Access to real-time information and analysis inject significant efficiencies into any business, particularly energy, utilities and other critical infrastructure.

Greater insight helps to digitally transform industry, streamline supply chains, schedule predictive maintenance, cultivate greater insights and strip out costs.

Australia’s energy sector is facing the challenge of balancing security, affordability and accountability, whilst transitioning towards a low carbon economy. This will be guided, for better or worse, by increased automation across all energy and utilities industries.

Many technologies are impacting the sector on a micro scale. For example, the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies are providing operational optimisation across much of the value chain. Plants are already heavily instrumented to feed control systems and measure data which is used for analysis of plant conditions to inform maintenance and to optimise performance. However, internet-enabled and integrated technologies – like smart sensors – combined with ever more powerful data analytics tools are providing opportunities for businesses to derive greater insights to increase asset utilisation and improve productivity.

One of Australia’s utilities giants and a lynchpin of regional energy stability has deployed 200,000 smart sensors to measure temperature, pressure and vibration with data transmitted back to a central point in real time. Each sensor is connected to the cloud and stream data to 6,000 analytics models performing 3 million calculations a day.

The resultant insights allow it to schedule preventative maintenance, monitor plant performance and boost efficiency and safety. But it also expands the organisation’s attack surface for cyber villainy. Each connected device provides hackers with a potential route into the organisation’s network. A computer virus or a ransomware attack can be disastrous. Businesses can be brought to a standstill for days. And in the case of critical infrastructure, the impacts can be felt significantly longer.

An attack against critical infrastructure can have national implications.

It has the risk of extensive power cuts, contaminated water suppliers, large-scale transport failures or catastrophic industrial incidents.

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Preparation is Key

Organisations operating critical infrastructure must be prepared for the worst. They must have a well-designed, tested and robust cyber incident response strategy.

The sector will remain competitive by focusing on the fundamentals of cost management, efficiency and productivity improvement, and the role technology and automation can play to achieve this. However, as more devices become connected, critical infrastructure operators must consider the impact this has on their risk profile.

Organisations cannot insulate themselves from every cyber event. A careful evaluation will help transfer various risks via insurance and other well-crafted risk management solutions.


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