Designing a high-fidelity testbed for 5G-based Industrial IoT




5G, Industrial IoT, Testbeds, Cyber-ranges


With the rise of the Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) and Industry 4.0 paradigms, many control and sensor systems used for IACS (Industrial Automation and Control Systems) have become more complex, due to the increasing number of interconnected field devices, sensors and actuators often being geographically spread across large areas. Supporting these increasingly sophisticated networked scenarios calls for the involvement of telecommunications and utility providers to better support Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications and infrastructure orchestration, for which 5G technology is considered a perfect match. Nowadays, such 5G networks empower solutions both for consumer and for industrial IoT scenarios, providing the capacity and the means to seamlessly connect a massive number of gadgets and sensors, with diverse data rate requirements, low latency, and low power consumption. Part of this flexibility is also due to the nature of the 5G Service Architecture (SA), which is based on a microservice concept, dividing its core through multiple functions, allowing it to horizontally scale in a flexible way. Furthermore, the 3GPP specifications encompass specific support for verticals by means of slicing and 5G LANs, paving the way for a paradigm shift in terms of the relationship between service, telecom, and operational infrastructure tenants. However, such benefits come at the cost of extra complexity and, consequently, an increased vulnerability surface. This calls for further research focused on improving 5G infrastructure management, service integration and security, which cannot be safely undertaken in production environments, thus motivating the development of suitable 5G testbeds. This research work, which was developed in the scope of the POWER and Smart5Grid P2020 projects, addresses the creation of a high-fidelity environment for 5G-related research, which encompasses a gNodeB and 5G core, together with emulated User Elements (terminal devices) and IoT nodes (in this specific case, Programmable Logic Controllers), constituting a 5G Industrial IoT scenario designed for development and validation of new solutions, security research, or even advanced training purposes. The entire infrastructure is supported via container orchestration technology, providing enhanced scalability and resilience characteristics.

This work was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (FEDER), through the Portugal 2020 (PT2020) framework, and by the Competitiveness and Internationalization Operational Programme (COMPETE 2020), under the scope of projects POWER (grant number POCI-01-0247-FEDER - 070365) and Smart5Grid (Grant POCI-01-0247- FEDER-047226). It was also partially supported by the FCT–Foundation for Science  and  Technology,  Instituto  Público  (I.P.)/MCTES  through  National  Funds,  within  the  scope  of  Centre  for  Informatics  and  Systems  of  the  University  of  Coimbra  (CISUC)  Research  and  Development  Unit,  under  Grant  UIDB/00326/2020 and Project UIDP/00326/2020.

Author Biographies

Diogo Cruz, University of Coimbra, CISUC, DEI, Portugal

Diogo Cruz received his Bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering from University of Coimbra in 2021 and currently is taking his master's degree in informatics engineering in the same university. He is a research fellow in CISUC at the LCT group where is presently working in fields such as Internet of things, management systems for communications infrastructures and services, and network function virtualization.

Tiago Cruz, University of Coimbra, CISUC, DEI, Portugal

Tiago Cruz is an Associate Professor with the Department of Informatics Engineering of the University of Coimbra. His research interests cover areas such as management systems for communications infrastructures and services, critical infrastructure security, broadband access network device and service management, Internet of Things, software defined networking, and network function virtualization.

Vasco Pereira, University of Coimbra, CISUC, DEI, Portugal

Vasco Pereira is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Informatics Engineering and senior researcher at the Centre of Informatics and Systems of the University of Coimbra, currently leading its Communications and Telematics group. He has been involved in multiple national and European research projects, with a focus in computer networks, network security, QoS and IoT.

Paulo Simões, University of Coimbra, CISUC, DEI, Portugal

Paulo Simões is an Associate Professor with the University of Coimbra. He has over 180 journals and conference publications in his research areas. He is regularly involved in several European- and industry-funded research projects, with both technical and management activities. His research interests include security, network management, and critical infrastructure protection.