a secure network architecture, functional requirements, and guidelines. OT contributes knowledge about which assets need to communicate and how critical they are, and IT contributes cybersecurity expertise and technology.

ioAire wireless networks efficiently and securely close the gap between the IT and OT worlds, with advanced security features that deter cyber threats in the industrial environment. 

Here are several ways we achieve this:

Standard Internet Protocols

ioAire employs Wi-Fi standard IPv4 and IPv6 protocols, allowing high-speed bridging for secure access to the Internet, for cloud-based services and exchange of data. 

structured cabling system with numerous network cables

Highly Secure Networking

ioAire utilizes Wi-Fi standard HaLow networking protocol, 802.11ah, with advanced WPA3 security and other safeguards, to maximize uptime and safety.

OTA Capable

ioAire’s high-rate symmetric encrypted data throughput allows rapid over-the-air (OTA) updating. Wi-Fi HaLow TM technology has the security, capacity, range, and throughput to support over-the-air (OTA) updates with minimal downtime. This means the ability to react quickly to threats, where security updates are pushed quickly to thousands of devices in the field. 

Competing wireless networks without strong OTA require long downtime periods or incur higher maintenance costs to change device keys. Often, technicians must perform manual updates on-site. 

Co-Existence with Wi-Fi

ioAire networks can be deployed either as fully private or bridged networks, in the presence of existing Wi-Fi 4, Wi-Fi 5, and Wi-Fi 6, without interfering. Again, native IP support and the advanced security of WPA3 make bridging between ioAire networks and enterprise Wi-Fi streamlined and secure. 

As we experience the convergence of IT and OT, ioAire strives to provide improved security and connectivity between industry and enterprise. In fact, ioAire networks are second to none in many ways, and one of our key strengths is providing advanced security to our customers. This ultimately brings peace of mind, as environmental threats to operations are eliminated.

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