By Jean-Christophe Makuch
– Senior Manager Solution Architect – SICPA
From smart wearables to autonomous objects, connected machines are set to change our lives. This means that one important aspect of the Economy of Trust, is maintaining the integrity of the physical to digital link. How do we ensure the digital representation of a physical “thing” really corresponds with the real object? The Certus of Things (CoT) is becoming a key concept for a solution; the current implicit but not provable trust we have in the “physical-to-digital” or “digital-to-physical” links is no longer sufficient in an increasingly connected world.
A digital twin is the digital representation of a physical entity. As soon as the physical entity becomes “alive” in the digital world, it can participate to the digital economy by sharing anonymously its data, its status, requesting tasks to be performed etc. This can then be used for example in Machine learning for analyzing, and ideally for anticipating, potential issues or malfunctions. Thanks to continuous monitoring, data analysis and learning from experience (including from other connected objects), requests for maintenance can be sent and updates or “pre-repairs” can take place before more serious problems occur, thus drastically reducing the risk of harsher consequences.
Unfortunately, the opposite may also be true. Actions could be requested based on foreseen risks or learnings without there actually being a real issue. Equally, there could be doubts as to whether the physical “thing” really does correspond to the digital one. How can a digitally predicted event or request for change be trusted, if we can’t be sure that the digital twin really corresponds to its respective physical entity? Did the predicted event really happen? If a digital twin is a mere “digital copy” with pre-programmed information, machine learning may simply confirm design assumptions or programmed events in the life of the physical entity. It is therefore imperative to have true unique digital twins to all physical entities to ensure that data sent to a specific physical entity (updates, recall…) is sent to the right physical entity for the right purpose.
Typically, with programmed obsolescence, we all know that physical goods have a programmed end of life. Without trust in the physical-to-digital link, Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) would just confirm the programmed obsolescence. This reduces machine learning to “probabilities” and loses the added value of AI.
To guarantee digital trust, a secure “Know Your Physical” (KYP) or “Certus of Things” (CoT) process is essential. The KYP can confirm the identity of a physical entity through a secure physical-to-digital link which allows for simultaneous authentication in both worlds. The uniqueness of the physical “thing” can be established biometrically (for example through its chemical signature or fingerprint) or by adding a secure marking on the physical entity. This unique and secure marking must however be immutably registered and linked to its digital twin. We can leverage blockchain technology for immutability and for proving the integrity of the link and related data. With such a secure link between physical and digital, authentication and auditability become universal. The security of digital products can be checked independently and trust is enabled.
In the Economy of Trust, digital trust is a key. The Certus of Things will transform the digital copy into a true digital twin and ensure that machine learning does not just confirm assumptions or planned implementations, but delivers the fantastic added value to citizens inherent in its potential… Solutions securing and making auditable the “physical-to-digital link” will ensure a digital twin is a true representation of a physical twin in the digital world that can be systematically trusted.