IDS – giving control over personal data back to people

It‘s a fami­li­ar sce­ne at air­ports of holi­day desti­na­ti­ons around the world: Upon arri­val and collec­ting the bag­ga­ge, we want to head to the hotel or our apart­ment as quick­ly as pos­si­ble. Howe­ver, ren­ting a car with a local ren­tal com­pa­ny turns out to be qui­te an effort once again. The sales­clerk behind the desk kind­ly asks us for our ID and driver’s licen­se, which is not a big deal. Then she tells us that she also needs to check our credit score and our insuran­ce coverage. We under­stand that the ren­tal com­pa­ny needs to make sure it is on the safe side regar­ding each car ren­ted; yet our pati­ence and sym­pa­thy is being strai­ned again after a long and delay­ed flight, as we watch the clerk reques­ting all the data from each source sepa­r­ate­ly.

But does it have to be this way? What if the­re was a sin­gle elec­tro­nic plat­form accom­mo­da­ting all our per­so­nal data for the sales­clerk to easi­ly retrie­ve? Of cour­se, this plat­form would have to be secu­re and pro­tec­ted against unaut­ho­ri­zed access. At the same time, it should be pos­si­ble for us to access the plat­form our­sel­ves, and get a trans­pa­rent and reli­able over­view of who is actual­ly sto­ring and using our per­so­nal data, and for what pur­po­se.

Such a plat­form is not sci­ence fic­tion. In a joint effort, Fraun­ho­fer Insti­tu­te for Soft­ware and Sys­tems Engi­nee­ring (Fraun­ho­fer ISST), Deut­sche Tele­kom, and orbiter.de, three mem­ber orga­ni­za­ti­ons of the Inter­na­tio­nal Data Spaces Asso­cia­ti­on (IDSA), have deve­lo­ped a demons­tra­tor named “Digi­tal Life Jour­ney“, aiming at giving data sover­eig­n­ty back to con­su­mers. “Data sover­eig­n­ty has been a big topic for busi­ness for qui­te some time. With Digi­tal Life Jour­ney, we now want to empower each indi­vi­du­al to retain con­trol over their per­so­nal data“, says Sven Meis­ter of Fraun­ho­fer ISST.

We do not know how often Ger­man Chan­cellor Ange­la Mer­kel hap­pens to rent a car at a desk insi­de an inter­na­tio­nal air­port. What we do know is that Mrs. Mer­kel stop­ped by IDSA’s booth at the 2019 Digi­tal Sum­mit, which was hosted by the Ger­man Federal Minis­try for Eco­no­mic Affairs and Ener­gy last Octo­ber in Dort­mund. “We need to impro­ve the mecha­nisms for tra­cing back who had access to our per­so­nal infor­ma­ti­on in the past, and who has so now“, said Mrs. Mer­kel, after get­ting an impres­si­on of how Digi­tal Life Jour­ney works. Law­ma­kers have reco­gni­zed the gro­wing impor­t­an­ce of the plat­form eco­no­my, which is why digi­tal plat­forms were in the focus of the 2019 Digi­tal Sum­mit. In line with this mega­trend, Peter Alt­mai­er, Germany’s Federal Minis­ter for Eco­no­mic Affairs and Ener­gy, intro­du­ced “Gaia‑X“, a cloud pro­ject aiming at estab­li­shing a European net­work for data exchan­ge, for which the Inter­na­tio­nal Data Spaces (IDS) fami­ly pro­vi­des the fun­da­ment. “In Gaia‑X, the IDS initia­ti­ve is respon­si­ble for ensu­ring data sover­eig­n­ty when data is exch­an­ged and used“, said Boris Otto, head of Fraun­ho­fer ISST. “Gaia‑X and the IDS stan­dard will mer­ge to crea­te and estab­lish a net­wor­ked data infra­st­ruc­tu­re that covers the ent­i­re data value chain on the basis of the princi­ples of data sover­eig­n­ty. ”

Secu­re and trust­worthy data mar­ket­pla­ces – thanks to IDS

The IDS stan­dard crea­tes secu­re and trust­worthy data spaces to which com­pa­nies, public agen­ci­es, and indi­vi­du­als can upload data and mana­ge it. It is par­ti­cu­lar­ly important for indus­tries in which it is necessa­ry to have access to lar­ge data invent­ories com­ing from various sources (to crea­te AI app­li­ca­ti­ons, for examp­le). Par­ti­ci­pa­ting in an Indus­tri­al Data Space allows orga­ni­za­ti­ons to sha­re their data with other orga­ni­za­ti­ons on the basis of self-defi­ned data usa­ge poli­ci­es, which is a necessa­ry pre­con­di­ti­on to keep con­trol over one’s data.

