Trustworthiness in the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation (DX) is a concept that has been pioneered by the Industrial Internet Consortium. It’s a really innovative concept in this context, and is destined to make much of today’s debate about simple ‘Security’ seem out of date.
Trustworthiness is essentially the degree to which an industrial system can be relied on to do what it should, and not to do things that it shouldn’t. Specifically, there are five main characteristics to be considered:
Much of the importance is due to the old IT (Information Technology)/OT (Operational Technology) convergence story. Historically, OT systems were designed to be resilient, reliable and very safe, whilst IT systems have been built to be secure, private and reasonably reliable. With the advent of IoT and DX, the requirements of IT and OT become intertwined, with conclusions of analyses undertaken in the IT domain influencing actions in the OT domain, and so new IT/OT-converged systems must meet the Trustworthiness considerations associated with each.
To give an example, it isn’t sufficient for a system controlling an industrial robot to only be highly ‘secure’ – we also need to ensure the safety of any staff that might be nearby the industrial robot. This could be achieved by placing software that limits the range of motion of an industrial robot on the robot itself, potentially overriding any instructions emanating from an IT environment, or by placing the same robot in a cage to stop staff getting into any areas where they might come into conflict with potential robot motions. There are many other possible approaches, and hybrid solutions that include pressure or proximity sensors on the robot are also relevant.
Often there will be trade-offs between the different characteristics of Trustworthiness, and other times actions taken to enhance system performance against Trustworthiness characteristic will enhance performance against another. An example of the former could be where priorities of individual privacy conflict with security of system access. An example of the latter could be the implementation of a back-up server site, which might enhance both the resilience and reliability of an industrial system.
Crucially, in all cases, all Trustworthiness considerations should be viewed in contention with a business case, and measured against accepted industry norms. In essence, it is easy to invest ‘too much’ in Trustworthiness, and in a way that negatively impacts business outcomes. More on this topic in later blogs.
Footnote: this blog is based on content extracted from the IIC’s “Managing and Assessing Trustworthiness for IIoT in Practice” white paper, of which I am a co-author. The full white paper is available to download here.