A while ago, Ken Goldberg a respected inventor and researcher in the field of robotics together with Matei Ciocarlie, an assistant professor with an interest in robotics gave a Google talk about robots with their heads in the clouds.
They discussed the impact cloud computing would have on robotics and the rise of cloud robotics. In recent times, we have also seen big data, Internet of Things and machine learning pushing and influencing the robotics industry towards more connectivity.
Of course, there are numerous industrial robots and collaborative robots already connected to the internet and they seem to be doing fine, but as more connectivity ensues, it begs the question, is the robotics industry ready for this? Is the world?
Just last year,2017, Forbes ran an article analyzing why some companies were yet to adopt cloud computing. More than 50% of those companies responded that they were afraid of data breaches. Their fears were quite valid.
Cybercrime has been quite the menace in the past few years. According to reputable studies, global cybercrime damages are expected to cost $6 trillion annually by 2021. Even more chilling is the fact that as of 2016, cybercrime was the second most reported crime globally according to PWC.
So, when that day comes and smart factories are a reality and robots are completely online communicating and learning from each other, how will cybersecurity be guaranteed?
Before attempting to answer that question, here is a scenario to consider. A factory X somewhere employs roughly fifty collaborative robots each doing a particular job. One of those cobots is a pick and place robot used to lift extremely heavy objects. If a hacker gains access to this robot and changes even the smallest of settings; it is quite possible that the robot can end up hitting its human colleagues with the said objects causing injury and even death.
That is just one robot, what if the hacker gained access to all fifty robots even the ones handling dangerous tools such as drills? Too chilling a scenario to think about, and yet safety is not the only concern we ought to consider.
The hacker can also recalibrate the robot and because no one might notice, end up costing the company a ton when the eventual product is revealed to be defective.
Such scenarios bring us back to the core of our discussion, the role of cybersecurity as more robots embrace connectivity.
What Can Be Done to Ensure Cyber Security When Using Connected Robots?
It goes back to the manufacturers. It is imperative that as manufacturers design the collaborative robots they take cybersecurity into account. The must also ensure they keep up with the ever-evolving cybercrime trends so that any measures they effect will deter even the savviest cybercriminals.
Of course, the original design is not enough. With time, the manufacturers should continually update the cyber security protocols in response to new threats.
Robot users also have a huge part to play when it comes to cybersecurity. One thing they should never ever do is ignore an update. It is common for most to ignore updates until such a time that they feel it is convenient.
A key thing noted in the various studies and surveys on cybercrime is that as hackers continue to hone their skills most consumers remain complacent. The complacency plays a huge role in the rise of cybercrime.
That means robot users should go above and beyond, install all the updates and if possible be at the forefront effecting extra measures.
Whether robots are ready to be completely connected is a question no one can conclusively answer. We can only wait and see what will happen once they do.
However, the role of cybersecurity will only get bigger. Some industry observers insist that the demand for cybersecurity professionals who specialize in robot security will exponentially rise in the coming years.