Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning , Endpoint Security , Governance & Risk Management

Rockwell Forges Gen AI Pact With Microsoft, Buys Cyber Firm

Rockwell, Microsoft Envision AI Helping Engineers, Factory Workers Increase Speed
Rockwell Forges Gen AI Pact With Microsoft, Buys Cyber Firm

Unveiling a vision of factory workers using AI chatbots to control the assembly line, fix production issues and develop code, Rockwell Automation announced plans to buy industrial cybersecurity vendor Verve and team up with Microsoft's generative AI practice to accelerate industrial automation design and development.

See Also: Modern SaaS Security in an AI-driven World

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based firm said embedding Microsoft Azure's OpenAI service into Rockwell's technology will accelerate time to market for customers building industrial automation systems. Using AI to enhance automation across decision makers, control engineers and operators will help customers streamline their processes and drive worker productivity, the companies said in a joint announcement.

"I am pleased to further strengthen our longstanding relationship with Rockwell by combining its expertise in industrial automation with Microsoft's generative AI technology to help industrial professionals expedite the creation of complex control systems, optimize the efficiency of their operations, and spur greater innovation across industrial organizations," said Microsoft's Judson Althoff.

Rockwell's stock was up $2.27 per share - or 0.9% - to $265.59 per share in trading Thursday afternoon and down $1.23 per share - or 0.5% - so far this week. The expanded Microsoft partnership was announced before the market opened Thursday, while the buy of Chicago-based asset inventory and vulnerability management provider Verve Industrial Protection was announced before the market opened Monday.

Rockwell executives weren't immediately available for additional comment on the Microsoft partnership and declined to comment on the Verve acquisition until the deal closes later this fall. Microsoft didn't respond to an Information Security Media Group request for comment.

Marshalling Generative AI for Manufacturing Processes

Adding Azure's OpenAI service into Rockwell's FactoryTalk Design Studio cloud manufacturing software will help engineers generate code using natural language prompts, automate routine tasks and improve design efficiency. It also will empower seasoned engineers to accelerate development and help find relevant help from vast collections of information to further educate developers, according to Rockwell.

"We're shaping the future of technology in industrial automation."
– Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation

Going forward, Rockwell and Microsoft plan to train frontline workers to execute manufacturing processes through chat-based collaboration with experienced workers as well as Azure OpenAI service-based chatbots. The companies also plan to extend their generative AI-enabled technology to solve challenges around failure mode analysis and quality management and improvement, Rockwell said.

Both Rockwell and Microsoft are using their respective IoT capabilities, cloud datasets, simulations and AI to design and build products more effectively, efficiently and sustainably. Rockwell and Microsoft are co-developing edge and cloud computing solutions to share data from the plant across the enterprise, and combining Rockwell's OT expertise and Microsoft’s IT expertise allows teams to better collaborate.

"Rockwell's decade-long relationship with Microsoft illustrates our ongoing commitment to providing best-of-breed solutions that empower customers and support our shared vision of driving industries forward through innovation and collaboration," said Rockwell CEO Blake Moret. "Together, we're not just addressing current market needs; we're shaping the future of technology in industrial automation."

Pushing Into Industrial Protection With Verve Buy

Meanwhile, Rockwell also intends to strengthen its current offerings through Verve's asset inventory, vulnerability management and risk remediation technology. Verve's asset inventory system recognizes all industrial assets regardless of manufacturer and can gather key information about the components without impacting network performance or interrupting production, according to the company.

"The foundation of OT cybersecurity starts with visibility into assets - you can't protect what you don't know you have," Rockwell SVP of Lifecycle Services Matt Fordenwalt said in a statement. "With the Verve acquisition, our customers can quickly assess their assets, prioritize risk, and apply countermeasures to mitigate vulnerabilities - all within a single platform."

Verve was founded in 1994, employs 133 people and hasn't raised any outside funding. The company has been led since April 2016 by longtime McKinsey partner John Livingston, who previously oversaw the consulting giant's wireless, mobile and internet technology practice.

"Our platform has helped clients mitigate thousands of vulnerabilities and is an important addition to Rockwell's OT cybersecurity solutions, providing actionable intelligence to quickly mitigate cybersecurity risks, so that manufacturing facilities can stay up and running," Livingston said in a statement. Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.

Verve aggregates information from Rockwell's partner technologies as well as other third-party data sources into a single pane of glass to help customers quickly address their highest risk assets. The company's professional services deepen Rockwell's cybersecurity consulting capabilities by providing ongoing remediation, strategic roadmap and business case development, according to the company.

Rockwell's acquisition of Verve comes just three months after Honeywell bought OT security vendor SCADAfence to deliver asset discovery, threat detection and compliance management to industrial organizations. The deal will help Honeywell provide an end-to-end enterprise OR cybersecurity offering to site managers, operations managements and CISOs seeking enterprise security management.

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

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