Industry 4.0 and data integrity within the cloud
Not only the manufacturing industries are facing a digital transformation boost as a result of industry 4.0 applications; the same applies to administration, education and healthcare sectors. The future of the manufacturing industry is firmly tied to new digital solutions and enablers such as IoT (Industrial Internet of Things), cloud, 5G, AI and machine learning. Immovable factories will work more flexible and almost all aspects of manufacturing will become more mobile, digital and connected. It is and remains necessary to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of complex systems.
A recent report on digital transformation by management and strategy consultants McKinsey found that the most successful manufacturing companies are those that take an integrated approach. This means that they involve their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, in their digitalization processes in order to achieve optimum added value. Therefore, digital transformation includes technological, organizational, process and communication changes – always combined with data integrity.
A look at Estonia, one of the most digital societies in the world, shows how this change is going. The small country in northern Europe revolutionized its administration in the mid-90s with the “Tiigrihüpe”, the Tiger Leap. Today, 99 % of public services are available online – from digital administrative processes over digital voting in elections to online tax returns. “The term ‘e-Estonia’ embodies this robust ecosystem, which has gained global recognition as efficient, secure and transparent,” says Leana Kammertöns, export adviser at Enterprise Estonia. “The knowledge gained from the development of a digital administration and education can also be applied to the industrial environment.”
Estonia: Pioneer of the digital transformation
In terms of data security, Estonia was the first country in 2008 to test a technology based on blockchain, which ensured the uncompromising security of networks, systems and data. Since then, it has evolved immensely and is now used by administrations and businesses worldwide to secure digital processes and data against manipulation, fraud, or simply human error.
Blockchain technology ensures the “authenticity” of a document. It distributes data records in blocks on many different computers instead of storing them centrally on one server. If someone tried to manipulate existing data, it would be noticed immediately because the manipulated blockchain would no longer match that of other users. Fraud based on forged documents thus becomes impossible. Blockchains are, so to speak, the integrity layer in all e-Estonia management networks.
Solutions from Estonia for manufacturing industry and health sector
From the very beginning, Guardtime, a leading cybersecurity company based in Tallinn, has contributed as an enabler to the development of the digital society in Estonia. Guardtime’s KSI technology makes it possible to access billions of data points and process steps every second, creating an immutable and traceable trail of every digital process. KSI stands for Keyless Signature Infrastructure and enables data authentication through scatter-value cryptography (hash function) that places only fingerprints of data on the blockchain instead of complete data sets. “This makes digital services secure, verifiable and controllable, and eliminates distrust,” explains Silver Kelk, business development manager at Guardtime.
While Guardtime’s KSI blockchain technology was initially designed for the Estonian e-government, today the company’s software solutions are at home in various B2B and B2C industries. For example, a supply chain management (SCM) platform offers customized solutions for security, track & trace, counterfeit detection, recall management or post-sale monitoring, the latter for drug safety, for example. They are also used, for instance, in aerospace companies to ensure end-to-end security for their physical information and software supply chains.
This SCM software makes it possible to extend existing systems and connect suppliers and smart devices across extended supply chains. Moreover, it integrates complex supply chains and existing legacy systems.
Guardtime also uses KSI blockchain technology for other applications, such as the tamper-proof digital vaccination certificate “Smart Vaccination Certificate,” a pilot project of WHO and the State of Estonia for the effective implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination program. Another application for the Estonian healthcare system provides immutable audit trails related to patient records. A third example is VaccineGuard, a privacy-compliant global vaccination certificate platform. The software provides health authorities with real-time insights into vaccination records and enables manufacturers to detect counterfeit products in real time.
Zero-trust solution for cloud-based applications
“The complexity of IT infrastructures and data volumes are growing exponentially today compared to when digital governance systems were still being built in Estonia,” says Silver Kelk. He is convinced that there will be an increasing move to cloud-based solutions in both the public sector and enterprises.
According to figures from consulting firm Accenture, most companies are doing an average of only 20 to 40 percent of their work in the cloud so far, partly because of concerns about data security or control. But large companies are exerting traction on the mid-sized manufacturing industry. Automobile manufacturers such as VW, Renault and BMW are looking specifically at cloud-based manufacturing and logistics platforms. In healthcare and building technology, GE Healthcare or Johnson Controls operate their own platforms.
“Based on the same highly scalable technology that protects e-Estonia, we have developed a zero-trust solution for real-time monitoring and compliance auditing of cloud environments,” says Kelk. This solution detects misconfigurations and non-compliance with defined usage and security policies in real time; this speed thus avoids costly data breaches or other security incidents. “Just as KSI technology once served as an enabler technology to build trust in our digital public management systems, the current solutions are creating the basis for broad industry adoption of cloud-based services,” Kelk says.
Easy access for German companies
“Estonia has been a member of the EU for almost 20 years, which means that in cooperation with European companies, legal certainty is given by EU-wide identical regulations, especially with regard to cybersecurity,” says Leana Kammertöns. The German-language website tradewithestonia.de of the Estonian Trade Development Agency contains further case studies on smart solutions for various industries. For direct contact, the Estonian Trade Development Agency maintains offices in Nuremberg and Berlin.