As we discussed a few weeks ago, ready or not you should be planning how your lab will deal with the internet of things (IoT). To delay incorporating IoT into your lab may already prove to be problematic as now manufacturers incorporate the IoT into their instruments. It is much wiser to embrace it, but in a controlled process to ensure security.
A Quick Recap: What is the IoT?
IoT mainly deals with machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. Virtual or physical devices that can be connected to each other, either directly or indirectly, and then connected to the internet. There are almost 3 times more devices connected to the internet than there are humans on the planet.
While the decision to implement the IoT into your lab is fairly simply, deciding how to implement and configure it can be very daunting.
Approaches to the IoT
Standard Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
Currently, the most commonly used approach to implementing the IoT in your lab is a Standard Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) stack, having it communicate like any other network device your lab uses. This should be technology familiar to most lab IT departments, thus comfortable to install and maintain in house. A possible negative is that purchasing and integrating the hardware and software can be costly to make this possible drives up the cost of the individual sensor devices.
Multiple, Less Expensive, Devices
Another approach is to use a chain of less expensive sensors incorporating a simplified and less expensive communication protocol. Many devices use a very small amount of data this way. The trade-off is that no confirmation regarding the receipt of data is transmitted. The thought process being that the low cost of the sensors means that multiple redundant sensors can be used. This means that if one reading is lost, it doesn’t have any impact on your lab operations.
Whichever approach is used, you still need to receive the data.
Benefits of the IoT
The IoT promises a major paradigm shift in the way we work and think about our equipment, while making our labs more and more efficient everyday. While many equipment and benefits will be common to all labs, some may be particular to the specific type of laboratory that you manage. Do as much research as possible when researching what options are available for your lab in the IoT.
Security and the IoT
As with most technologies there is a potential for security risks to IoT devices. Whether due to errors in device design or programming, or concerning privacy and confidentiality of the data collected, you must ensure that the IoT in your lab is safe and private from these oversights.
More importantly, active attacks on the IoT for criminal purposes are far more prevalent, and security against these attacks must be ensured. Once the security of a single device is compromised it can be leveraged to launch attacks against other components in the network. These attacks can be used to capture your data, add and create problems in your existing data, or to maliciously sabotage and damage equipment in your lab. Many current IoT devices were not designed with security in mind, so keep this in mind when implementing your devices.
Best Practices in Security
There are a number of list items to check off to ensure to minimize this risk.
- Always change the default password any IoT device(s) before installation.
- All data transfers should be encrypted, with each device using a different encryption key.
- Make sure that unused ports and protocols on any IoT device are disabled.
- Try to choose and purchase equipment that supports over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.
- NEVER purchase equipment with known security issues.
- Ensure that a compliance monitoring program is set up for the IoT, to ensure that your security remains in compliance.
IoT implementation can exponentially change your laboratory operations for the better, but it does have risks. It is essential to choose the proper approach, but also to ensure that all devices ensure the security of your operations and to remove potential legal liability. Approached proactively and intelligently, the IoT allows your lab to overhaul many processes, improving both data quality and productivity.