RFID communication with no risk

RFID communication with no risk

Making production processes for Industry 4.0 data-secure

Automation specialist Balluff together with partner companies in the IUNO research project is developing an OPC-UA based RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) solution for secure data communication between the object level and corporate IT: A win for companies who now can make their production processes data-secure.

Industry 4.0 offers companies huge opportunities: Production is not only made more efficient and cost-effective, companies can now also respond flexibly to customer desires and bring new products to the market faster. But increasing networking of production also brings with it numerous risks from security gaps.

The IUNO research project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research is a national reference project for Industry 4.0 IT security. Over the past three years project members have identified threats and risks to intelligent factories, developed protection measures and implemented four application cases on the topics of secure data, secure services, secure processes and secure networking.

Secure processes for Industry 4.0

The researchers focused on two risks for secure processes: The threat from hackers to the production process, and the challenge of making a workpiece trackable and identifiable anywhere in the production process. "The idea is to ensure that in case of a production bottleneck alternative routes can be identified. This requires so to speak "navigation systems," explains Oliver Pütz-Gerbig, Product Manager for RFID & Locating at Balluff.

Together with Wubu-Systems, a specialist in protection and licensing of software and documents, Balluff assisted the manufacturer of woodworking machines in this project in constructing secure processes for customized production. Using the example of furniture production, the participants analyzed the individual process steps from product development to product planning and production to service. From this they were able to implement appropriate protection measures and implement them by way of example. To provide for secure communication, the OPC UA protocol with end-to-end encryption is now used in production. This prevents spying on or manipulating data.

Secure communication with RFID technology from Balluff

RFID systems are the basis for communication in production. These systems are considered key for Industry 4.0 solutions: They enable transparent supply chains, reliable tracking of individual products or entire lots in logistics and material management, and they also control data and components with secure identities in production networks. "This makes them especially intelligent navigation systems for workpieces", notes Pütz-Gerbig.

The OPC UA RFID reader from Balluff with Secure Element from WIBU-Systems
The OPC UA RFID reader from Balluff with Secure Element from WIBU-Systems

In spite of all this, traditional RFID tags are generally not data-secure. Unauthorized persons can eavesdrop or manipulate them. To get around this problem Balluff has developed the OPC UA RFID reader with Secure Element from WIBU-Systems as a secure version of traditional RFID systems. Here the intelligent BIS U-6127 UHF Long Range RFID reader from Balluff was equipped with the Secure Element CmASIC from Wibu-Systems. This allows communication between the RFID reader and other systems to be secure. The data on the RFID tag are digitally signed and encrypted if desired. In this way the authenticity of the data on the RFID tag can be checked using the key located in the CmASIC directly in the RFID reader. This new reader effectively prevents spying on data or manipulating it in production.

About Balluff

Founded in 1921 in Neuhausen a.d.F., Balluff employs 4,000 people worldwide and represents innovative technology, quality and cross-industry experience in industrial automation. As a leading sensor and automation specialist, the family-owned company in its fourth generation offers a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality sensor, identification and network and software solutions for industrial automation.

In 2017 Balluff Group reported revenues of around EUR 459 million. In addition to the main headquarters in Neuhausen a. d. F., Balluff has sales, production and development locations around the world and can boast 37 wholly owned subsidiaries and other representatives in 68 countries. This guarantees customers rapid worldwide availability of products and high consulting and service quality on site.