TECH | Mar 4, 2020

Secure digital ecosystems in the days of data economy

Cefriel, PoliMI and Engineering are at work to define and adopt new certified standards for data sharing

“In a society whose economic model is based on data, we cannot but worry about secure standards of data sharing, which allow their use by others in a manner consistent with the constraints imposed by the owner”.

Dario AvalloneR&D Director of Engineering and first Italian on the board of the International Data Spaces Association, thus summarizes the work carried out by IDSA towards defining a European economic policy which considers data sovereignty as an essential element to protect and maintain competitiveness, in an international scenario where the balance between countries is increasingly impacted by the importance of technologies.

“Where it is true that at an industrial level and not only, we must push towards building digital ecosystems, it is also true that we must be concerned about the way in which information is shared precisely to avoid its misuse” – continues Avallone. “To give an example related to current events, if we had the need to share health data concerning people affected by Covid-19, a valuable sharing for health care facilities and researchers, we could not fail to think about the absolute need to protect those data so that they do not end up in the wrong hands. And to do this, we need technologies capable of armoring content, especially if this sharing is carried out on a national and international scale by a plurality of players”.

What concrete actions will be developed?

IDSA’s activities will be carried out in Italy by Cefriel, chosen as the Italian hub of the association, by the Politecnico di Milano and by Engineering, one of the first international members and the promoter of its mission for Italy.

“IDSA – explains Avallone – was born as an association of large German industries, which then opened up to the participation of other players, such as research institutions, and to other countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Finland. This was because there was a need for a broader debate, to be extended to Europe and which could also go beyond Europe in order to define the rules and certified standards required to enable companies, public and private bodies to share information in a safe and interoperable manner within digital ecosystems”.

During recent months, the members of the International Data Spaces Association have worked and continue to work alongside national governments, the European Commission and European companies to ensure that all necessary steps can be taken to guarantee that consumers in Europe do not give up their privacy when using products and services from global companies which are not subject to the same European regulations, and that European companies do not risk losing crucial resources for creating value.

This translates into the development of a software, called “Connector”, which is highly customizable and will allow to enjoy data in the certainty of being compliant with the standard.

This investiture by IDSA – adds Alfonso FuggettaAD of Cefriel – for us at Cefriel represents an important recognition of our skills and of our work in Italy and abroad. Through the hub, Cefriel will be the leader of the Italian ecosystem, supporting IDSA in defining shared rules and approaches to be offered to companies which can simplify, as already occurred with the Digital Ecosystem 015 project, the sharing of data in a secure manner.

What are the technical aspects?

“The trials carried out so far – explains Angelo MarguglioHead of Smart Industry and Agrifood Unit of Engineering – basically do not constrain the technological choices to be made. Some components, in fact, were made using blockchain, while others were not. At the moment we have about 25 experiments, particularly in the energy and manufacturing sectors, with the most diverse technologies. Extensive work will then be devoted to the certification of a standard for secure data exchange.”

“What we defined and reaffirmed also during the last board meeting – points out Dario Avallone – is the fact that the software “Connector” will have to be released in open source, i.e. in open code, thus allowing maximum transparency of operation and above all the possibility for the community of developers to improve the software and to monitor it constantly so that malicious code cannot be introduced. By working on this important project we are convinced that we can provide the boost required for the growth of digital ecosystems in which the value of data is the focus, to be defended in order to be used by industries, businesses and citizens in the best possible way”.