Authentication solutions for the networked factory

Efficient and secure production

In the era of Industry 4.0, the Smart Factory has triggered a revolution in the manufacturing industry. Increasing connectivity and automation are opening up a wide range of opportunities to boost efficiency and productivity.

But with this digitization also comes new challenges, especially in terms of security. This is where authentication solutions come into play. They help protect people, data and machines and ensure smooth processes and transparency in production.

The prerequisite is a well-thought-out, uniform system that works across all applications.

Company Story powered by: the Think WIOT Group and Elatec.

Authentication solutions for the networked factory: Efficient and secure production

Authentication solutions for the networked factory: Efficient and secure production.

The Smart Factory in Industry 4.0

A highly automated production facility uses IoT, AI and data analytics to connect manufacturing processes and equipment.

The smart factory (or intelligent factory) represents the next evolutionary stage in the manufacturing industry. For a highly automated production facility, it uses advanced technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to connect manufacturing processes and equipment and enable seamless communication and data transfer.

Through the use of sensors and IoT devices, vast amounts of data are generated and analyzed to maximize efficiency and quality.

Machines and equipment are able to communicate autonomously and make adjustments to optimize the production process and avoid bottlenecks. This leads to a significant increase in productivity and improves product quality.

In addition, the smart factory offers companies the opportunity to respond to customer needs; as demand increases for individually configured and designed products, the smart factory allows the cost-optimized production of individual items.

Because production in the smart factory is largely autonomous, humans can use their resources for complex problem-solving and strategic decision-making.

Security in the Smart Factory

Even if the fully autonomous smart factory will only gradually become a reality, modern factories are already highly networked and have a high degree of automation. And this continues to rise, as current figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) show. The 27 member states of the European Union installed around 72,000 robot units in 2022 – an increase of 6% compared to the previous year. [1]

Companies that want to remain competitive need to automate their production and make processes efficient. Not least, the shortage of labor – which will be further exacerbated by demographic change – makes it necessary to make the best possible use of human resources and outsource tasks to machines.

Modern production facilities characterized by advanced technologies offer numerous advantages in terms of efficiency and productivity. However, they pose challenges for operators, particularly with regard to the issue of safety. This is because new risks arise, ranging from cyberattacks and sabotage to incorrect operation.

Cyberattacks are an acute threat to smart factories. The networking of machines and systems offers attackers numerous entry points to penetrate the factory network. If security measures are inadequate, hackers can not only disrupt production processes but also steal valuable business data and intellectual property. The effects of such attacks can be serious; in addition to costly production downtime, there is a threat of loss of trust and damage to the company's image.

But there is also potential for risk within the company; considerable damage can be caused by untrained employees in particular. If they gain access to the equipment, a human error in programming, monitoring or maintaining machines can have serious consequences, including safety risks and production downtime.

The financial impact is significant. According to one study, unplanned downtime costs manufacturers at least 50 percent more today than it did three years ago. This is due to rising inflation and production lines with increasingly higher capacity. The cost of one hour of downtime ranges from $39,000 for consumer goods to over $2 million in the automotive sector [2].

The value of knowing who has accessed equipment or systems, at what times, and for how long goes beyond safety. Plant managers also need this information to increase operational efficiency and optimize plant processes.

The value of knowing who has accessed equipment or systems, at what times, and for how long goes beyond safety.

Safety: The biggest challenge for the smart factory

The Challenges in Security

A patchwork of multiple access and entry systems increases complexity and has a negative impact on security.

The Challenges in Security

Robust security arrangements are critical to managing the aforementioned risks and providing visibility. Overall, security in smart, connected factories is a multidimensional challenge that requires careful planning, investment and expertise.

Combining physical and digital security, protecting against cyberattacks, sabotage and misuse, and continuously reviewing and improving security practices are essential to fully realize the potential of the smart factory while minimizing risks. An indispensable part of a comprehensive security strategy is a powerful authentication solution that regulates access and entry and reliably limits it to authorized persons.

In reality, however, there are often a variety of different authentication systems in a manufacturing environment. In the course of a workday, a single employee may use:

  • an employee ID card to gain access to the premises and record his working hours;
  • an individual username and password to log in to his or her workstation and access business systems or files;
  • a shared PIN to unlock the production equipment or vending machines; and
  • a set of keys for operating forklifts and other industrial trucks.

This patchwork of multiple access and entry systems increases complexity and has a negative impact on security. This is because employees must juggle multiple passwords and PINs, physical keys, and authentication systems. This leads to password fatigue, inefficiency and, ultimately, increased risk from security breaches.

