Operational Technology: Driving Sustainable Growth and Productivity in Industry

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In today’s industrial landscape, the complex and demanding task of monitoring and managing physical devices poses a significant challenge for companies across various sectors. Operational technology (OT) emerges as the pivotal solution to address this challenge, offering advanced control systems and technologies tailored to industrial environments. So, let’s delve into the world of OT, where controlling industrial equipment and managing devices have become obsolete.

What is Operational Technology?

Operational technology (OT) refers to the hardware and software that identifies or causes a change by way of direct monitoring and/or controlling physical devices, events, and processes in the enterprise. It is commonly used to control industrial equipment and manage devices that interact with the physical environment. It includes various building management systems, industrial control systems, fire control systems, and physical control and access mechanisms.

Operational Technology vs. Information Technology

The distinction between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) lies in their respective roles and focus within an organization.

OT primarily deals with the hardware and software used to monitor and control physical devices, processes, and infrastructure in industrial settings. It controls high-tech specialist systems found in the energy, industrial, manufacturing, and oil industries. OT is essential for monitoring, securing, connecting, and managing an organization’s industrial operations, such as manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, utilities, and transportation.

On the other hand, IT encompasses technologies for networking, information processing, enterprise data centers, and cloud systems. It is the technological backbone of a company, necessary for monitoring, securing, and managing core functions viz., human resources (HR), finance, email, and so on in the data center and cloud.

Benefits of Operational Technology

The benefits of OT are significant and encompass various aspects of industrial and organizational operations. Below are some of the key benefits:

●     Enhanced Performance and Efficiency

OT enables organizations to generate more accurate and meaningful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), driving efficiencies and higher performance across the organization. This increased visibility in both areas allows both teams to pursue and achieve common goals, ultimately leading to improved productivity and increased bottom lines.

●     Process Automation and Business Analytics

The merging of information technology systems with operational technology systems, known as IT-OT convergence, allows firms to benefit from process automation and business analytics. This convergence streamlines the approach to maintaining regulatory compliance and provides a more efficient way to manage complex machines through powerful analytics software.

●     Improved Safety and Reliability

OT plays a crucial role in maintaining safety and reliability in critical infrastructure and industrial environments. It helps in optimizing uptime and building operational resilience, contributing to the overall safety and reliability of operations.

●     Cybersecurity and Risk Management

OT security encompasses processes to protect all hardware, software, and devices within the OT infrastructure from attacks, both internal and external, as well as other cyber risks. This is particularly important as OT devices were traditionally closed systems, and the emergence of connected devices has increased the need for robust cybersecurity measures.

Leading Players in the Operational Technology Field

Some of the leading companies in the operational technology (OT) market include:

1.   Honeywell International, Inc.

Honeywell International Inc., a prominent player in the OT industry, has expanded its OT cybersecurity portfolio with active defense and deception technology solutions. The HTDP (Honeywell Threat Defense Platform) features Acalvio’s autonomous deception technology, which helps combats threat actors and offers accurate threat detection for operational technology environments. This solution includes deployment and ongoing monitoring, freeing up internal security team resources, and is well-suited for firms that seek advanced intrusion detection in the building network that doesn’t need to be installed or involve any complex technology.

2.   Siemens

Siemens, a global technology company based in Germany, is a major player in the OT market, offering a wide array of OT solutions and services. Siemens offers solutions for secure communication and data exchange between IT and OT, recognizing the specific requirements of industrial and office networks for reliable data exchange. Siemens’ involvement in OT spans cybersecurity, network connectivity, consulting services, and digital transformation, reflecting its commitment to providing comprehensive solutions for industrial environments.

3.   Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric, a French multinational corporation, is known for its significant presence in the OT market, providing diverse operational technology solutions. Recently, in January 2023, Schneider Electric solidified its interest in developing the area of operational technology through a partnership with BitSight, a specialist in the field of cybersecurity. This collaboration aims to establish a unique ‘global operational technology (OT) risk identification and threat intelligence capability’ to detect threats to operational technology and consolidate industrial security.

To Wrap Up

Operational technology (OT) stands as a cornerstone in the realm of industrial operations, offering a comprehensive suite of solutions to address the evolving challenges of monitoring, controlling, and optimizing physical devices and processes. As industries continue to adopt digital transformation, the role of OT becomes increasingly vital in ensuring the efficiency, reliability, and safety of critical industrial operations. By leveraging OT solutions, organizations can navigate the complexities of modern industrial environments, foster innovation, and fortify their resilience in the face of dynamic operational demands. The future of industrial operations hinges on the effective integration and utilization of operational technology, paving the way for enhanced productivity, streamlined processes, and sustainable growth.

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