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‘Precisely because things are going so well in Brainport Eindhoven, it is important to link the power of today to the challenges of tomorrow’. Arnold Stokking, Managing Director Industry at TNO and initiator of the future exploration of Brainport Eindhoven; where are the opportunities for the region when it comes to innovation and new business models in 2038? In this biweekly column, Stokking and those directly involved explain the important aspects from this future exploration. Here are the previously published Brainport columns.

Data is the new gold, it is said. But then the ownership of that data must remain with the rightful person or organization. And that’s the problem nowadays because the feeling of losing control of your own data is increasing. So much data is in the cloud; is it safe, who looks after it and who earns money with knowledge about you? Not only a pressing issue for each of us as individuals, but also for the (regional) business community.

“A kind of smart socket on which everyone has their own storage space and to which a smart set of agreements applies”

Data management is, therefore, one of the most important issues within the future exploration of Brainport Eindhoven. A strong aspect of our high-tech region is the chain in which OEMs and suppliers, mainly SMEs, work closely together. And within such a chain, a lot of data is exchanged; after all, a supplier must know exactly how its customer’s products work in order to make the right components for it. Really business-sensitive information. What we need for this is a digital environment where multiple players can plug into the same network without disclosing their data to each other. A kind of smart socket on which each has its own storage space and for which a smart set of agreements applies.

At the Brainport Industries Campus (BIC), as part of the Smart Industry campaign, a field lab has been set up to develop a secure environment consisting of distributed storage and to use it for business-sensitive information such as product drawings: the Smart Connected Suppliers Network led by Brainport Industries. This field lab builds on the German-based International Data Space (IDS) initiative, led by TNO’s German sister institute, Fraunhofer. TNO has directly joined this initiative and participates in defining the architecture and standardization. The initiative fits in perfectly with the European idea of free movement of people, goods and services. We are now adding to these European values the free movement of data, but securely and with sovereignty intact. The latter means that the person generating the data will always remain the owner. The EU also has a nice geographical size to use this method of working; after all, there is a great deal of commerce between the member states.

The system has an open character and can ‘plug in’ with various software platforms and, where necessary, with large cloud solutions. After all, it is not conceivable to start all over again in ICT. And it is not difficult to imagine that this method of working can also be useful in entirely different areas of application, such as healthcare and patient records, for example. In my opinion, countless parties can benefit greatly from this project, but we can also learn from other sectors. With this, the field lab Smart Connected Suppliers Network is leading the way in Europe. This also shows that within Brainport Eindhoven we are working on groundbreaking and innovative solutions in a future-proof manner.

“A safe infrastructure for data traffic is just as important as the roads we drive on”

The large ICT companies from the US and China have given us the feeling that we are losing control over our own data. They also earn money with data that is currently not or poorly protected. That is why the IDS initiative is so important in the positive use of data, and to strengthen our supply chains instead of threatening them. On the contrary, we need to gain a competitive advantage with it. Data communication is so incredibly important because it underlies many developments of the digital revolution. If we don’t enable good data exchange, we also limit the opportunities for other important developments such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. All these new developments also require communication, and the results have a value that must be shared in a secure manner. That is why it is necessary for us to develop a secure infrastructure for data traffic. This is just as important as the roads we drive on. And we have been able to make universal agreements about the use of these roads, haven’t we?