The “Right to Repair” movement is building steam throughout several countries, with proposed legislation that would give customers the ability to repair broken equipment without voiding warranties or being prevented via software or hardware blocks that prevent tampering. Companies such as Apple are facing the backlash of this movement with hardware and software specifically designed to prevent unauthorized repairs.
This debate has already reached the industrial world. Motherboard has reported on John Deere customers resorting to cracked Ukrainian Firmware to make repairs and changes to automated tractors and other agriculture equipment. Customers argue that the devices are items they’ve purchased, and they should be able to repair them – particularly when a wait for authorized repairs could mean lost business and unexpected downtime.
Manufacturers, on the other hand, have safety concerns with allowing unauthorized repairs. Apple argues that incorrect handling of batteries could cause them to explode, and other manufacturers maintain that allowing access to the software of their products could weaken security or open equipment up to malicious actors, particularly when devices have connections to the internet and company networks.
Machine Builders will have to find the Balance
This leaves machine builders in a tricky situation. Do they make repairs and changes to applications easy, or do they prevent unauthorized agents from tampering with equipment. Manufacturers are able to guarantee a much more stable product when they know precisely how it has been configured, but they run the risk of alienating customers and prompting them to hack their own equipment in order to gain access.
InduSoft has worked hard to make an HMI Software product that can be configured for many levels of access and security. Applications can be configured remotely, on-site, or even on the fly during the runtime depending on how they’re designed. Access can be granted to all users, or only users with the proper credentials. InduSoft Web Studio includes intellectual property protections, and applications can be developed to suit the particular needs of any industry.
Wherever machine builders and OEMs fall on the side of the “right to repair” debate, it’s important to balance both customer requirements and security concerns for the best possible outcomes.