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Data space, automation & networking

Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence, cloud computing: The automation and networking of all living and working areas are establishing new business models in all sectors and are changing corporate structures. The basis for this interplay of services is the exchange of data.

The megatrend Digital Transformation not only changes the business processes but also the role data plays in the company. Data is increasingly viewed as an economic asset and as a strategic resource. But sharing data with business partners is also a delicate issue for many companies. They are afraid to lose control of their own data. The Industrial Data Space (IDS) is intended to create a framework for a digital, networked economy and a virtual data space that supports the secure exchange and simple linking of data based on standards. The initiative was founded by several ministries together with representatives of research and business and now comprises 80 members. Automotive, chemical, pharmaceutical, energy or insurance companies come together with suppliers such as Bosch, Deutsche Telekom and Siemens. The Chinese IT giant Huawei also joined at the end of last year.

Goal of the IDS

The IDS pursues an altruistic approach. The goal is to create an infrastructure for data sharing to help companies deal with complex topics like data exchange, security, legal and data transfer. Companies should be able to do business, build smart services, create added value and not have to worry about data exchange. The vision is that the IDS becomes the standard through which data is exchanged in the economy. Each company determines in advance how its information may be used in the context of the cooperation. In the protected data space, only certified participants whose identity has previously been checked can enter.

Perfect member

Telekom is constantly developing new security solutions with renowned partner companies and is continually expanding its own security systems in order to detect and prevent new forms of hacker attacks. Maximum security in the Cloud is ensured by a growing range of German cloud solutions, operated according to strict German data protection requirements in highly secure twin data centers. All together this makes Deutsche Telekom the perfect member of the initiative: “Digitization is also a matter of trust. Our security experts around the world ensure that customer data such as IT infrastructures are protected on a daily basis and that our customers can be confident about new digital business models, “said Anette Bronder, Telekom Security and Digital Division T-Systems.“We are delighted to support this initiative and to contribute our know-how to protect sensitive information and infrastructure.”

Connectors – The central component

The IDS is not a cloud, conceptually it is a peer-to-peer approach. There are different approaches to exchange data over the Internet. Exchange via cloud is a popular procedure. When a company exchanges data with one another in a cloud, the risk and expense is costly, because the companies have to set up a clear data exchange procedure with each partner and conclude a contract. All companies participating in the IDS, on the other hand, have agreed on game rules and the rights of use have been clarified. There is one connector and thus only one interface. This ensures security in the center as a relay station. On this, services from third parties then build up like a “broker solution” or an App Store.
The core of the architecture of the Industrial Data Space is the mentioned connector. The connection software is intended to link enterprises, cloud platforms and networked objects, ensuring that data can only be used and processed under defined conditions, thereby enabling a confident data exchange. For this purpose, it checks the identity of all participants, checks the authenticity of the software components, monitors the integrity of the data packages, and manages the allocation of rights during data access. Currently, the Fraunhofer researchers are developing prototypically various connectors and apps. At present, two prototypical variants are available for companies for a connector: a basic variant offers the protected data space and, in addition, all the functions required for everyday operation. A high-secure variant, developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Safety AISEC, offers even more detail functions and a security level which also meets the strict requirements of business-critical applications. The Fraunhofer experts use the hardware-based Trusted Platform Module (TPM). In 2017, the association plans to apply DIN standardization for parts of the reference architecture model.

Interim balance

At the Hannover Messe (HMI), the Industrial Data Space presented its first successful interim results: Sixteen examples highlighted the advantages of secure and standardized data exchange, e.g. in intelligent traffic management or high-performance supply chains, for example, and in truck control for inbound logistics.
In addition to the management of warehouse data, the researchers are currently working with the Industrial Data Space to develop solutions for the real-time monitoring of transports in order to improve delivery processes. They also want to provide food transports with sensors that transmit parameters such as temperature, vibrations or light via the connectors. This allows dealers to ensure that the delivered goods have not been opened and are fresh.
Last but not least, the Industrial Data Space is also capable of connecting different branches of industry. Looking at the data as a strategic resource, even new business models emerge. In the meantime, approximately 80 international members are active in the Industrial Data Space Association, which includes the companies Allianz, Audi, Bayer, Rittal, Sick and Volkswagen. This number of members is expected to grow considerably in the coming years.

Happy Data,
Sven Löffler