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IoT and the Aerospace Industry – Too Risky?

Posted on 2nd March, 2022 by EPTAC Staff

Internet of things (IoT) is revolutionizing the aerospace industry and the way it communicates, and there are many applications of IoT in the aerospace industry as new space crafts and their controls are being brought online rapidly. Here is everything you need to know about IoT, its security, and how it can be used in the aerospace industry. 

What Is the Internet of Things 

IoT consists of internet-connected devices that perform daily functions other than personal computing, and the number of IoT devices has grown to 12.3 billion globally. Chances are, you interact with an IoT device at least once a day, whether it’s your smart home assistant, your smart lights, your smart TV, your smart refrigerator, or your smart phone – IoT devices are all around us. 

What IoT devices provide is connectivity and adaptability. IoT devices are built to integrate with one another and coordinate with one another when prompted to, in order to conduct certain functions. With the direct data connectivity of the internet, devices can be synchronized to optimize their performance. Further, with internet connection, devices can receive software and firmware updates automatically. 

All this means that IoT devices can network to create an entire IoT system for your home, office, or even in this case, space mission. With data coursing between devices, you can automate processes that previously took painstaking manual synchronization. With IoT the devices have embedded sensors that allow them to connect to their counterparts. 

Aerospace IoT Applications 

With the amount of data traversing between components, it’s only natural that the aerospace industry would be a prime candidate for IoT device usage. From control boards to sensors, IoT devices have been finding their way into every facet of aerospace design. 

Aerospace IoT applications largely replace the radio or microwave transmissions of analog equipment. This is beneficial when it comes to space missions, because sensor gauge data can be automatically transmitted to mission control without needing to be readout. By automating the readout process, your team can cut down on take-off times and inspections. This is incredibly important when it comes to launches, because the conditions for an aerospace launch are incredibly specific and delays can be significant if systems are not ready on time. Additionally, it is crucial to have proper sensor gauge data to guarantee that the aerospace systems are operating to their correct and full capacity. IoT streamlines data transmission, which reduces the margin of error significantly due to its sophistication, making aerospace operations run smoothly. 

Security Challenges of IoT Applications 

While the use of IoT devices can help streamline inspections and take-off procedures, it is also important to note the risks that come along with going digital. Unlike radio signals, internet connections allow attackers to connect their computer directly to your systems. Although radio systems technically can be hacked, to carry out such a hack requires knowledge from technical manuals that are difficult, if not impossible, to access as well as equipment that may be equally difficult to procure. 

By contrast, computer hacks are far more common and tools for hacking are available for sale to anyone who’s willing to pay. Thus, IoT devices are necessarily a target for hackers because these devices can’t usually be equipped with anti-malware apps, which means they are far more vulnerable than personal computing devices. 

However, it is also important to note that the risk of cyber security breaches exists when any form of internet or network based technology is involved, and should not deter the incorporation of it into the aerospace industry. Likewise, there has already been extensive research into how to prevent and recover from attacks on IoT devices. These methods include ensuring that you choose products from reputable brands with good cybersecurity practices, as well as conducting regular security updates to ensure that your systems are not vulnerable. 

Otherwise, your other option is to secure the IoT devices within your network and to secure the networks that they’re on. However, this will require at the very least a network firewall and probably an intrusion prevention system as well. This will prevent hackers from getting onto your network, which keeps them from getting to your devices.  

Either way, IoT devices do have the inherit risk of cyber-attack, but any internet connected network and system is vulnerable to attack. Using IoT technology in the aerospace industry can pose incredible benefits when it comes to gathering and transmitting crucial data to aerospace operations. 

Integrating IoT Devices with Legacy Technology 

Not every aerospace enterprise can afford to overhaul and secure their entire system at once. It is more likely that IoT devices will slowly replace legacy components and will need to be integrated into the older “legacy” systems. 

This may require some degree of creativity to accomplish, and at EPTAC we provide trainings for specialists and instructors in building and inspecting electronic assemblies, including IoT devices. Our IPC-7711/7721 course on reworked assemblies is perfect for training staff at aerospace enterprises to integrate IoT devices into legacy systems. 

About EPTAC        

For over 30 years, EPTAC has been a leading provider of solder training and IPC certification. We provide professionals with the tools and training they need to advance their careers and improve their businesses. With 19 locations across North America, our solutions and instructional staff provide easy access to knowledge that will enhance your business model and help you meet and exceed industry demands. For more information call 800.643.7822 or contact us.   


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