We’re approaching our one-year anniversary as master U.S. distributor for Tosibox, an industrial VPN manufacturer based in Finland. In that time, we’ve been involved in projects across building types, helping contractors and integrators establish secure remote connections quickly with Tosibox locks and keys.
While the VPN technology is not new, its application in commercial building HVAC systems and OT networks is, and there’s some uncertainty around how it works and why facility managers and field technicians need it. So we were thrilled to connect Tosibox with Automated Buildings to help introduce the technology to more people in our industry. Out now in the April issue is an interview between Tosibox Chief Sales Officer Bill Behn and AB publisher Ken Sinclair.
Sinclair: Why are VPNs an important foundational element for building management systems these days?
Behn: Virtual private networks are crucial to the IoT. First, there’s the need to protect all the data going back and forth between connected devices and the cloud. Then there are the cost-saving opportunities that secure remote access offers controls contractors. Building owners need to trust that their data is secure and building operators need to know that they can get to the data when they need it, and from anywhere in the world.
Sinclair: How do industrial VPNs differ from the VPNs people are used to with remote access to email clients, for example?
Behn: The biggest difference between industrial VPNs and those geared for IT or the general public is scalability. The Tosibox VPN infrastructure, for example, scales infinitely. The Lock hardware is placed at the edge of the network, connecting to the Central Lock (either hardware or software). The Key device can be granted access at various levels depending on the user and their needs. The connection architecture remains the same regardless of network size. And also, industrial VPNs are audited for higher security standards. The key to security at scale is having a direct VPN tunnel between physical devices where only trusted devices can access the network. The data is not traveling out in the open; it’s always private and only visible to those who have been granted access.
Sinclair: Tosibox is a new name to me. Can you provide some examples of where it’s used in commercial buildings?
Behn: We’re not able to discuss most buildings specifically, but Tosibox is currently deployed around the world. In the United States, Tosibox has been used to establish secure remote connections in apartment, retail and office buildings, across cities and municipalities, in arenas, supermarkets and gas stations. There are also many industrial examples of Tosibox use, including power plants.
Sinclair: I’ve heard you’ll be at the Niagara Summit this month. What is the Niagara connection?
Behn: The Niagara framework is the most popular building management platform in the U.S. today. Niagara 4 is undoubtedly expanding the capabilities of building networks. We believe that the platform can go even further when it’s part of a truly secure whole building solution that is capable of remote management and advanced data processing. As we discussed at the beginning of this interview, secure VPNs are the foundational elements to achieving those lofty goals. We’re not exhibiting ourselves, but Controlco is our master distributor in the U.S. so we’ll be at their booth helping to explain what Tosibox is and how it can help operational technology networks add value to the whole building.