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Opportunities & Challenges of IT & OT Convergence

By David Schippers, Sc.D, CISSP, EnCE, Walsh College, Elliot Forsyth, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, Michael Simko, Sc.D., CGEIT, CISSP, CISM, Walsh College and George Pappas, Ph.D., Lawrence

The lens of 2020 and Industry 4.0 illustrates an evolving digital ecosystem where traditional information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) converge at data entry points (the edge). The Industry 4.0 environment brings new sensors, networked devices and digital components to the manufacturing process at unprecedented levels (Barrios, Schippers, Heiden & Pappas, 2019). Evolutionary forces within Industry 4.0 presents both challenges and opportunities for advanced manufacturing through convergence of IT and OT with cybersecurity and cyber resiliency (Barrios, Schippers, Heiden & Pappas, 2019). 

Traditionally, IT and OT have held separate roles within organizations. IT is often associated with data protection, data assets, business applications and data privacy, ensuring and enabling business operations. OT is often associated with availability, functionality and operational capabilities, ensuring ongoing operation of manufacturing systems. As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) brings the promise of enhanced production, quality and efficiency benefits to the manufacturing process and supply chain (Barrios, Schippers, Heiden & Pappas, 2019), IT and OT are merging (converging) disparate technologies, processes and devices into a unified whole. Data and data protection within IT are converging with OT control, monitoring and sensor data, creating new and digital ecosystems (environments). Convergence is associated with both physical and virtual worlds, enabling digital twins, virtual prototyping and rapid deployment to market (Schippers, 2019). The digital ecosystem and convergence of IT and OT, along with physical and virtual worlds, creates untold opportunities and challenges for Industry 4.0. IT and OT convergence impacts people, processes and technology within Industry 4.0 ecosystems.

 

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