With the IDS stan­dard, Fraun­ho­fer ISST and IDSA aim at faci­li­ta­ting secu­re and trust­worthy data exchan­ge at an inter­na­tio­nal level. IDSA mean­while counts over one-hund­red mem­ber orga­ni­za­ti­ons (i.e. com­pa­nies and rese­arch insti­tu­tes) pres­sing ahead the deve­lop­ment of the IDS tech­no­lo­gy. To sustainab­ly estab­lish digi­tal plat­forms, the IDS archi­tec­tu­re is essen­ti­al. This is why Digi­tal Life Jour­ney also builds upon the IDS stan­dard. “IDS makes sure that per­so­nal data is used respon­si­b­ly“, Sven Meis­ter says. In the above examp­le of ren­ting a car, this means that the ren­tal com­pa­ny and the custo­mer save a lot of time, as the sales­clerk gets fast and secu­re access to the data she requi­res – but only for the spe­ci­fic pur­po­se and situa­ti­on. “IDS makes the inter­ac­tion bet­ween the sup­plier or ser­vice pro­vi­der and the custo­mer beco­mes much more trans­pa­rent“, Sven Meis­ter adds. “We sup­po­se that a respon­si­ble way of dealing with custo­mers‘ per­so­nal data will beco­me a cru­ci­al com­po­nent of sustainab­le sup­plier-custo­mer rela­ti­ons­hips.“

Data pri­va­cy and pro­tec­tion plays a key role

Digi­tal Life Jour­ney can be view­ed as a direct out­co­me of GDPR, the European Union‘s Gene­ral Data Pro­tec­tion Regu­la­ti­on, which has been effec­tive sin­ce May 2018. GDPR grants every citi­zen the right to request and obtain infor­ma­ti­on from data collec­tors on the sto­rage and use of their per­so­nal data. While this was a dif­fi­cult endea­vor in the past, as every sin­gle data collec­tor had to be con­tac­ted sepa­r­ate­ly to get the infor­ma­ti­on, Digi­tal Life Jour­ney now allows retrie­ving this infor­ma­ti­on via a cen­tral plat­form.

IDS is not just rele­vant when it comes to the inter­ac­tion bet­ween a sup­plier or ser­vice pro­vi­der and a custo­mer. “Inter­na­tio­nal Data Spaces con­nect com­pa­nies across dif­fe­rent indus­tries throughout Euro­pe alrea­dy today“, said Anja Kar­li­c­zek, Federal Minis­ter of Edu­ca­ti­on and Rese­arch, at the 2019 Digi­tal Sum­mit. How this is faci­li­ta­ted by the IDS stan­dard was demons­tra­ted by ano­t­her solu­ti­on pre­sen­ted in Dort­mund, named “Open and Federal Plat­forms in Logistics“. The logistics indus­try is cha­rac­te­ri­zed by mul­ti­ple, diver­se ser­vice pro­vi­ders col­la­bo­ra­ting across the data value chain. The­re is the for­war­ding com­pa­ny and its data; and the­re is the custo­mer, which needs the pro­duct data and trans­port data for its pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses. Each play­er invol­ved in the over­all logistics pro­cess pos­ses­ses data that would be of gre­at help to the other play­ers invol­ved – if they had access to it. With the help of IDS, data can be sha­red and exch­an­ged on a secu­re and trust­worthy basis. But IDS allows much more: As such a set­ting sees not just two, but several part­ners con­clu­ding a con­trac­tu­al agree­ment, also con­tract manage­ment can be faci­li­ta­ted over IDS. “All part­ners invol­ved are con­nec­ted via IDS“, says Jens Leve­ling of Fraun­ho­fer Insti­tu­te for Mate­ri­al Flow and Logistics (Fraun­ho­fer IML), a co-deve­lo­per of the demons­tra­tor. “Take the picking up of trash con­tai­ners, for examp­le. In this sce­n­a­rio, each con­tai­ner mea­su­res its fill level its­elf and pas­ses on the data to the collec­tor com­pa­ny, which uses the infor­ma­ti­on to opti­mi­ze rou­te plan­ning and save costs by avoi­ding empty runs.“

Digi­tal busi­ness models based on col­la­bo­ra­ti­on

In the pro­cess of sustainab­ly estab­li­shing digi­tal plat­forms, one of the big­gest chal­len­ges is the deve­lop­ment and estab­lish­ment of sui­ta­ble, digi­tal busi­ness models. If the­se busi­ness models are bene­fi­ci­al, com­pa­nies are wil­ling to par­ti­ci­pa­te in the exchan­ge of data over digi­tal plat­forms, ther­e­by crea­ting win-win situa­ti­ons. Take the car indus­try, for examp­le: Unli­ke auto repair shops that are con­trac­tual­ly appro­ved by the insu­rer of the car, inde­pen­dent repair shops have no access to the car manufacturer’s ori­gi­nal pro­duct data; using a digi­tal plat­form as a media­tor, howe­ver, inde­pen­dent repair shops can retrie­ve the data and order the spa­re parts requi­red direc­t­ly at the manu­fac­tu­rer.

For IDS based digi­tal plat­forms to beco­me a suc­cess sto­ry, a high-per­for­mance digi­tal infra­st­ruc­tu­re (e.g. 5G) is mis­si­on-cri­ti­cal. “Wit­hout real­time com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, the­re will be no Indus­try 4.0“, says Fried­helm Loh, chair­man of Fried­helm Loh Group, who­se lar­gest sub­si­dia­ry is Rit­t­al, one of IDSA’s mem­ber orga­ni­za­ti­ons. And Jörg Hof­mann, chair­man of IG Metall, Germany’s lea­ding uni­on of metal­wor­kers, adds: “Today, inno­va­ti­on is most­ly data-dri­ven. IDS is per­fec­t­ly sui­ted to estab­lish data sover­eig­n­ty across Euro­pe, so that European values and stan­dards make our com­pa­nies stay com­pe­ti­ti­ve in the future.”

Arti­cle writ­ten by: Juli­an Hörndlein