Systems (2020-11-01)

Realizing the Role of Permissioned Blockchains in a Systems Engineering Lifecycle

  • Demetrios Joannou,
  • Roy Kalawsky,
  • Miguel Martínez-García,
  • Chris Fowler,
  • Kevin Fowler

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 41
p. 41


Read online

A key requirement for an integrated digital tool chain is secure access and control of data assets. Not all stakeholders will have the same access to or control over the flow of information, some will be able to input or change data whilst others will only be able to read the data. Simply providing secure access protocols is not sufficient because copied data can quickly become disassociated and modified from its original instantiation, leading to its reuse elsewhere or later in the lifecycle but in an inappropriate way. Therefore, data management mechanisms are required that capture information about the data along with any decisions or modifications it has undergone during the course of its life, thus providing complete traceability for later validation purposes. This undertaking is essential across the systems engineering lifecycle. This pursuit involves controlling who can access and modify data within the lifecycle. This paper describes a solution to this by the introduction of blockchain technology, a relatively new technology that allows digital information to be distributed but not copied, making it an immutable set of time-stamped data managed by a network of connected systems and services. Though blockchain technology is not commonly referred to when discussing Industry 4.0, the technology’s capabilities should add value when applied in a context of data management and security within the lifecycle of a product or services and in conjunction with digital twins, big data, and IoT. This paper describes how permissioned blockchains can be implemented within a systems engineering lifecycle, providing example architecture patterns showing how data provenance can be maintained throughout.