More effort is needed to ensure cybersecurity and to cultivate enough talent to pave the way for long-term, sustainable development of the industrial internet in China, company executives and experts said.

Qi Xiangdong, chairman of security company Qi-Anxin Technology Group Inc, said the industrial internet helps companies boost efficiency in production and corporate management, but it also brings new cybersecurity challenges.

“Cybersecurity is the top challenge for the industrial internet, which is entering the fast lane in China, and more efforts are needed to better solve the problem,” Qi said.

With the in-depth integration of 5G and industrial systems, there will be severe security challenges facing the industrial internet. Traditionally, industrial enterprises have a relatively closed production environment. But with 5G plus the industrial internet, the changes make them more vulnerable to cyberattacks, Qi said.

Such concern is echoed by Liu Duo, head of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

“The industrial internet has accelerated the long-predicted convergence of IT technologies and manufacturing, as companies step up efforts to embrace digitalization,” Liu said.

“But it also brings new cybersecurity challenges, which mainly come from two aspects: One is how to better protect industrial computers and servers, and the other is how to secure industrial data as they flow across different platforms,” Liu said.

Industrial computers, specifically industrial control computers and servers, connect the information infrastructure of enterprises and industrial control equipment. But these industrial computers tend to have a very long working cycle, powered with old operating systems and hardware, resulting in a lot of security loopholes, experts said.

It is a big challenge as to how to fix these loopholes while not interrupting industrial production. Unlike consumer applications, which can be updated whenever security loopholes are identified, industrial apps and computers have certain schedules to perform. Casual fixing or updates will interrupt production and lead to big losses, said Wu Hequan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Knowledge about industrial production procedures and manufacturing know-how is needed to offer cybersecurity services to industrial companies.

Also, industrial data flowing across different applications have become a trend. It is critical that the full cycle of data flow is protected, Wu added.

To help companies better solve such security concerns, China is working hard to lay out a primary cybersecurity system for the industrial internet by the end of 2020, with at least 20 innovative products and solutions developed as pilot projects to safeguard information security for sectors including automotive, aerospace and energy.

It is all part of a plan to build a sound and complete cybersecurity system by 2025 to promote the development of the industrial internet in the country.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, efforts are being made to formulate at least 20 cybersecurity standards for the industrial internet by the end of 2020. Key sectors will be the focus of the wider application of industrial cybersecurity products and solutions.

Such moves come as China makes strides in the industrial internet sector. According to a report released by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China’s industrial internet market will grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of 14.4 percent over the next two years to exceed 900 billion yuan ($136.9 billion) in 2022.

China is also poised to lead the global industrial IoT market. There will be 13.8 billion such connections globally by 2025, and China will account for approximately 4.1 billion, a third of the global market, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association.

But to achieve sustainable development, more efforts are needed to cultivate cross-disciplinary talent. Xu Xiaolan, head of the China Academy of Industrial Internet, said the industrial internet is a product of the integration between information communications technology and control technology, management technology and application technology in industrial production scenarios.

As a result, the professional requirements are more extensive, and cross-disciplinary talent is required. It is necessary to strengthen the training of talent in this area, Xu said.

It is estimated that in 2020, the total number of jobs driven by the industrial internet will reach 28.11 million in China, up from 26.79 million in 2019, according to a report from the China Academy of Industrial Internet.

Xu also highlighted that although China has a complete industrial system, barriers exist between industries, which makes it difficult to promote cross-industry application of industrial internet solutions.

“Currently, efforts are needed to solve the application problems of the industrial internet in different industries, summarize scalable solutions of industrial internet applications in the industry and on this basis, seek to build a standardized solution framework for common problems,” Xu added.

Liu Liehong, vice-minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, also highlighted the importance of global cooperation in the development of the industrial internet.

Liu said China’s rapid development in the industrial internet sector will offer huge opportunities for greater cooperation between foreign companies and Chinese enterprises as 5G has become an important driver for its application.

“The industrial internet has entered the fast lane with increasing market scale… and more efforts are needed to strengthen international cooperation to fully tap into its potential,” Liu said.

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