The term blockchain has become a mainstream concept in the field of technology for the last few years. This can be attributed to its first significant application in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and subsequently other cryptocurrencies. Although closely associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain has transcended into other innovative application models. Blockchain is a growing ledger that is decentralized and distributed and that records the history of a digital asset in what is known as a block. These blocks are linked together via cryptography and contain a unique code known as a hash, transaction data and a timestamp.
To look into why blockchain has accelerated into a new viable, beneficial approach, we must first understand how Blockchain works. As mentioned above, Blockchain is a distributed ledger that works on the premise of a peer to peer system. Blockchain does not store any of its information in a central location. Instead, the blockchain is copied and spread across a network of computers. Whenever a new block is added to the blockchain, every computer on the network updates its blockchain to reflect the change. This network can be scaled to a global capacity and since it allows all members of that network to see any change made to the blocks in real time, there is no central figure or singular user who can tamper or gain control over the chain at any point.
Industry 4.0 in essence is incorporating technologies to make the process of production more efficient and faster. Blockchain offers a lot in this regard. It brings in a new level of transparency in the production processes and helps create a secure, real time communications channel that can be scaled throughout the globe. It can be used to build a supply chain, safely store product information and manage intellectual property data
In the context of Supply Chain, Blockchain makes it possible for securely storing large amounts of data on a network that is easily accessible and secure. This eases data collection and management to a large degree. Employees are now able to save information whether it be about the product or any other vital data into the blockchain network which becomes permanent and can be updated and hence can be tracked and traced throughout the manufacturing process whenever required. Blockchain also introduces a new level of security to companies. Since blockchain based systems work on encryption, all data stored within the system is heavily secure. There also arises a lot of issues in industry with regards to IP management and contracts. When a company can put out Intellectual property on the blockchain network, it creates a digital signature that protects the creators or designers of the product.
To understand blockchain and its incorporation into industry 4.0, let us take a look into some existing companies mobilising this incorporation.
The first company on our list is Arxum which is based in Germany. Arxum offers an industrial blockchain infrastructure and a flexible middleware that helps in reducing the complexity in interconnecting existing IT Systems by using a blockchain based business logic.
Arxum understands the issues of existing systems of Data transfer and communication in a manufacturing setting. The challenges in the industry today consist of the lack of transparency in the processing of data from the end of the customer as well as a company. Customer’s needs of quality data are obliged through email, data is collected manually through each department and is a personal affair. If important information is not monitored throughout the supply chain, it provides no visibility of the overall performance and process.
Arxum is tackling these challenges with its ARXUM® Suite, which provides a transparent and accessible data solution through registry technology combined with cryptographic access protection. With this middleware between data silos that connects each silo, making data easily accessible in real time and reducing the data collection process to minutes. Data remains securely in the data owner’s silo, enabling data sharing with individual access rules set by the data owner. Data management is enabled by secure and immutable blockchain technology, ensuring seamless tracking and management of data throughout the manufacturing process.
The second company that is pushing forward the use of blockchain in Industry 4.0 is Ubirch, a company based out of Cologne, Germany. Ubirch focuses on how blockchain can be used in preventing threats on data hacks. It offers a unique and innovative solution that protects and seals IoT data and prevents malicious attempts at infiltrating important information.
Today, standard security solutions like TLS encryption have been losing the trust of companies. These security systems have limitations in regard to scalability and design. These designs often fail to meet the required demands of an IT architecture that encompasses a large number of sensors and actuators to run efficiently and safely especially in cross company networks. Cybersecurity is an important element in any business in industry 4.0. It is why Ubirch and its use of blockchain in security is important. Standard security methods protect a singular transmission path. UBIRCH on the other hand uses cryptography and blockchain together to seal every single Data package.
The third company that introduces the use of Blockchain in the context of Intellectual Property management is Licens3D a company out of Barcelona, Spain. The manual process of IP management and contracts is sizable work and also poses the risk of errors. This can be mitigated through a decentralized process of execution. If the process of management is executed by a network instead of an individual, the risk of manipulation, nonperformance and errors is completely eliminated.
Licens3D offers a product that uses authorised blockchain solution for the transfer and sharing of data files. Every user and company has a profile to collaborate within intercompany networks. Licens3D can be easily integrated to a company as it is integrable with software solutions like PLM, PDM etc. The product also comes with plugins for softwares such as CAD, CAM and CAE. This means that anytime a file is produced by these softwares, it automatically stores it in the blockchain networks so the file is never wrongly claimed.
These companies are just a few examples of the efforts that are being taken in Industry 4.0 to use this innovative technology called Blockchain. Blockchain is still at its nascent stage in regards to its usability, but so far has yielded great opportunities to push forward to achieve more efficient, simple and productive methods of manufacturing and production. It is up to companies how they pose blockchain technology in solving problems of modern industry and how they incorporate it within their business.
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