Industrial-grade memory for secure portable licensing
Swissbit has reported that a collaborative venture with Phoenix Contact has resulted in the company adopting Swissbit’s secure industrial SD card memory as the solution for its license protection. The Data Protection Edition of the Swissbit PS-46 DP SD-memory card functions as a secure license container while accelerating the roll-out and commissioning process for Phoenix Contact customers.
While the development program took place in Germany, the secure product is available throughout the USA and for all markets worldwide.
Phoenix Contact implements the creation and distribution of licenses for paid apps in its PLCnext Store, including for its PLCnext Control, which is part of an open ecosystem combining controllers, modular engineering software and cloud integration to meet all the requirements of the IoT world. In addition to pre-installed software tools, system integrators and machine builders can integrate further software applications (apps) that require a license into their PLCs to increase the range of functions.
To guarantee customers the greatest degree of flexibility, a decision was made in favour of a removable storage medium for licensing. That medium had to meet stringent requirements in terms of security and durability, and also serve as a hardware security anchor for licenses. The SD card form factor was selected as an established format in the field of PLCs due to its compactness. Other considerations to ensure reliable operation at all times included proven capability in harsh industrial environments, insensitivity to temperature fluctuations and the long-term availability of the product.
The PS-46 DP (DP = Data Protection) from Swissbit is a Secure SD card on which data stored in the flash memory is encrypted on the hardware side with AES. The speed class ten card is based on highly reliable pSLC technology and is specified for industrial use at operating temperatures of -40 to +85°C. The necessary security for Phoenix Contact applications is ensured by a two-stage procedure that uniquely links the relevant license file with the corresponding memory card.
Among other things, the unchangeable identification number (Unique ID) of the SD card mapped in the hardware is used, which is supplemented by a serial number generated by Phoenix Contact. In addition, a checksum stored in a protected and hidden memory area on the SD card firmly connects and protects the license(s) without impairing portability.
Flexible protection and fast commissioning
The portable license protection solution saves time when commissioning a PLC from the PLCnext Control platform. When ordering and purchasing, customers simply select the apps requiring a license for applications for the free PLCnext Engineer software. The SD card then functions simultaneously as a storage medium and as a license dongle, enabling customers to program the PLC according to their requirements and to configure it for use in a plant.
Typical constraints where licenses must first be activated individually via a computer at the integrator's facility or at the end user’s site are eliminated, which is a key consideration where large numbers of controllers are to be rolled out simultaneously. Another advantage arises in the unlikely event of a defective PLC; here, the software license remains active and can be easily transferred to a new control.
Rudolf Braun, Product Management Control Systems at Phoenix Contact, said: “The convenient roll-out and rapid commissioning of a PLC, including the required app licenses, is an essential requirement of our customers. The solution designed in partnership with Swissbit fulfills this exact requirement and at the same time offers the greatest possible protection for our software licenses.”
The PS-46 DP Secure SD card will be offered by Phoenix Contact with memory capacities of 8GB and 32GB as part of the PLCnext Control portfolio.