How Blockchain Can Accelerate Smart Manufacturing – NIST Research

February 12, 2019, | AtoZ Markets – When engineers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of one of the oldest physico-scientific laboratories in the United States faced the challenge of protecting intelligent production systems using digital stream, they turned to the latest technology of the last decade – the blockchain.

Blockchain Ensures Intelligent Production Data Protection

NIST which focuses on recommending standards for various industries and other government agencies in a wide variety of areas is a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce. According to the recent Institute report, the blockchain as a security system not only ensures the safe transfer of production data but also allows to track the data of all participants. NIST mechanical engineer and one of the report authors Thomas Hedberg, believes, that “their facility can ensure reliability in digital production networks“ since the blockchain provides them with both opportunities.

New Technology and Smart Manufacturing  in brief

The blockchain, first used to generate Bitcoin ten years ago, is an expandable list of records or blocks, each of which contains data representing a separate transaction by network participants. Each block consists of a data set, a timestamp, a cryptographic hash (an algorithm that serves as a “cybersecurity fingerprint”), and a hash of the previous block for the mathematical connection between them. From this, it follows that each block in the chain is associated with the next, previous one and fully returns to the original transaction (known as the genesis block). That is, the information contained in any block cannot be changed without changing all subsequent blocks and warning the owners of the network records that a foul play has occurred.

Intelligent production systems that NIST works with increase ultimate recovery, reduce costs with better production decisions. In other words, it is a big flow of information about design and manufacturing that traditionally sent the product throughout the entire product life cycle. Communication framework that allows that kind of connected data flow refers to the digital thread. It was created to replace two-dimensional information transfer that was used to transmit fabrication blueprints. However, digital thread requires that people interpret, translate, re-enter and transmit data at each stage.

In their turn, processes that use digital flow method are based on a set of three-dimensional digitized instructions that can be transmitted electronically and processed from beginning to end, which saves time, money and the risk of human error.

Blockchain use in Smart Manufacturing in short

According to the NIST crew, since the process steps are set in chronological order, like financial transactions, blockchain is well-suited to provide a digital thread network with the same protection it gives to cryptocurrencies.

NIST researcher and lead author of a new report Silver Cream explained the blockchain benefits in data transfer in the following way :

“If I’m a manufacturer creating a part for a product, and I’m getting specifications for this part from a designer who is in the process of developing, the blockchain ensures that I can trust the data actually received from this person, this is what he or she sent and did not interfere with the transfer. Since the circuit is protected from unauthorized access and the blocks have a time stamp, the blockchain is a reliable solution for outputting data to any point in the product life cycle “

New digital technology can be used in protection from bad actors

In their report, Hedberg, Krim, and co-author Allison Barnard Feeney focused on possible digital threats to intellectual production, such as product data theft, falsification, and corruption. Blockchain, in their opinion, can help identify and thus contain these threats, each of which can lead to disastrous consequences in the production process.

The use of the blockchain in protecting intellectual property Hedberg explained in the following way:

“For example, we provide an example of product data sent by a developer to a single producer, who must then transfer the updated data to a second producer for further processing of the product. If the data thief, which we call the“ bad actor, ”takes the file from Creator 1 and tries to send a fake file data to Creator 2, to hide his crime, Creator 2 discovers that something is wrong, because the blockchain imprint cannot be there.”

To further illustrate the blockchain’s value for intelligent manufacturing, the second report from NIST presented case studies from three different industrial sectors — additive manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and pharmaceuticals — showing how cybersecurity and traceability work for everyone.

Following Technology Institute guide ensures successful application of the blockchain

The NIST report also details the codes and operators in the Unified Modeling Language (UML), a standardized system for computer modeling, which is necessary for a successful application of the blockchain to an intelligent production network.

According to Krim, following the institute’s reference information model will allow “users to authenticate everything that is in their blocks: where the data comes from and where it goes, who performs the data exchange, when the exchange takes place, what is exchanged and how the exchange takes place.” Hedberg complementing his colleague words said the following:

“The purpose of this reference model is to protect the digital flow for intelligent production while expanding cooperation and establishing trust between manufacturing partners.”

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