November 11, 2021

Never Walk Alone: The Community Approach of the International Data Spaces standard

Germany has long sought to create a counter-model to the monopolistic structures of Silicon Valley. The “Silicon Economy” initiative is an open-source infrastructure for industrial and logistics B2B platforms. The Fraunhofer Institute for material flow and logistics (IML) initiated the project with the support of the German logistics sector.
Andreas Nettsträter

Businesses that want to share data and services via digital platforms must be sure that they maintain control over their data and that they can trust the other participants in data exchange. The critical ingredient is the International Data Spaces reference architecture model (IDS-RAM).

The IDS RAM is currently being applied in two large-scale projects, launched two years ago by the Fraunhofer IML in Dortmund. In addition, the institute is developing components for logistical services – these include digital forms to simplify loading and shipping; an AI-based service to reliably predict arrival times of shipped goods; and the optimization of resource management in storage facilities.

Services, not data: The Silicon Economy view of the IDS standard

The IDS standard enables businesses and organizations in all sectors of industry to trust the data sharing environment while maintaining data sovereignty. Data sharing takes place in open and federated data spaces. For logistics and supply chain management specifically, data spaces enable new business models, new contractual and payment systems, the integration of new technical developments such as AI, as well as the targeted use of such new developments for the exchange of data and processes between businesses.

However, neither data exchange nor data itself is the primary target of the IDS standard for the Silicon Economy. While data spaces provide data for businesses and organizations, the goal of the Silicon Economy is always to provide concrete services.

Community-based solutions

The Silicon Economy’s approach – using the IDS standard – is as smart and innovative as their idea of an ecosystem of platforms. In both cases, the process is driven, not by individual companies, but by a community. This creates open-source solutions instead of individual, insular and proprietary solutions that do little to promote the digitization of logistics.

In the Silicon Economy, logistics companies – regardless of whether they provide services or IT solutions, or whether they are large-scale corporations or startups – will have the chance to shape logistics data spaces. Many players are already taking advantage of this opportunity. The community arising out of this process guarantees that no business is excluded from the use of the digital infrastructure in the logistics space.

Logistics will use many data spaces simultaneously

This community will not only create a new spirit and a new level of commitment to the application of the IDS standard. It will also induce a paradigm shift. Just as the Silicon Economy is based on a distributed system, the data space for logistics and supply chain management will be an environment with many subdivisions. Each business will be able to create a data space with its partners, including co-workers, clients, and suppliers.

In some of these data spaces, the number of participants will be very small, as with an application for managing breaks in a logistics facility. In other data spaces, there may be 10, 20, 100 or even 200 participants. One such example would be a service to optimize cooling logistics for air freight or a service to optimize the management of C parts. As all services and the platforms that make them available are based on the IDS open-source components of the Silicon Economy, participating businesses can integrate new partners into their data spaces seamlessly.

With these data spaces based on concrete applications, the digital infrastructure of logistics and supply chain management will grow steadily. The data exchanged in these spaces, however, will remain under the sovereign control of the participating businesses.

Software building blocks provide a logistics entry point into the International Data Space

Entry into any data space happens through an IDS connector. The connector is one of the most important technical components of a data space, it connects individual participants and is the endpoint for the shared use of data. The Silicon Economy will provide a specific software toolbox that enables logistics enterprises to integrate a data space connector into their own IT landscape.

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Author: Andreas Nettsträter
Andreas Nettsträter is the project manager for networking and knowledge transfer in the Silicon Economy

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