Kathy Gibson reports – Smart factories based on Internet of Things (IoT) are the result of merged information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to create manufacturing Industry 4.0.

The ideal is to put technology in place that can optimise operations, while improving worker safety and productivity, says Samar Abou Ltaif, IoT sales specialist: Middle East & Africa at Cisco.

“When we talk about IoT, it is about innovating beyond the edge,” she says. “In manufacturing, it is about realtime tracking of assets so we can do accurate forecasts. It is about allowing digital twins so engineers and designer can simulate operations and test products before going live. And it is about environmental monitoring so we reduce emissions while saving costs.

“IoT can enable so many innovations – but organisations first have to have a network that is secure and reliable.”

And there are some challenges involved in implementing this network, Ltaif points out.

Security risks are exacerbated by an evolving threat landscape, as well as by an air-gapped, unsegmented or flat layer-2 network, and a lack of asset visibility.

Complexity at scale can be difficult to manage when there are multi-vendor networks, multiple touch points and complex interactions.

Other difficult-to-resolve issues include poor network visibility, long outages due to reactive troubleshooting, and manual processes.

“Cisco brings the worlds of IT and OT together,” Ltaif says.

From an IT point of view, Cisco is an industry leader providing end-to-end security; less complexity at scale thanks to its single network architecture; consistent software and licensing with IOS-XE; and familiar tools in Cisco DNA Centre and vManage.

When it comes to OT, the company’s products are industrial-grade and built to withstand harsh environments.

“We offer customers industry use cases and certifications, as well as industrial protocol support,” Ltaif points out. “Our IoT portfolio ensures safe and secure operations, and built-in edge compute.”

Cisco’s IoT portfolio includes a control centre for automation. CyberVision and Edge Intelligence give visibility to industrial switching and routing, industrial WiFi, and sensor networking. Cisco security safeguards the networking layer while also extending protection to devices, applications and analytics.