Sharing data easily and controllably via IDS

26 March 2019 • 3 min reading time

The European International Data Spaces ecosystem (IDS) allows companies to easily and controllably share data in order to improve their competitiveness. For Dutch industries, SMEs, and the healthcare and other sectors, TNO became the national IDS contact point on 18 March.

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more, or start using IDS through the Dutch hub? Then get in touch with Matthijs Punter.


IDS is an ecosystem that allows organizations to securely exchange data without having to make use of a third-party sharing platform. A standardized ‘Connector’ makes data available, while itself ensuring that only authorized parties are allowed access. To allow different parties to find each other, the ecosystem includes a ‘Broker’ that acts like a kind of address book. Because the data itself is never physically transferred to a third party in any way, its original owner always maintains full control.

“It makes exchanging data not only controllable, but also a lot easier”

Within a community, companies can agree on standards on the meaning of the data exchanged, which makes its interpretation much simpler. In this way, data exchange is made not only controllable, but also a lot easier. And this, in turn, makes it possible to link larger numbers of parties in the ecosystem.

Much easier to join in

Sharing data within industry (‘Industry 4.0’) and other sectors is now imperative. It is only by combining data sources with those of other stakeholders that companies can draw valuable conclusions and optimize their business processes. Current data sharing options often assume a centralized platform, but this means that companies lose control not only of their data but also of the underlying infrastructure. Moreover, data is being increasingly regarded as a strategic commodity, whether this has to do with privacy (GDPR), other business factors, or both.

Europe-wide initiative

“On 18 March we signed an agreement with the International Data Spaces Association,” says Matthijs Punter of TNO. “In brief, it states that TNO is the contact point for IDS in the Netherlands. This will make it much easier for Dutch companies to join international developments. Three years ago we were the first non-German party to join IDS; now it’s a broad European initiative, with hubs being set up in more and more countries, where companies can experiment, learn, and most importantly, implement. Over the last few years, we’ve built up good practical experience with IDS. Now we want to implement it more widely: more organizations, more sectors, and best of all: across sectors.”

“A ‘smart’ factory isn’t much use if only one of its machines is smart – they all have to be smart”

A very big scale

Dutch industry, SMEs, the healthcare sector and other sectors therefore need a solution that allows them to retain sovereignty. “These days we’re hearing a lot about smart industry, smart logistics, smart agriculture, smart everything,” adds Punter. “Addressing this effectively now means doing things on a very big scale. A ‘smart’ factory isn’t much use if only one of its machines is smart – they all have to be smart. For the manufacturing industry, for instance, data is a key asset. It describes everything, from production recipes to customer details. And the power of data sharing in logistics is clear. Goods are produced, but they have to pass through lots of waystations before reaching their ultimate destination.”

Bringing innovations to the Netherlands

IDS makes it easy to share data, while at the same time allowing organizations to do so in a controlled way. Punter: “We’re keen to bring these IDS innovations into the Netherlands. Now that the country has a contact point, industries and ICT companies will find it easier to get advice. It also means that if there are interesting Dutch developments in an area that suits the IDS structure, such as blockchain technology, we will have a channel for bringing it to Europe. So the innovations go both ways.”

“There are lots of other initiatives and organizations that have embraced the same principles of data sovereignty and responsible data sharing”

“TNO can deploy IDS wherever it’s relevant, and provide the supplementary solutions needed to build a usable system,” adds Punter. “We’re not alone in this: happily there are lots of other initiatives and organizations that have embraced the same principles of data sovereignty and responsible data sharing.” For instance, in February the Dutch Cabinet presented a memorandum on data sharing, and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy published a report calling for collective action on data sharing.

Going ahead with IDS

Current applications of the technology are found principally in logistics and the manufacturing industry. Punter: “Take ASML’s supply chain when manufacturing a high-tech chip machine. There might be 300 suppliers involved, who all need to exchange information on component parts. The success of a company like ASML strongly depends on a smooth supply chain, and IDS can deal with those kinds of issues. Besides the logistics and manufacturing sectors, the agrifood sector has long had a strong interest in controlled data sharing. And even in practical situations, ones you might not first think of, responsible data sharing is important; water boards, for instance, sharing information from dike monitoring sensors. You find it everywhere, really.”

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