Crisis resilience through decentralized data space

Prof. Dr. Andreas Harth is head of the Data Spaces and IoT Solutions department at the Fraunhofer Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services at the Fraunhofer IIS. He seeks out hidden data that makes companies more resilient in a crisis and enables them to stay in control, and he researches technologies for decentralized information systems.

“You could call me a data connoisseur,” Harth says. However, the Professor of Business Information Systems does not describe the data as “beautiful” until he has freed it from the legacy systems and made it usable and portable. His department’s research topics include (connected) data space and IoT prototyping, which plays a crucial role in the use of data. Especially in times of exploding data volumes, he raises companies’ awareness of where they can find valuable data “slumbering” in their systems, so they are able to use it in a crisis-proof manner. An ability to find data and use it with virtuosity has become increasingly important during the coronavirus crisis, which has led people to work more digitally than before. With the growth of working from home, companies are learning the importance of being able to act in remote working mode. Of course, this is fundamental to Industrie 4.0, in which the industrial Internet of Things plays an essential role: more and more machines must be connected to the Internet (of Things) in order to remotely monitor and control production and logistics processes. Cloud- and web-based solutions developed by Harth’s team provide development assistance at the digital level to make corporate IT more independent and thus more resilient – not just in the current pandemic situation but also in future crises.

 

Pluses decentralization and data sovereignty

To achieve this, Harth relies on decentralized systems that leave companies in control. Centralized systems can be at a disadvantage if the central element fails. Indeed, this pandemic has shown how centralized services can become overloaded and break down, precisely as a result of increased working from home and use of remote working mode. At many companies, for instance, teleconferencing services based on central systems have collapsed. This, too, has fueled Harth’s advocacy for resilient decentralized systems – which he predicts will become even more important. However, he sees another important pillar besides resilience: data systems need to be sovereign as well. For this, Harth relies in particular on Solid technology. It is an approach of the web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. Solid values data sovereignty and observes European values, and is independent of the United States and China. This means data remains under the control of private individuals and companies. Nevertheless, individuals and companies can use this technology to make data available to external partners – but without having to give up control over their data. Harth, a leader in German Solid research, puts it in a nutshell: “The fact that data sovereignty remains with the original data owner is a real advantage of the technology. Solid is currently being tested in a wide range of industries and systems and offers a lot of potential.”

 

Article by Dr. Katja Engel

 

Prof. Andreas Harth

Professor Andreas Harth is chair of Technical Information Systems at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg and head of the Data Spaces and IoT Solutions department of the Fraunhofer IIS Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services.  

His research is devoted to new solutions for data spaces and the Internet of Things (IoT) that allow data to be processed independently of its original application and system constraints, thereby rendering it portable. His research focus is on developing methods and technologies for decentralized information systems, e.g., in the World Wide Web or blockchain environments, and their implementation in companies. In the course of numerous research projects in collaboration with industry, he has studied data integration, e.g., using Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies, and interaction between components, e.g., by means of process modeling languages. Applications for these methods and technologies range from the Internet of Things and the Web of Things to the field of Industry 4.0.

 

 

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