European Industrial Data Space: Data Sovereignty is Key to Facilitate New Ways of Manufacturing

by Chris­toph Mer­tens

The “smart fac­to­ry” pre­do­mi­nant­ly pro­du­ces one thing: data. Data results from plan­ning pro­ces­ses, is gene­ra­ted during pro­duct deve­lo­p­ment, and is collec­ted by sen­sors con­nec­ted to machi­nes and pro­duc­tion units. To gain added value from the collec­tion and use of data, manu­fac­tu­ring com­pa­nies must find ways to tap their “digi­tal tre­a­su­re” both effec­tively and effi­ci­ent­ly. The Refe­rence Archi­tec­tu­re deve­lo­ped by the Inter­na­tio­nal Data Spaces (IDS) Asso­cia­ti­on is pro­vi­ding a blue­print for doing so.

Data is not an easy asset to mana­ge. Insi­de com­pa­nies, the use of mul­ti­ple, dif­fe­rent IT sys­tems and plat­forms has led to the emer­gence of data silos impe­ding smooth and flaw­less busi­ness pro­ces­ses. When it comes to exch­an­ging and sharing data across com­pa­ny bor­ders, manage­ment oft­en­ti­mes is reluc­tant due to fear of ven­dor lock-in – an effect that can be seen par­ti­cu­lar­ly when a com­pa­ny is depen­dent on a cer­tain cloud ser­vice pro­vi­der using pro­prie­ta­ry tech­no­lo­gy.

Wouldn’t it be better to simply lock away one’s data?

The solu­ti­on appears to be qui­te simp­le: If the data recei­ver uses the same tech­no­lo­gy or plat­form as the data owner, the data owner can spe­ci­fy rules on how the data may be used by the data recei­ver – and even enfor­ce com­pli­an­ce with the­se rules on a tech­ni­cal level. This way, the data owner can be sure that data sov­er­eig­n­ty is gua­ran­te­ed. But what if the two com­pa­nies do not find an agree­ment as to what com­mon tech­no­lo­gy or plat­form they should use? In the best case, the two com­pa­nies have long-stan­ding busi­ness rela­ti­ons­hips with each other, so that the data owner has trust in the data recei­ver using the data as agreed upon by both par­ties. Other­wi­se, it may just seem bet­ter for the data owner to sim­ply lock away its data and pre­vent it from being acces­sed by others.

A much better solution: the European Industrial Data Space (EIDS)

“BOOST 4.0 – Big Data For Fac­to­ries” is a pro­ject in which experts joi­ned for­ces to deve­lop a solu­ti­on that hel­ps over­co­me the dilem­ma descri­bed abo­ve. The Euro­pean Indus­tri­al Data Space (EIDS) is based on the IDS Refe­rence Archi­tec­tu­re[1], which was deve­lo­ped by the Inter­na­tio­nal Data Spaces (IDS) Asso­cia­ti­on and its over 120 mem­ber orga­niz­a­ti­ons. The Asso­cia­ti­on – ope­ra­ting inde­pendent­ly from BOOST 4.0 – aims at giving com­pa­nies back con­trol over their data. To achie­ve this goal, it has spe­ci­fied and deve­lo­ped a stan­dard: IDS.

Accessing EIDS via the IDS Connector

Unli­ke with other plat­forms, users of EIDS do not need to crea­te an account to be gran­ted access. Ins­tead, each user must install the IDS Con­nec­tor, which is spe­ci­fied by DIN SPEC 27070[2]. To estab­lish trust among all users of EIDS, not just the tech­ni­cal com­pon­ents (IDS Con­nec­tors, app­li­ca­ti­ons etc.) are cer­ti­fied against the IDS stan­dard, but also each par­ti­ci­pa­ting orga­niz­a­ti­on or indi­vi­du­al its­elf (espe­cial­ly with regard to the exe­cu­ti­on envi­ron­ment used).

IDS cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on ensu­res that the soft­ware used has no built-in “back­doors“. Fur­ther­mo­re, it crea­tes trans­pa­ren­cy by assigning a “trust level” to each par­ti­ci­pant, making the secu­ri­ty mecha­nisms in place the­re visi­ble for all other par­ti­ci­pants. This way, each par­ty can deci­de on a case-by-case basis, i.e. pri­or to a poten­ti­al data exchan­ge tran­sac­tion, if the level of secu­ri­ty and trust assi­gned to a cer­tain orga­niz­a­ti­on or indi­vi­du­al is suf­fi­ci­ent, or if ano­t­her EIDS par­ti­ci­pant should be cho­sen to exchan­ge or share data with.

Finding the right data

The IDS Refe­rence Archi­tec­tu­re requi­res no cen­tral data sto­rage enti­ty; ins­tead, the data phy­si­cal­ly remains with the respec­ti­ve data owner. Such a decen­tral approach pre­sup­po­ses that each data source is com­pre­hen­si­ve­ly descri­bed and spe­ci­fied, reve­aling the value and fit­ness of the respec­ti­ve data for other EIDS par­ti­ci­pants. As a data tra­ding plat­form makes sen­se only if the par­ti­ci­pants can actual­ly find the data they are loo­king for, EIDS uses a func­tion named Meta­da­ta Bro­ker, allowing par­ti­ci­pants to search for the data they need by reques­ting meta­da­ta (i.e. descrip­ti­ons) of the data. In addi­ti­on, EIDS offers an App Store, which par­ti­ci­pants can address if in need of cer­tain app­li­ca­ti­ons or data pro­ces­sing ser­vices. And, last but not least, par­ti­ci­pants can use the ser­vice of a Voca­bu­la­ry Pro­vi­der for retrie­ving domain-spe­ci­fic onto­lo­gies (simi­lar to the seman­tic web), which is important as smart fac­to­ries and the machi­nes the­r­ein need to inter­pret lar­ge volu­mes of data.

EIDS – a milestone on the way to the smart factory

Along­side with com­pon­ents sup­por­ting par­ti­ci­pants in their search for the right data, EIDS encom­pas­ses a num­ber of infra­st­ruc­tu­re com­pon­ents, such as the Iden­ti­ty Pro­vi­der for mana­ging digi­tal iden­ti­ties, as well as moni­to­ring com­pon­ents ensu­ring gover­nan­ce (i.e. that all par­ti­ci­pants are play­ing by the rules). EIDS is cur­r­ent­ly app­ly­ing the­se com­pon­ents in a test­bed, so that various app­li­ca­ti­on part­ners can expe­ri­ment with them.

The image below shows the names of the com­pa­nies and aca­de­mic insti­tu­ti­ons taking part in the imple­men­ta­ti­on and tes­ting of EIDS. As far as the par­ti­ci­pa­ting com­pa­nies are con­cer­ned, two groups can be dis­tin­guis­hed: com­pa­nies pro­vi­ding infra­st­ruc­tu­re com­pon­ents and/or domain-spe­ci­fic addi­tio­nal com­pon­ents, and com­pa­nies pro­vi­ding data and/or big-data enab­ling ser­vices in the form of app­li­ca­ti­ons and plat­forms.

The Euro­pean Indus­tri­al Data Space (EIDS) can be con­si­de­red a mile­stone on the way to the smart fac­to­ry. EIDS is one of the first data spaces faci­li­ta­ting tra­de and com­mer­cial use of data without data owners losing sov­er­eig­n­ty over their data. More data spaces based on the IDS stan­dard are cur­r­ent­ly estab­lis­hed, e.g. in the mobi­li­ty sec­tor.[3]