NIST’s how-to for blockchain-secured manufacturing
With distributed-ledger technology increasingly eyed as a solution to secure transaction records, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued a report featuring its early recommendations for securing modern manufacturing via blockchain.
Smart manufacturing uses a “digital thread,” a set of 3D digitized instructions for all the machines in the design, manufacturing and inspection processes that can be electronically exchanged and processed. Because the steps in the manufacturing process are organized chronologically, blockchain can secure a digital thread network the same way it locks down cryptocurrencies, protecting it from data theft, tampering and corruption.
“If I’m a manufacturer making a part for a product and I receive the specs for that part from the designer who’s upstream in the process, blockchain ensures that I can trust the data actually came from that person, is exactly what he or she sent, and was not interfered with during transmission,” said NIST research associate and computer scientist Sylvere Krima, the lead author of the new report.
Manufacturing data that is corrupt or has been tampered with can have catastrophic consequences on a company’s product development, NIST said in the report. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is particularly attractive to hackers because it only requires the digital design of the physical object and a 3D printer, making it easy for hackers to introduce nearly undetectable flaws into a design or simply steal a product design and manufacture counterfeit parts.
The NIST report details codes and statements in the Unified Modeling Language needed to successfully apply blockchain to a smart manufacturing network. It outlines business rules as well as data and provenance information that will ensure the data has not been tampered with, identify if or when the data was tampered with, and track back to the party that tampered with the data.
“Following our reference information model will enable users to authenticate everything within their blocks: where are the data coming from and going to, who is executing the data exchanges, when are the exchanges taking place, what is being exchanged, and how are the exchanges being conducted,” Krima said.
Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.
Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company’s government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.
Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.