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How to Meet Critical Infrastructure Requirements with Cellular Devices

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Critical infrastructure operations–whether it be an electrical substation, wastewater treatment plant, or traffic control center–are relying more and more on networked assets like sensors and control switches. But, the introduction of connected devices also raises security risks. Since these systems control services both businesses and consumers heavily depend upon, regulations are in place to ensure our infrastructure remains in working order and secure from threats.

Much like the laws you abide by while driving such as wearing your seatbelt, staying within the speed limit, etc., utility providers connecting assets with cellular LTE must follow certain standards and protocols to ensure security and reliability. In North America, these rules and standards are referred to as North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection or more conveniently as NERC-CIP. For our friends in Europe, the standard is called “European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection” or EPCIP for short.

What makes a network solution NERC-CIP compliant? In this video, Brad Cole, Device Cloud Product Manager, walks through the steps many of our utility customers take in order to deploy secure and connected critical infrastructure.

In short, critical infrastructure operators must comply with these reliability standards–or face large penalties. The mandatory Reliability Standards include CIP standards 001 through 009 (see below), which address the security of cyber assets essential to the reliable operation of the electric grid.

  • CIP-001: Covers sabotage reporting;
  • CIP-002: Requires the identification and documentation of the Critical Cyber Assets associated with the Critical Assets that support the reliable operation of the Bulk Electric System;
  • CIP-003: Requires that responsible entities have minimum security management controls in place to protect Critical Cyber Assets;
  • CIP-004: Requires that personnel with authorized cyber or unescorted physical access to Critical Cyber Assets, including contractors and service vendors, have an appropriate level of personnel risk assessment, training, and security awareness;
  • CIP-005: Requires the identification and protection of the Electronic Security Perimeters inside which all Critical Cyber Assets reside, as well as all access points on the perimeter;
  • CIP-006: Addresses implementation of a physical security program for the protection of Critical Cyber Assets;
  • CIP-007: Requires responsible entities to define methods, processes, and procedures for securing those systems determined to be Critical Cyber Assets, as well as the other (non-critical) Cyber Assets within the Electronic Security Perimeters;
  • CIP-008: Ensures the identification, classification, response, and reporting of cybersecurity incidents related to Critical Cyber Assets; and
  • CIP-009: Ensures that recovery plans are put in place for Critical Cyber Assets and that these plans follow established business continuity and disaster recovery techniques and practices.

The Digi TransPort WR31 comes with features and configuration options to simplify securing critical infrastructure assets like electric and gas meters or traffic control cameras. The Digital I/O can address physical security concerns and Remote Manager will log user information and even device changes. Click here to learn more about the Digi TransPort WR31 and how utility provides are using it to connect critical infrastructure.

Customer Showcase: Wireless Devices Around the World Rely on Digi

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected solutions that businesses rely on. From the ability to monitor device health to using data to make more informed decisions-connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.powerowners

PowerOwners | Solar Energy

How do solar energy providers  measure the effectiveness of their solar panel deployments? You’ll probably get a wide variety of answers depending on who you ask. PowerOwners saw this inconsistency in the solar industry as an opportunity to create a standard benchmark to measure the performance of solar assets.

The centerpiece of the system is the Deno Smart Sensor. The sensor measures sunlight and temperature to simulate an energy benchmark. It’s placed alongside solar panels, the Deno Smart Sensor is pictured to the right. Data is transmitted wirelessly by a Digi XBee PRO 900HP and collected within Digi Device Cloud. This service replaces the commonly used weather stations, which were difficult to deploy and provided inconsistent data. Read the full story here.

Powermat | Wireless Charging

powermatThere are few things more frustrating than a dead phone battery. Almost everyone relies on their smartphone to get through the day-whether it’s for business or entertainment.

Powermat developed a creative solution that involves wireless charging and ZigBee technology. Their mission? Ensure that smartphone users never have to worry about where keeping their device charged. It’s easy to use, requires no cables or outlets, and gives businesses a service to offer to their customers. Powermat is able to manage their global deployment of charging stations via the cloud since each charging network is IP-enabled with an XBee Gateway.

The Powermat stations can be found at large retail chains like Starbucks, a select number of universities, and airport terminals. Users can install the Powermat app on their phone so they can locate the most convenient location for their next charge. Learn more about the Powermat service here.

MicroPower Technologies | Remote Video Security Systems

css-inline-solveilUtility providers often have assets widely distributed across remote areas. Ensuring security of substations or monitoring weather conditions can be a costly endeavor. And, when millions rely on your company for power, an outage can have large consequences. MicroPower works with utilities to create an easy to install solution that gives energy providers the ability to ensure their customers have reliable power. A means to remotely monitor their sites also allows for faster troubleshooting and fewer unnecessary maintenance visits.

