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ASERCOM to tackle cyber security

Digital transformation is in full swing and is leading to a fundamental, comprehensive change in all aspects of life. Refrigeration and air conditioning technology can also greatly benefit from digitisation. "From energy saving potentials, to adjustments to volatile supply networks, like solar or wind, or facilitating troubleshooting - for all these projects it is necessary to measure data from the units and components, digitise it and transmit it to superordinate systems, such as building management systems," explains Dr Christian Ellwein. "Only those who are aware of the possibilities and risks of digital progress will be able to make full use of those opportunities. This is where we as an industry association want to provide assistance," he adds.

The trend towards digitisation and automation is ubiquitous in the industry. Even in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning, it is becoming increasingly important. To actively engage in and shape digital transformation within the refrigeration sector, ASERCOM has established a new working group, 'Control and Communications'. It focuses on the opportunities and challenges of digital progress - from cybersecurity to industry-wide data standards. Dr Christian Ellwein, managing director of Kriwan Industrie-Elektronik GmbH and head of the working group, offers insights.

Digital transformation is in full swing and is leading to a fundamental, comprehensive change in all aspects of life. Refrigeration and air conditioning technology can also greatly benefit from digitisation. 'From energy saving potentials, to adjustments to volatile supply networks, like solar or wind, or facilitating troubleshooting - for all these projects it is necessary to measure data from the units and components, digitise it and transmit it to superordinate systems, such as building management systems,' explains Dr Christian Ellwein. 'Only those who are aware of the possibilities and risks of digital progress will be able to make full use of those opportunities. This is where we as an industry association want to provide assistance,' he adds.

Holistic systems and common standards

'Firewalls, encrypted emails or secure internet connections - most of us know how to safely use the internet from our PC at home,' Dr Ellwein points out. 'However, it is a much greater challenge to upload security or software updates or patches onto machines that are connected to each other through the internet of things. To some extent, standards or customer requirements stand in the way of a quick change of software,' the expert on IT security says of the problem. In addition, connecting systems is not merely a technical issue, but also a matter of cooperation between companies. For example, data can only be exchanged securely between the various components of air conditioning and refrigeration systems if common platforms are created, and if interfaces, data formats and transmission routes are established. 'As issues like interlinked work and cybersecurity have become increasingly important for companies, there is a strong demand for reaching agreement on an industry-wide standard. Associations such as ASERCOM play an important role in this regard,' emphasises Ellwein.

Tasks and goals of the new working group

The Control and Communications working group reflects the diversity of the refrigeration industry. Its members include manufacturers of compressors, controllers, fans, frequency converters and protection relays. They have taken upon themselves the joint task of mastering the issues relating to cybersecurity and look at it not only as a matter that affects an individual product, but refrigeration and air conditioning systems as a whole. Or as Christian Ellwein summarises: 'Refrigeration and air conditioning systems used to provide air conditioning for data centres, or for use in the food refrigeration chain, are part of a critical infrastructure - that is why IT security is so important for refrigeration systems.' Hence, the working group also wants to intensify cooperation with companies in the field of building or factory automation, as well as in regard to power grids, and thus define common data standards. Currently, the members are elaborating a risk analysis regarding cybersecurity for condensing units. Other issues to be discussed in the near future are finding agreement on secure bus systems in refrigeration and air conditioning circuits, and the integration of fluctuating energy prices into the control systems for refrigeration circuits.

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