Event: Factory of the Future - Big Data and Automation


Last Tuesday (10th September 2019) Awen attended the Factory of the Future (Big Data & Automation) event organised by ESTnet, supported by Barclays and hosted by the Newport Wafer Fab.

We heard from three keynote speakers:

  • Mike Lakoju from Cardiff University, who spoke about the Chatty Factories project which attempts to apply cutting-edge data science techniques for a variety of factory-floor applications.

  • Emily Bristow from BluePrism, who spoke about their software bot system RPA used to automate IT & business processes

  • Gareth Jones from the industrial automation division of Omron Electronics in the UK.

We also had a great tour around the wonderful Newport Wafer Fab.

We were invited by the organisers to come along to exhibit our software & services as part of a local showcase of solution providers within Factory of the Future / Industry 4.0 / Smart Factories. We spoke to delegates about our asset & vulnerability discovery for OT system Dot, our NIS Directive compliance system Profile, and the past-present-future of Awen Collective in general.

Awen develops software which provides practical solutions to cyber security problems in industrial environments, and we do so through local and a global lenses. We will continue the dialogue with all partners involved in this event, and invite others reading this to contact us today to get involved in that dialogue.


Life disrupted by cyber attacks

Cofounder & CEO of Awen Collective, Daniel Lewis, explains the motives behind Awen Collective.

One thing that I am often asked is “why did you set up the company?” and the answer really is multi-faceted:

First, Andrew and I found an opportunity in the market. Combined, we had been doing digital forensics on IT systems for years, but we had found that, more-and-more, we were being asked to perform investigations on embedded systems, IoT and on Operational Technologies (OT). Unlike IT forensic investigations, there needs to be an entirely different approach to digital forensics & incident response for industrial control systems, IoT networks and embedded systems. You can’t just repurpose IT software and IT digital forensics approaches. Awen Collective was really created in order to develop the tools and techniques to assist in the response to cyber attacks, and other incidents, on complex networks of digital devices. Andrew decided to take a different direction and provide services solutions, whereas I continued by building a team to primarily provide product solutions.

Secondly, it was the right time for me personally. I had worked in professional roles such as software engineering and data science. I had done interesting business-focused things like technology evangelism and tech events planning. I had been through academia with my PhD research at the intersection of artificial intelligence and cyber-physical security, and I had my researcher role in cyber-security and digital forensics. I was looking for something new, something where I could take the theory, match it with market need (or “market pull”) and actually develop market-ready software solutions using my own experiences in professional software engineering, business and academic cyber-security. This desire to provide production-quality solutions to market, was then accelerated by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) who gave me the initial inspirations and skills required to turn it into a growing business.

Thirdly, and definitely not finally, it was the acknowledgement that the software that we could (and are) building at Awen could really have an impact on society. Acknowledging that our software solutions, whether off-the-shelf or more bespoke, are all about improving the operational resilience of critical national infrastructures, advanced manufacturers and building automation & control system owners. This organisational resilience then improves supply chain resilience, and importantly improves societal/community resilience.

Taking the technical aspects out of the equation for a moment. As people - people in contemporary societies and communities - we rely on services. These services are critical to the day-to-day functioning of our societies and communities. Infrastructure such as drinking and waste water, electricity, oil & gas (both home/office supply, but also petrol & diesel), chemical production, transport (in the form of road, rail, air and marine), healthcare (regardless of public or private), financial services and so much more – also including food & drink manufacturing, agriculture, pharmaceuticals manufacturing. The list just goes on and on. These services are all in one big, and complex, interdependent network.

In the UK, you only have to look at the recent power-cuts through the electricity grid (on Friday 9th August 2019). Not only did homes and offices have no light or electricity. It caused transportation to come to a standstill, including on overground and underground trains in London. It also caused hospitals to set-up emergency back-up systems. All because two of the larger electricity generators (one gas powered, and one offshore wind powered) had faults at roughly the same time. One cannot imagine the full disruption that fault had to people lives and business, and then there is implicit and explicit economic damage too.

You see, in contemporary society, we rely heavily on these systems and services. Ensuring the organisations which own and manage these critical services and systems are doing their very best to understand their cyber risk, and are prepared for responding to cyber attacks or other digital incidents, is absolutely fundamental.

Awen was started to assist with the whole digital forensics and incident response lifecycle, and we feel that we are making a positive impact. Minimising the disruption to society, by improving operational resilience and business continuity, by producing software.

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