Partly as a response to the COVID-19 and climate change crises, the European Union (EU) has come out with a new industrial initiative it is calling Industry 5.0. While the business world has largely absorbed the goals of Industry 4.0, which can be summed up as the transformation of industry through digital technologies, Industry 5.0 can be summarized as calling for redesigning industry around a human centric approach.
Some major points of the Industry 5.0 initiative include:
Ensuring that digital technologies such as robots and AI (artificial intelligence) used in industry are designed with human workers in mind
Industry needs to be designed to be resilient to survive shocks such as the COVID-19 and climate change crises
Unlike Industry 4.0, Industry 5.0 is not focused solely on digital transformation. Still, it’s clear that digital technologies will play an important role and in areas that may not immediately come to mind. For example, AI is, of course, core to systems such as robots that industrial workers collaborate with but in Industry 5.0, it will play a central role in creating a sustainable industry. Much like distributed communications technologies lead to the resilient communications system we call the Internet, decentralized digital technologies based on digital ledgers such as blockchain are also being touted as one key to a resilient human centered industrial economy.
So far, so good. Given the variety of social ills and environmental degradation unleashed by the Industrial Revolution, reshaping industry to better benefit and reliably sustain humans, all while maintaining its position as a backbone of our economy and society, is a laudable goal. There is, however, one element that needs to be baked in from the beginning to make the digital core of Industry 5.0 successful and that is trust. Trust is of course an essential human value and will be a necessary component to ensure a truly human-centric Industry 5.0 vision.
One obvious fact is that trust is crucial for ANY industrial data flows. As companies today labor to deal with the current rampant scourge of ransomware and other cyber crimes, trust is in short supply in today’s OT and IT environments. Currently there is a lack of a trust bridge between the OT and IT worlds that will need to be immediately addressed for Industry 4.0, let alone version 5.0. For example, to trust that any industrial AI application such as robots will not cause harm, workers will need to know that the data being fed into these processes can be trusted, not falsified or come from the wrong source. Also, these systems can collect potentially sensitive data on workers and citizens in general so trust that this data will be handled securely will be key.
The same issues apply for circular economy and decentralized industry applications. In each of these scenarios, data will play a crucial role but our current data systems don’t exactly engender trust. The current movement to incorporate ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) principles in organizations is already controversial partly because of questions around the veracity of data needed to verify ESG related initiatives such as carbon tracking. Digital ledger-based decentralized digital technologies such as digital currency and NFTs hold great potential, but the rash of criminality that bedevils many of today’s Web3 apps shows the trustworthiness of current solutions are less than ideal, not to mention their inefficient energy consumption.
Luckily, the quote “the future is here – it’s just not evenly distributed” applies here. Much of the data that will form the backbone of Industry 5.0 applications – and Industry 4.0 for that matter – will come from sensors and IoT devices. Many of the cyber security techniques that can ensure the trust and security of this data have been in use for decades. The devices that transmit data need to be securely identified to avoid spoofing, and PKI (public key infrastructure), which underlies much of the security of the Internet today, can play a vital role in creating unique device IDs for authentication. The devices and the software that runs on them can use a combination of hardware security and software tamper resistance technologies to further protect the software running on the devices. A combination of encryption and digital signatures can help ensure the persistent integrity of the data as it travels through the various networks that comprise the Internet.
For many Industry 5.0 applications, multiple parties will need to collaborate using this data. Cloud platforms that can strengthen data trust and collaboration by tracking rights associated with the data, governing access, providing audit trails and tracking assertions of devices and data are available. What is interesting though, is that Industry 5.0 is gaining traction at a time when the ubiquitous coverage, lower latency and data costs enabled by 5G networks and Metcalfe’s Law, combined with increasing computing power driven by Moore’s Law and lower data storage costs, will drive many industrial applications towards edge computing. Edge computing will actually be an important part of enabling trusted Industry 5.0 applications. Many mission critical applications will need near instantaneous decision making by AI systems and the latency inherent in data trips to the cloud will be dangerous.
The trust technologies mentioned above will also work very well in Industry 5.0 edge computing scenarios. However, there will soon come a point where, as foreseen in Industry 5.0, these applications will benefit from decentralized technologies for resiliency, efficiency and performance. Web3 technologies are still emerging as well as the solutions to their security issues. One trend is apparent, and that is many of the attacks are not on the blockchain itself, but on the software technologies that interact with the blockchain. Decentralized applications and legacy centralized applications will need to coexist for some time. The same security techniques as well as other well-understood technologies properly applied should help here as well.
Hopefully, as industry and governments collaborate to make Industry 5.0 a reality can help incentivize the widespread adoption of much needed trust technologies.