Researchers of the Silicon Economy have laid the foundations for making the secure data space IDS – i.e., International Data Spaces – available across the board in logistics: a new software kit – the IDS Integration Toolbox (previously IDS Wrapper Toolbox) – now enables companies to integrate a data space connector into their IT landscape quickly and easily. »Secure data exchange across company boundaries is one of the prerequisites for the future decentral platform ecosystem in the Silicon Economy«, explains Timo Erler, responsible for the integration of IDS in the project. »Because transparent and simultaneously trustworthy information flows between companies form the basis for using and accepting the digital services and platforms we are currently developing in the Silicon Economy in close collaboration with industry.« The IDS Integration Toolbox gives logistics companies access to both the Silicon Economy and IDS.

The International Data Spaces, started as an initiative by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, is an alternative to existing data space concepts that govern data either centrally or monopolistically or negotiate every single data exchange individually. In IDS for example, each company can control »its own« data and how it is used itself. The need to transfer ownership rights to central entities or providers has been eliminated. Whether in transport management, load carrier exchange or article tracking, IDS is needed whenever data leaves a company’s own realm.

Connectors are the key element for exchanging data in International Data Spaces. They enable communication to take place between the participating companies and/or their platforms via the internet. Their key tasks include the establishment of secure communication, sovereign data exchange and company authentication. Until now, companies had to adapt and further develop such connectors for their own specific applications. This meant they had to be fully familiar with the International Data Spaces reference architecture model.

Focus on the use case

By means of the Silicon Economy IDS Integration Toolbox it is now much easier for logistics companies to connect up to the IDS. This development includes guidelines and a software library. A Wrapper functions as an adapter and connector between a service or platform and the connector: by cutting off all application-specific functionalities, it eliminates essential configuration steps such as setting up connections or securing identities. »In this way, companies can focus directly on their use case«, explains Silicon Economy expert Jens Leveling, who helped to develop the tool. The toolbox, in turn, enables companies to further develop the Wrapper, to make it more intelligent and equip it with more functions. This allows them to extend their own software or implement new services.

Like all Silicon Economy developments, the IDS Integration Toolbox is an open source software available free of charge. It will soon be accessible via the Silicon Economy repository. This demonstrates once again that the Silicon Economy is leveraging its potential to put the already existing components for digital logistics together in a »Big Picture« to put them to use on a large-scale.

Piloting in real supply chain

The team running the Silicon Economy »Supply Chain Execution« development project has already piloted the integration of IDS with the toolbox. The participating industry partners represent an entire, real-life supply chain from supplier and wholesaler to customer in the field of C-parts management. C-parts are low-value goods that take a large amount of effort to procure, such as screws, nuts, washers for machines and plant. It is generally very challenging for companies to coordinate such articles and to handle reorders. In the »Supply Chain Execution« project, partners are currently forming the basis for a completely networked platform as a blueprint for setting up a decentral platform ecosystem, the key idea behind the Silicon Economy.

By piloting the IDS Integration Toolbox in the »Supply Chain Execution« use case, the Silicon Economy researchers were able to generate valuable feedback and integrate real-life requirements in the Toolbox and in the Connector.

Picture: Adobe Stock/Fraunhofer IML