Spanish Startup Secures Smart Grids from Cyberattacks – EE Times Europe

Smart grids are designed to optimize energy production, distribution and consumption. Securing smart grid infrastructures is essential to ensure the overall security of energy systems. Madrid, Spain-based Barbara IoT announced it has raised €2.5 million to accelerate the development of its edge computing technology.

Barbara IoT was founded in 2016 with a mission to facilitate and secure the connection of industrial devices to the Internet. “We found an opportunity within the critical infrastructure sector that needs to be digitized and where cybersecurity is paramount,” David Purón, CEO of Barbara IoT, told EE Times Europe

Barbara IoT's founders Isidro Nistal and David Purón
Barbara IoT’s founders Isidro Nistal (left) and David Purón (right). (Source: Barbara IoT)

Building trust

The rapid deployment of smart grids coupled with IoT devices has brought forth the challenge of cyberattacks. From small viruses to massive, sophisticated cyberattacks, power plants have been subject to increasingly frequent breaches. The global cybersecurity market size is estimated at €188 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12% from 2022 to 2030, reaching €466 billion by 2030, according to a recent study by Grand View Research. 

The continuous monitoring and assessment of cyberthreats is critical to reducing the risk of cyberattacks in sectors such as electricity, water management and critical infrastructure services, as well as transportation and logistics. Barbara IoT said its technology allows real-time processing and data analysis in photovoltaic plants, high and medium voltage grids, as well as substations. 

“We connect sensors, actuators, and industrial equipment, and enable cybersecure edge computing to monitor and optimize processes. We have devoted over 3 years to product development. We can now say that we’ve become the reference when it comes to applying IoT and edge computing in critical environments such as power grids, water management and critical infrastructure, that require cybersecurity and real time information in order to operate.”

Purón said Barbara IoT can deploy distributed intelligence, “with more than a thousand nodes” deployed for electricity distributors, utilities, emergency services and telecommunications.

When asked what makes Barbara IoT’s edge computing algorithms secure and scalable, Purón said, “We have developed a proprietary thin edge technology with the highest standard of security. Our technology has been created from the philosophy of “security by design” and equipped with a set of functionalities that guarantee the privacy and resilience of the system.” 

Cyberattacks are increasing in number and sophistication to the point where it is critical to anticipate the next threat and increase resilience. For that, Barbara IoT conducts over-the-air (OTA) updates on its software and firmware. OTA has the ability to download applications, services and settings over a mobile network or phone. It is literally an update sent “over the air”; a mechanism to update Internet-connected hardware remotely and wirelessly with new software and/or firmware configurations, Purón said. “With our technology, we are able to keep our software updated.”

Processing data

Cloud computing continues to take hold, but the exponential growth of IoT devices is drawing more and more attention to edge computing for data processing closer to where the data is produced. According to Gartner, in 2018, about 10% of enterprise data was generated and processed “at the edge”. By 2025, that number is expected to rise to a staggering 75% to 80%.

Barbara’s IoT technology is built on four pillars that are distributed both at the edge and in the cloud. 

“By controlling data from its source location or very close to where data is generated, you can decide which data and when to send them to the cloud, and so the cybersecurity risks of data theft or improper access to information are minimized,” Purón commented. “It also avoids overloading the infrastructure, eliminating unnecessary latencies.” 

There is a certain type of information that can be securely executed at the edge, and only the aggregate data can be analyzed in the cloud.

“There is a false sense in many cases that industrial IoT requires the interconnection of all plants to the cloud to send large amounts of data to be processed by complex artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms,” Purón said. “For utilities, with their infrastructure scattered over thousands of kilometers, this is a major operational and security challenge. Therefore, designs in which part of the intelligence and processing are performed in the plant itself, and only the results of the processing are uploaded to the cloud, or those data that require centralized analysis, make sense.”

Expanding

So far, Barbara IoT has raised €3 million, and this new round of financing will allow the startup to expand its presence in Europe, specifically in the U.K., Germany, Italy, and France.  

Led by Caixa Capital Risc, it includes the participation of Iberdrola’s international program for startups. It was also backed by GoHub, Bizkaia Seed Capital, and Basque Fondo, company shareholders since 2020, to help the Spanish startup penetrate other industrial sectors. 


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