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All control systems up-to-date? Check!

Smartphone and bank card are each held in one hand

Would you tell me about the good old days once again? To check on your bank account, you had to go down to the nearest branch and then print out your statement all by yourself. Really? Today, we simply log onto our account online and check our balances with our cell phones – and we can make changes if we want to. The idea behind the ctrlX Device Portal looks much the same way. The system is designed to provide a central online overview of all information and the status of machine control systems as well as to facilitate central system updates.

Today, mechanical engineers and machinery operators are already watching over several hundred or thousand machines that are scattered across various countries. The role that updates of the machines’ control systems play in the smooth operations of facilities is growing larger and larger. This is particularly the case for security updates. But that is hardly surprising, given the increased risks associated with connectivity and the increasing age of the machines themselves. Legal requirements in such areas as data privacy change as well. Functions are subject to ever shorter product life cycles, and constant support provided by experts on site is difficult to maintain. Up to now, updates and remote access have generally been an arduous, manual task that was left up to specialists. The ctrlX Device Portal eliminates the need for such work.

Complete overview powered by Nexeed

We joined forces with Bosch Connected Industry to develop the solution based on the Nexeed architecture. It combines proven and established functionalities with new application areas. The Bosch IoT Suite is the heart of this solution. It supports open industry standards and facilitates IoT middleware functionalities with the help of cloud services. The top priorities are security and data privacy. To achieve these goals, the ctrlX Device Portal draws a clear line between product-related data that will remain in the operator’s production network and device-related data like firmware versions and hardware. Only the latter data are transmitted and used to manage the devices.

To integrate a device into the system, the machine manufacturer or user will manually register it in a few steps that are completed online in the ctrlX Device Portal, or the unit will be preregistered in the factory. The initial registration is secured by multifactor authentication. Afterward, authorized individuals will have central and full access to the devices, a step that eliminates the need for assistance provided by on-site personnel.

Specialists monitor the status of all connected devices regardless of location. They can see such information as the last online connection, available and upcoming updates and customized status information. They can use the ctrlX Device Portal to gain remote access to all connected devices and do not have to keep any additional infrastructure or configurations in mind. Thanks to this change, they can quickly and easily perform an array of tasks that used to require expensive business trips or other measures.

Always at the highest security level

The control system does not have to be continuously online to centrally install updates. Automatic synchronization can occur every time that a machine is connected. Updates are offered or automatically downloaded. A direct connection that avoids the use of an engineering PC plays a key role in security because it is nearly impossible to manipulate installed or updated apps as a result.

Another very important aspect of connected systems are security updates. They protect from unauthorized access to sensitive data and the planting of malware, an act that, in the worst case, could shut down production. This line of defense must be continuously reinforced to address the latest threat situation. The ctrlX CORE sets new standards in this regard and facilitates the use of non-manipulable updates all the way to the operating system level. Individual apps can also be updated independently of one another. For instance, a firewall update does not require any updates to or alterations in the SPS code.

The key factor: Updates cannot cause a ctrlX CORE to break down. The latest version installed before the update will always be available. If a new software fails to perform the desired job, the last version can be used simply by initiating a rollback.

Globally simultaneous

People who have made the switch to online banking will no longer be willing to hop into their cars, drive down to their nearest bank branch and then hunt for a parking place before they can make a transfer or pick up their account statement. This is also the case with the ctrlX Device Portal: No one will have to continue using an engineering notebook and go from machine to machine. Rather, they will sit in the office and simply install updates simultaneously around the world. Are all control systems always up to date? Check.


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Julian Weinkoetz

Game Changer

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