Data Integrity by Authenticating People and Process in Industry 4.0

Authentication in a wearable band for personnel can deliver great productivity, security and traceability

Authentication for personnel can deliver great security and traceability. Here it’s shown in in a wearable band for added productivity and ease. Photo courtesy Nymi.

What’s the #1 source of error and security problems for production processes and documentation? People! So I am delighted to meet companies working on the authentication of people as they perform their work. This is crucial to data integrity in the new digital world.

Much of Industry 4.0 focuses on the product cyber-physical systems (CPS) and the equipment cyber-physical production systems (CPPS). The marketplace they represent is a powerful breakthrough. As more and more of the process is automated, ensuring data integrity is essential. Reducing human intervention only goes so far, even in this futuristic vision. There are and will be people in manufacturing.

Enter companies performing authentication of a person. Biometrics products are certainly not new. In fact, there’s an entire list of them here. What caught my eye was Nymi, a company that delivers a novel CPS device that offers:

  • multi-factor authentication
  • in a wearable band that’s unique to the individual
  • always-on, Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC)
  • designed to communicate with CPPS for process step / authorization / certification
  • able to integrate into MES for full context – AND log-off of a workstation when out of range

The Nymi band can offer complete authentication through an individual’s work shift – for every product, every process, every activity. Perhaps most impressive, the wearers won’t have an additional burden of walking over to, swiping, looking at, touching, or pausing for some other authentication activity. Once it’s set up, the people part of the process becomes just as complete and transparent as any other aspect of CPS-CPPS.

Wearing the band, a user authenticates once when they put it on. Then it is always on, communicating with devices and systems throughout the facility or company. For industries where strict SOPs and process / product documentation and traceability are key, buying bands for operations employees could pay off in a matter of weeks.

For example, this device can be used to log in and out of equipment. It can also be integrated with software systems such as MES. This verifies the user, and can automatically log their time at a workstation – or lock them out of processes for which that user is not certified or needs a training update. Clearly, it can also operate integrated with the facility security and workforce management or time and attendance systems.

Other systems offer biometrics and multi-factor authentication that will work in a regulated environment such as life sciences manufacturing. Some come from software companies, working with generic identifcation hardware such as badge readers, biometric scanners, etc. For example, Synchronoss offers a cloud-based universal ID subscription service for identity proofing, secure authentication, and digital signing and approval as part of its managed mobility solutions. Centrify offers multi-factor authentication as part of its security software suite. So that’s good news for buyers – there are choices. Not all use the same approaches, so finding the one that fits your environment is important.

The net net is, this might be a critical enabler for the seamless marketplace that Industry 4.0 envisions. Information from products, equipment AND people – all playing together with the MES putting it in context. User non-repudiation and process specifics, tracked automatically, without extra effort. Now that’s a future vision that’s automated, secure, compliant and productive.

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