Security in the industrial data space: 4.0 requires trust in people and technology

May 23, 2017

Industry 4.0 is more than advanced automation. Machines that simply operate more quickly would be Industry 3.5 or 3.6. The fourth industrial revolution, however, takes place on the data level. The idea is to collect as much data as possible which, when re-combined and analyzed, enables new results – and thus new effects. Effects that improve flexibility, productivity and efficiency, and ultimately (with reference to a batch size of one) increase customer satisfaction. This, of course, only functions when all the data in the network are secure. SICK, as safety experts, has therefore been involved in the Industrial Data Space Association right from the start. Data security in Industry 4.0 runs through the entire value-creation chain. The network – from the collection of data, through its transfer and storage, to its processing – must be protected from failures and abuse. While technology can already reliably ensure secure cables and data spaces, critics see weaknesses in the network’s ‘soft skills’: Can data providers rely on the observance of their data sovereignty and conditions of use? Do data users know whether the data supplied is actually authentic? What are data really worth? How does one check out such a data marketplace? In short: How can a network that is characterized by its openness offer maximum protection whilst remaining accessible? These are the questions that have been raised for some time now by many drivers of innovation.


The Industrial Data Space Association: Creating shared principles

In recent years this has been recognized by the Fraunhofer Society, among others, and the founding of the Industrial Data Space Association was initiated. The aim is to consolidate the expertise and innovative power of developers, producers and potential users in order to promote a joint basis for the development and use of the industrial data space within Europe, as well as internationally. Whereby it is less about revolutionizing the infrastructure. Instead, the idea is to make networked use within the existing structures equally possible for all. The Articles of Association contract was therefore signed, in January 2016, with partners from business, research and politics. The project is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In this connection, the Industrial Data Space Association is urgently required for the sustainable structuring of a joint data space for Industry 4.0. If the aim is for suppliers, producers, logistics, sales, service providers, and retailers to use the same network then they should all be involved in its conception. What is more, they should all act in concert. Only in this way can a standard be created in which everyone can work, based on shared data architecture, data language and rules. The Industrial Data Space Association gives us an opportunity to identify this shared approach. Because companies will only prepare data for Industry 4.0 when they can totally rely on security in the data space. The sooner this happens, the better – those who are fastest in the race to Industry 4.0 will set the course for the industry of the future.



Intelligent interfaces for the systems of the future

SICK has a solid position in this structure – alongside with the major players among the founders (Bosch, ThyssenKrupp, Boehringer Ingelheim or VW). Our products and system solutions are located right at the start of the networked industrial value-creation chain. Other than people, sensors are the only sources of data in production areas. There is a lot of potential to be gained in this position: The more intelligent the data capture of the sensors, the more intelligent the structuring of the data-supported collaboration between humans and machines, and the communication between suppliers, producers and customers. SICK sensors gain this intelligence through targeted data acquisition, through individual configuration, through universal interfaces. The active collaboration between machine constructors, suppliers, producers, software developers and logisticians puts the industrial data space 4.0 within reach. The Industrial Data Space Association is building on system solutions with new components. The focus is on the interfaces at which the actual handling of data takes place: Preparation, exchange, access. Intelligent applications should analyze the collected data as precisely as possible for the desired application. Connectors consolidate the results from smaller data spaces, and act as a filter for external transfer. Higher-ranking data brokers must have the right to inspect all data and help potential data users in their search. This is the vision for the data security of the future. It is about quickly creating principles and driving the other steps forward too – continuously, because the digital world does not sleep. Tomorrow is already yesterday: The future will take place without us if we fail to connect with tomorrow, and miss out on the prospects of the day after tomorrow.

Bernhard Müller 

Senior Vice President Industry 4.0

Bernhard Müller has been on the Management Board of SICK AG since 2009 and responsible for the topic Industry 4.0 since 2015. He was involved in the qualification of data transmission in the worldwide networks of telecommunications providers for more than 25 years.


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