In addition, IT staff are faced with managing multiple systems. This increases the workload and creates security risks. IT silos with separate teams responsible for access control and cybersecurity make it difficult to manage overall access permissions and track the activities of individual employees.

Uniform Access

An innovative approach to protecting industrial assets in today's increasingly connected world is offered by an all-in-one authentication solution based on Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and mobile technologies using Near Field Communication (NFC) or Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE).

It can cover a wide variety of applications with one system. Harmonizing access and access control across all systems and facilities has numerous advantages.

  • Increases security:
    A unified authentication and access system improves security by enabling centralized control and monitoring of access permissions across applications. This allows IT to respond quickly to prevent potentially unauthorized access or respond appropriately when needed. Using a reliable authentication and access control technology such as RFID also eliminates the problems associated with insecure passwords, shared PINs, and lost keys.
  • Increased convenience:
    Employees can use a single authentication method to access everything they need, from building access to network systems and production equipment – without the hassle of managing multiple passwords, PINs or physical keys.
  • Time and cost savings:
    A unified system reduces time and effort for IT, thereby reducing costs for managing the access and entry system. Cross-system user access is easy to set up and manage, and IT staff and end users have fewer systems to master.
  • Exploit optimization potential:
    Harmonizing data across all access and entry systems enables comprehensive transparency of employee activities and opens up opportunities for optimizing production processes, planning efficient use of premises and resources, precisely recording costs for individual departments or projects, and planning working hours and training measures.

Harmonizing access and access control across all systems and facilities has numerous advantages.

Uniform, intelligent access: Indispensable for modern manufacturing


Identification media in the industrial environment: RFID card versus mobile credentials

An all-in-one solution that can handle RFID transponder technologies and mobile credentials based on NFC and BLE offers maximum flexibility in the choice of identification medium. However, physical ID cards are used in most industrial environments. This is supported by the fact that employees already carry an ID card that can be used for access and access control applications.

Ownership of a smartphone, on the other hand, may not be assumed for every worker. The rugged cards are also much better suited for use in harsh factory environments.

Last but not least, carrying a smartphone may be prohibited for security reasons and to protect intellectual property on the shop floor.

In corporate areas such as administration, however, factory operators can decide whether the smartphone should be used as an identification medium in parallel with the card. This is possible and makes sense if all employees have a company smartphone or "Bring Your Own Device" policies apply and there are no concerns about security or practicality.

In addition, if temporary access for visitors or other user groups is needed, a digital badge on the smartphone can be the right choice.

Future-Proof Access Control

A uniform system can cover all access needs in a factory. But this by no means suggests that it makes sense for all companies to introduce an identical solution. After all, no two manufacturing companies are the same. Factors such as manufacturing processes and machinery, number of employees, or number of manufacturing sites make each operation unique. Companies should, therefore, implement an overall solution that offers maximum flexibility and allows adjustments to be made at any time.

Such a scalable system allows companies, for example, to start with machine authentication and also use the badge for applications such as access to industrial trucks. Other applications, such as kiosk solutions for the use of tool trolleys, single sign-on in the company network, time recording or payment in the canteen, can be added successively as required.

In order to successfully implement a uniform authentication solution based on RFID, NFC and BLE in the modern factory, the following aspects must be considered.

  1. Needs analysis:
    Identification of the company's specific requirements for the authentication and access control system.
  2. Future-proofing:
    Only a system that is scalable and offers regular updates and upgrades is the right solution in the long term.
  3. Integration into existing infrastructure:
    Seamless integration of the selected solution into the existing IT landscape.
  4. Flexibility:
    Multi-frequency readers offer companies the option of using identification media with different transponder technologies.
  5. Training of employees:
    Imparting the necessary know-how in the use of the new systems and raising awareness of security aspects.
  6. Compliance and data protection guidelines:
    Consideration of applicable legal and compliance regulations in the respective country, as well as corresponding labor laws governing the use of systems for quality assurance and time recording.
  7. Continuous monitoring and optimization:
    Regular review of the implemented solution for effectiveness and possible adjustments as needed.

An authentication solution that covers all applications in production represents the decisive step toward future-proof industrial access control.

Future-Proof Access Control


A smart, connected factory needs an equally smart authentication solution to meet the high security requirements of this environment. Implementing a unified authentication solution offers numerous benefits for manufacturing environments.

By reducing complexity, improving security and evaluating the data generated, companies can increase productivity and avoid potential plant downtime. They also create a solid foundation for protecting their infrastructure in the context of Industry 4.0 and IoT applications.

Thus, an authentication solution that covers all applications in production represents the decisive step toward future-proof industrial access control.

Cookies are necessary to provide you with our services. By continuing your visit on the website, you consent to the use of cookies.
More information Ok