Creating an IT and OT Convergence Strategy for Your Building
Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) within buildings have historically stayed in their own siloes. But smart buildings are changing that. In intelligent built environments, building systems are becoming more connected than ever before and collaboration with IT infrastructure is becoming not just possible, but necessary.
This often makes OT within smart buildings seem as if it’s simply an extension of IT. Yet the two have many significant differences.
OT devices and systems are often hidden, far removed from IT port locations. OT also has its own protocols that don’t always integrate well with IT protocols. Other barriers to integration include scalability, management of device identification, maintenance windows and ensuring cybersecurity best practices are taken into account. Despite these challenges, a thoughtful IT and OT convergence strategy is a valuable—and increasingly essential—way to make buildings smarter, more secure, and more profitable.
Developing a Smart IT and OT Convergence Strategy
While IT focuses on communications and data processing, OT controls a building’s systems and equipment. Until recently, this meant controlling disparate, siloed systems. Smart technology breaks down those siloes and allows for digital, centralized control of multiple physical systems. The result is a marriage of IT and OT with more advanced capabilities than either alone.
Benefits of an IT and OT convergence strategy include:
Allows IT best practices to be applied to OT systems
Allows IT patches to protect building systems and IoT hardware to better protect systems from cyberattacks
Enables predictive maintenance of both IT and OT systems, greatly lowering the chance of catastrophic failures
Enables real-time tracking of OT devices and centralizes asset tracking to prevent losses
Streamlines processes to improve operational efficiency
A key factor when considering an effective IT and OT convergence strategy is that OT is typically less advanced when it comes to cybersecurity issues, as operations have not traditionally been connected to the Internet. Integrating IT and OT allows the IT side to protect connected building systems and equipment via its more sophisticated security features.
Where IT and OT Meet
The convergence of the IT and OT worlds has largely been driven by IoT technology, which allows for assessment of physical conditions and control of both physical and digital systems. Mobile technology has expanded its reach as well, allowing operators to control multiple facilities from anywhere in the world.
Yet there is no one-size-fits all strategy for convergence. Depending on your buildings, needs, and goals, you may focus one or more of the following:
Process convergence deals with data organization, workflows, and reforming processes so that IT and OT systems and personnel communicate with each other. It follows specific procedures for protecting IT data and adapts them to OT systems.
Software and data convergence involves the software applications and data used to address the needs of OT systems and provides a technical architecture.
Physical convergence integrates physical devices to add IT to a traditional OT environment.
Whatever the approach, convergence within built environments ideally brings a building’s physical systems and equipment into a harmonic relationship with its digital systems. With the right approach and technologies, every element of the system works more efficiently and effectively.
Not sure where to start? Buildings IOT can help. We’re experts in creating sophisticated strategies that harness the power of smart technologies to ensure you get the most out of your building.
Richard Miller leads Buildings IOT's IT team to deliver managed services to smart buildings from data centers to shopping malls. He writes about cybersecurity for smart building systems, IT/OT collaboration and more.
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