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Front End I Electronic Components Supply Network


‘Trust as a Service’ in the Electronic Components Supply Network


You might not yet have encountered the abbreviation ‘TaaS’ as it is a recent addition to the plethora of acronyms which business and commerce seemingly can’t do without. Trust as a Service is however rapidly becoming firmly established within the Blockchain ecosystem and seems set to have a profound impact on the electronic components supply network. In this article, Adam Fletcher, chairman of industry body the Electronic Components Supply Network (ecsn) provides an insight into TaaS technology and how it’s likely to benefit his members and their customers


T


rust lies at the heart of our entire digital economy and infrastructure. We have to trust that our data and


transactions are safe and secure, and that the services and APIs we rely on are well- tested and will be available and responsive when we need them. The term Trust as a Service (TaaS) was coined by Fred McClimans, then a senior analyst with HFS Research, a firm with recognised expertise within the sourcing industry. According to McClimans, enterprises and vendors need to do much more to assure trust within their organisations, especially when it comes to data security. But he asserts that the TaaS paradigm goes well beyond technological fixes; such as firewalls, malware protection, security event and information management (SIEM), data loss prevention (DLP), identity access management (IAM), app and device security. He says, “Security isn't about securing


assets, it's about creating trusted assets that can be leveraged in the market. Digital enterprises serving digitised consumers in a digital economy, need to build their business on the trust element.” The consequences of a data breach to


a business are severe. McClimans says: “If a partner or a customer feels that they can’t trust an online or digital brand, they'll simply go elsewhere. Trustworthiness is golden, and this is a consideration that needs to go to the top of the stack of any business technology engagement. ”Today, a great deal of information is shared both upstream and downstream, between manufacturers of electronic components, their authorised


10 May 2019


distributors and end-customers, but the efficiency of this interchange within the supply network is hugely reliant on getting good data from source, and ensuring that it’s not corrupted or compromised in the sharing process. Much of this is information is held in


different databases on discrete IT systems owned and controlled by each organisation and the cost and complexity of managing these multiple databases and IT systems, especially on a global scale, is high, as is the risk of losing or corrupting data between often disparate IT systems. TaaS is a derivative of Blockchain technology, (essentially a digital ledger distributed across a peer-to-peer network that is publicly accessible to all subscribing users) in which blocks of information each containing the recorded information together with a cryptographic hash of the previous block and a timestamp. Once recorded the information contained within any block cannot be changed without the ‘consent of the network majority’, which in a public system is almost impossible to achieve, and in any case requires that the records held in all subsequent blocks must also be changed. Further, in a Blockchain system, there is only ever ‘one version of the truth’ and that truth is fully traceable. A Blockchain-based system is therefore extremely secure and also promises to combine this enhanced data integrity with lower operating costs. No surprise therefore that the initial adaptation of the technology was to establish cryptocurrencies as a secure international banking system outside of the established regulated banking system.


Components in Electronics


Trust as a Service (TaaS) ‘TaaS’ applies Blockchain technology in a ‘private mode’ referred to as ‘Consortium’, where the virtual ledger is stored on a peer- to-peer network. The lead organisation will only collaborate with other accredited and trusted third-party organisations in order to securely share information, making it secure, robust and reliable. And because it is essentially a ‘closed or private system’ it’s possible to develop and debug the system and manage changes within it without compromising the integrity of the Ledger because a network majority can easily be achieved by consensus. A further step is a ‘Hybrid’ Blockchain, in which a much wider group of users are able to view and extract agreed information elements from the Ledger within the ‘Consortium’ Blockchain and in some circumstances, can even be made available to Public Blockchain users. Many believe that Blockchain technology will all but eradicate the problem of counterfeit electronic components, because such parts will have no traceability within the Ledger and will therefore be easily identifiable. Blockchain solutions promise to deliver


major benefits to the electronic components supply network, not least by improving trust in the data, reducing costs and increasing service levels for all. Blockchain-based TaaS technology will improve the way information is collected, retained and shared. Critical supporting information (batch traceability, lot codes, certificates of conformity, place of manufacture etc) can be collected at many stages in the design, production, test, distribution and from the end customer and can be made easily and speedily accessible to all qualified members of the network.


Established Blockchain applications Cryptocurrency investment and banking remains the principal driver of Blockchain applications and the technology is today operating alongside other long-established government backed currency systems. It’s also becoming established and accepted elsewhere and we’re seeing a lot of activity and development in other industries. Probably the best publicised has been Walmart’s use of IBM’s Blockchain development system to collaborate with its suppliers of fresh green-leaved vegetables. The ability to track and manage their suppliers in almost real-time has huge cost reduction and consumer safety


implications for Walmart and its reputation. Previously, if a food safety threat was identified in fresh produce supplied to Walmart it would typically take seven days for the company to identify the source and then remove the infected goods from its supply network and shops. When all of the company’s suppliers of green-leaved vegetable are operating the IBM system later this year Walmart will be able to identify a partner within their supply network within seconds, enabling them to immediately withdraw affected produce from sale. Closer to home Avnet, one of the largest international manufacturer-authorised distributors of electronic components, announced in March 2019 that it now accepts payment from customers in Bitcoins or Bitcoin Cash. This is a bold move for Avnet, but I suspect we won’t have to wait long before other organisations in the electronic components supply network engage with Blockchain technology.


Final thoughts ‘TaaS’ Blockchain solutions offer the electronic components supply network much in terms of reducing the cost of development and establishing public industry standards, whilst leveraging the expertise within multiple member organisations and thereby gaining economies of scale. But successful implementation will take significant collaboration across the industry. Engaging with your organisation’s partners in the electronic components supply network will be critical to realising the promised competitive edge within our domestic, European and Global markets. Further information about The Electronic Components Supply Network and afdec may be found at the following website: www.ecsn-uk.org with regular industry updates available to all on the Breaking News pages.


ecsn-uk.org


www.cieonline.co.uk


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