Keeping our cyber world safe

IoT has disrupted many industries, from agriculture, transport and energy, to healthcare, manufacturing and retail

As with any other day, you wake up, check the smart phone, read emails, note sleep quality, get the real-time weather update and dress accordingly, adjust your smart home settings from an app, jump in the car, ask your virtual personal assistant for your agenda, read news on phone in train, pay some bills and all before arriving at work.

Autonomous vehicles will require intelligent infrastructure to function efficiently
Future intelligent transport systems will analyze big data to improve road safety and save lives (Photo:

The Internet of Things (IoT), with its billions of connected, sensorized devices and systems, has become a part of our daily lives. In fact, connectivity, is increasingly central to the way we live.

Added to this, advancing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are being incorporated into more systems and products. Using analytics algorithms, machines are able to learn intelligent (human-like) behaviour from the huge amounts of data they gather, gaining useful insights which can enhance the user experience.

Intelligent systems are making cities, transport and critical energy infrastructure more robust and efficient, while the convergence of IT and OT has enabled smart factories to create flexible manufacturing processes which can respond rapidly to changes in demand at low cost.

Smart technology embedded in buildings and homes operates building access and security, data and energy management, water use, light and temperature, and offers disabled and ageing populations the independence needed to carry out their daily activities in their homes.

This is all great, but it only works if the security and privacy of data being gathered can be ensured, along with the safety of these systems and products. It also raises other questions, such as who actually owns all this data?  

IEC has developed many Standards which help protect critical infrastructure assets, such as electric power utilities, ensure security for industrial automation, and address risk management for healthcare devices and systems. IEC also works on conformity assessment, including testing and global certification schemes for electrotechnical equipment and components. 

In this issue, we look at how Standards contribute towards cyber security for some of these industries, for example what it takes to protect complex supply chains in terms of security and interoperability, while maintaining the functional and safety aspects of the operational technologies.

We learn how trustworthiness is at the core of the development of International Standards for an IoT framework, which will serve as a basis from which to develop specific IoT architectures and systems for use in different sectors.

The aviation industry already has many measures in place to ensure the safety and security of millions of passengers and the protection of economic assets worldwide, which cover airport infrastructure, air traffic control systems and the aircraft themselves. In addition to passenger, luggage and freight scanning, we look at how comprehensive protection of the entire aviation system and all its components on land and in the air rests to an even greater extent on the security of both IT and OT systems, to counter cyber threats.

As healthcare becomes increasingly digitized, masses of patient data are being generated, stored and shared in different healthcare systems. AI algorithms could be used in a number of situations, including for detecting and diagnosing diverse health conditions, and replacing doctors and specialists in intensive care units. We examine critical challenges, such as ethics, regulations, privacy and algorithm bias, and how IEC standardization efforts already underway for the entire AI ecosystem, will address these and other issues.

We also include highlights from the IEC GM in Busan, Korea, covering the open session for smart cities, the regulators forum, the Young Professionals workshop and more.