MicroPower Technologies’ solar powered video system is made possible by the Digi TransPort WR21. The wireless cellular router is easy to install and provides the connection needed to stream video to a central database that can be accessed by network operators. Click here to read more about this solution.

Read more about how Digi customers are inventing new business models and changing their respective industries, visit our customer success page.

 

Secure Device Management within a Private Cellular Network

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It’s not uncommon for customers to deploy 4G LTE devices on private cellular networks for the perceived security benefits, but this can create a challenge for customers who want to use cloud-based device management tools for configuration, performance reporting, and troubleshooting.

In this video, Brad Cole, Digi Device Cloud Product Manager, explains how network administrators can use a web proxy to access Digi’s cloud-based network management tool while maintaining compliance with their existing security architecture.

To learn more about Digi TransPort routers and their remote management capabilities, click here. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered in an upcoming video, fill out this form and let us know!

Overcoming Challenges in the Implementation of Remote Tank Monitoring

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In the energy industry, we all know that remote tank monitoring will greatly improve company’s bottom line and customer service. However, there may be a few challenges that prevent us from moving forward with this advance solution. One challenge is the additional costs related to adding a new monitoring system. Are the initial and recurring costs worth the return? Another hurdle is the lack of the right expertise within the company. Do we have the right expertise to manage all the different parts to this system?

Digi’s Cellular Product Manager, Brent Nelson, takes a few minutes to breakdown the benefits of tank monitoring, the technical and business challenges, and how companies can overcome these challenges with flexible technology that meets their needs.

If you’d like to learn more about remote tank monitoring with cellular devices, visit the Digi Connect Tank page.

Why You Should Choose Cellular for Your IoT Solution

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You already know how ubiquitous cellular is, but did you realize it’s going above and beyond the device you have in your hand? Lower costs and reliable connections are driving cellular adoption in M2M and Internet of Things applications. According to Berg Insights, there are already around 187 million cellular connected M2M devices. Here are some of the top reasons our customers choose to go with a cellular solution for their M2M and IoT solutions.

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1. Ubiquitous Coverage
Cellular coverage is nearly everywhere. A recent ITU report suggests that the total number of global mobile subscriptions is approximately 6.8 billion – nearly the same as the estimated world population.

Cellular devices can be deployed anywhere that is in network coverage.  It can also be deployed in mobile applications where devices need to stay connected no matter where they are at (e.g. fleet/asset tracking), even across wide geographical areas.  Additionally, there is a growing population of picocell deployments that are enabling improved in-building coverage for shopping centers, large corporate buildings, subway stations, etc.

2. Easy Deployment
Cellular devices can be pre-provisioned by distributors or system integrators before shipment to the end-customer, so they connect to the network right out of the box.   No end user provisioning is required (e.g. setting up security to connect to a Wi-Fi access point)

Cellular devices are not dependent on IT infrastructure (e.g. Wi-Fi access point, corporate Ethernet, …).  Deploying Wi-Fi or Ethernet connected devices inside environments like hospitals or shopping centers can be difficult due to IT teams not allowing 3rd party devices on their network.  What if the IT network is updated or security settings change? Cellular connected devices ensure you retain complete control over your device.

3. Lower Support Costs
With cellular, the infrastructure is owned and managed by the cellular carriers, not the end-customer or product supplier.  This means no upfront infrastructure costs and reduced support costs. Because cellular connectivity does not depend on end-user managed infrastructure (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, etc.), product suppliers do not have to provide ‘helpdesk’ support services for basic connectivity issues (e.g. “My device won’t connect to the access point.  The security settings are not working….”).  Instead of deploying your own infrastructure, leverage one of the world’s largest communication infrastructures – the cellular network.

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4. Improved Reliability
Reliability is critical for many M2M applications, especially those involving security and real-time monitoring and alerts.  With cellular, you are leveraging a robust wireless network used by nearly 1/3 of the world’s population every day.  Cellular network outages are rare and if they do occur they are immediately noticed and acted on.  Consider a less reliable alternative — a device is connected to a consumer-grade Wi-Fi access point, maintained by the store clerk in a small gas station.  If the wireless connection fails, it could go unnoticed for extended periods of time and require manual intervention to resolve.

5. Lower Hardware Costs
Cellular module costs have fallen significantly in recent years. High-volume pricing for data-only modules is approaching sub-$10 for 2G GSM, sub-$20 for CDMA 1xRTT and sub-$30 for 3G UMTS. These price points are enabling a whole new class of devices and applications.

6. Lower Data Costsgodzilla
Data costs have also fallen significantly.  For connected machines that only need to report small amounts of data, connectivity costs can be <$1/month.  A vending machines that reports daily inventory clearly doesn’t need the same costly data plan as a consumer streaming HD music videos.

