By Martin Holland
Recently I came across an article from 1996 that raised the question of whether the WWW is suitable as a basis for business applications. I think in retrospect the answer is clear. Today the question is whether data ecosystems, and especially trustworthy data ecosystems, will have the same disruptive impact on our economy as the WWW, and I dare predict that yes, they will.
There are numerous initiatives and lighthouse projects around Gaia-X with the aim of creating the foundations of open, trustworthy data ecosystems: Catena-X is intended to enable players in the automotive industry to integrate into global markets more easily, securely and independently than ever before Organize value chains. Building on the results of Gaia-X and Catena-X, the Manufacturing-X data room aims to make this possible for the rest of the manufacturing industry.
What all of these initiatives have in common is the vision of making Germany and Europe more independent of the big American players in terms of data technology. The claim is data sovereignty: whoever makes data available retains control and decides individually who is involved in the data exchange, how, when, where and under what conditions.
It is undeniable that we in Europe need more data sovereignty and digital sovereignty in order to overcome the challenges of digitalization. Digitalization is a vicious circle – on the one hand it produces more and more digital data, but it also requires more and more data in order to function optimally. The virtual protection of highly automated vehicles alone requires huge amounts of vehicle and environmental data in order to be able to simulate all conceivable driving situations.
So data sharing is the need of the hour. In order to make our value chains more robust and our manufacturing processes more sustainable, we need access to the data of customers, development partners and suppliers in order to be able to link them with our data. It therefore makes fundamental sense to make your data available to other companies in order to be able to use the others’ data in return. For example, for training artificial intelligence applications.
One of the challenges in building these data ecosystems is convincing everyone involved of the benefits of multilateral data sharing. For this reason, the potential benefits of the data rooms in the individual lighthouse projects should be underpinned by several industry-specific application examples.
One example is the use of customers’ machine tool data for AI-supported optimization of process parameters, which the manufacturer then makes available to all customers for a fee, with the companies providing them receiving a corresponding discount.
Lighthouse projects and application examples alone are not enough to establish interoperable data ecosystems. Data sharing must also be enabled technically and semantically, which requires appropriate tools and standards. Gaia-X, Catena-X and Manufacturing-X should therefore also lay the technical, semantic and legal foundations for interoperability in complex value networks.
A prerequisite for interoperability is also a common understanding of the usage and access rights to the data. Data sovereignty means that the data provider decides which data he wants to make accessible to which user group and with which usage and access rights. Therefore, in addition to the actual user data, more and more metadata and contractual information must be exchanged in a form that everyone can understand. For this purpose, among other things, the Eclipse Dataspace Connector (EDC) was developed, which is based on the models of the Asset Administration Shell (AAS). The AAS describes the asset – e.g. B. a machine or a control unit in a standardized, machine-readable form and contains all relevant information about the asset, such as identification data, technical specifications, condition information and possibly also services associated with the asset
As a specialist in system integration and data exchange, we of course also want to offer you solutions in the future on how you can integrate data ecosystems into your business processes. In order to develop our solutions in a practical way, we have applied for a funding project together with partners as part of Manufacturing-X. The aim of the project is to use shared data rooms to provide systematic and flexible decision support for product planning and development regarding the sustainability of a product and the entire value chain. To this end, sustainability assessment methods are being expanded to include predictive AI-based impact analyses.
In this project, we will develop an EDC connector that connects our OpenPDM integration platform and the connected PLM, ERP and ALM systems with Manufacturing-X and other Gaia-X-based data ecosystems such as Catena-X. As soon as the project is approved, we will inform you in more detail.
I wish you much success in using the data ecosystems!
Yours, Martin Holland