7. No Risk of Inflatable Godzilla Ruining Your Network
This isn’t a joke. One of our own customers has run into this problem. VSAT requires a satellite typically placed on the top of the building. But what happens when the store manager requests an employee go to the roof and tie up a giant inflatable Godzilla? The store employee probably isn’t a wireless communications expert and decides to use the satellite to anchor Godzilla. This can pull the satellite out of the direction it requires to connect — resulting in costly downtime.

Obviously this isn’t an epidemic, but with cellular you don’t need to worry about the direction your antenna is pointed.

Closing
Many of our customers are realizing the value provided by cellular connected devices today. In addition to providing a secure and reliable connection, it enables them to manage and monitor their network from anywhere. Here’s an example of how our customer, Monster Media, is using cellular to connect and manage digital signage around the world.

City of Visalia Upgrades Public Transit with Verizon 4G LTE

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The city of Visalia had a cellular solution for their public transit system but it was built on a 2G network.  As 2G networks are slowly phased out over the next few years, coverage is becoming increasingly inconsistent.

With the impending shut down of 2G, Visalia needed a way to modernize their public transit system. They worked with Digi to deploy the TransPort WR44 R throughout their fleet of public transit buses, in order to provide their buses with high speed, 4G LTE connectivity.

This rugged cellular router connected over Verizon’s 4G LTE network provides multiple benefits to the city’s public transit system:

  • Security and safety with access to live video from the bus
  • Ability to offer value added services like free Wi-Fi to passengers
  • Reliable and secure connection to process ticket sales

In one month, customers downloaded roughly 540 GB of data across the entire fleet and an estimated 3,200-3,500 passengers accessed the free Wi-Fi. Overall, a reliable and high-speed cellular connection provides the heartbeat for the entire transit system and is guaranteed to last for years to come.

If you want to learn more about how Digi worked with Visalia to upgrade their public transit system, click here to read the full customer story.

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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The Internet of Things is developing and buzzing all around us. Throughout the week we come across innovative projects, brilliant articles and posts that support and feature the innovators and companies that make our business possible. Here’s our list of favorites from this week’s journey on the Web.

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Happy Internet of Things Day | Deutsche  Telekom Blog

How the Internet of Things Will Change the Future of Sport | IT Wire

Internet of Things Relay for Home Automation Using Arduino | Geeky Gadgets

With Meld, Another Step Toward the Internet of Tasty Things | New York Times

Six Things You Should Know About the Internet of Things | Tech Radar

Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @DigiDotCom– we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.

Customer Showcase: Wireless Technologies Create Foundation for Disruptive Businesses

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected device solutions. Businesses across a variety of industries are realizing the value provided by internet connected assets. From the ability to monitor device health to delivering media relevant to a local audience, connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

Monster Media
Digital Signage is a rapidly growing industry as 4G LTE becomes more prevalent and consumers expect a more interactive experience with signage and digital displays.  Monster Media is a leader in this relatively new industry. The company specializes in delivering dynamic and interactive media to high traffic venues like college campuses, conferences, sporting events, and much more.Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.47.38 PM

The team was in need of a quick and simple way to connect their digital displays to the Internet in order to provide relevant and fresh content out to the world. Cellular connectivity was an obvious solution due to its the ease of deployment. Wi-Fi is another popular solution for digital signage, but often adds complexity due to coordinating with local IT as well as taking on additional security-related risks. Cellular connectivity also makes mobile assets a non-issue since no cabling is required and zero dependence on other infrastructure. With these advantages in mind, Digi TransPort WR21s are now found inside each of Monster Media’s kiosk providing a secure and reliable cellular connection

In addition to a reliable connection for delivering content, Monster Media is able to use the Digi Remote Manger for updating device configurations and firmware from the company’s NOC.

US Water
US Water provides a variety of engineering services, equipment, and field services. To enhance their offering and further differentiate themselves from larger water treatment firms, the company wanted an advanced monitoring solution that could reduce operation costs and enable their field service team to focus on high value tasks.css-thumbnail-us-water

Utilizing XBee ZigBee Modules and cellular connected gateways, their remotely connected sites give U.S. Water an easy way to monitor customers’ usage of chemicals, tank levels, and additional insight into their supply chain. Digi also partnered with Verizon to create a data strategy that made sense for their business.

Clean Hand Safe Hands 
Washing hands is one of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce the spread of disease. According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 721,800 hospital-acquired infections. Clean Hands Safe Hands saw this as opportunity and created a wireless system to remind hospital employees to clean their hands.chsh-logo-300x118

The entire system is made possible by a combination of three wireless technologies: ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Cellular. Employees’ badge reels are Bluetooth-enabled so the hand sanitizer dispensers can record when hands are washed. The dispensers are all connected by a ZigBee mesh network and data is sent to a single cellular take out point via the XBee Gateway.

The XBee Gateway enables cloud connectivity, so hospitals can easily generate reports on their compliance and remotely monitor devices.

 To learn more about how Digi customers are changing their respective industries, visit our customer story page here.

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