Blockchain for Industry 4.0

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We would love to suggest an article we came across of great interest in support to the fact that all innovations and advances must be promoted and supported by safe and reliable technologies that carry the unique value of trust ​​in the future of industry and manufacturing.

Towards Industry 4.0

Due to the proliferation of ICT during the last few decades, there is an exponential increase in the usage of various smart applications such as smart farming, smart healthcare, supply-chain & logistics, business, tourism and hospitality, energy management, etc. However, for all the aforementioned applications, security and privacy are major concerns keeping in view of the usage of the open channel, i.e., Internet for data transfer. Although many security solutions and standards have been proposed over the years to enhance the security levels of aforementioned smart applications, but the existing solutions are either based upon the centralized architecture (having single point of failure) or having high computation and communication
costs. Moreover, most of the existing security solutions have focused only on few aspects and fail to address scalability, robustness, data storage, network latency, auditability, immutability, and traceability. To handle the aforementioned issues, blockchain technology can be one of the solutions. Motivated from these facts, in this paper, we present a systematic review of various blockchain-based solutions and their applicability in various Industry 4.0-based applications. Our contributions in this paper are in four fold. Firstly, we explored the current state-of-the-art solutions in the blockchain technology for the smart applications. Then, we illustrated the reference architecture used for the blockchain applicability in various Industry 4.0 applications. Then, merits and demerits of the traditional security solutions are also discussed in comparison to their countermeasures. Finally, we provided a comparison of existing blockchain-based security solutions using various parameters to provide deep insights to the readers about its applicability in various applications.

Industry automation

With the wide popularity of Internet and related technologies, various Industry 4.0-based applications have been used across
the globe in which sensors and actuators sense, compute and communicate the data for industry automation. As in Industry
4.0-based applications, data between different locations flows using an open channel, i.e., Internet, so threats to security and
privacy has also increased manifold. Such applications deal with data in large volumes and hence, so it is necessary
to consider issues such as-data heterogeneity, data integrity, and data redundancy along with the security and privacy concerns. Moreover, different applications require datasets from different domains in different formats. Therefore, it is also
needed to standardize the data format so that it can be used by different Industry 4.0-based applications. The usage of smart phones and smart applications for personal, professional, and social activities is increasing exponentially across the globe. It results an increase in both the network data traffic (in GBs) and overall expenditure (in Billions USD). According to this report, smart industries would spend $40B on IoT by 2020 in various sectors including transportation and manufacturing. However due to the large number of data exchanges over the Internet, maintaining confidentiality, privacy, and integrity becomes a major issue in Industry 4.0.

Technology Security and Privacy

Moreover, according to the surveys conducted by different agencies nearly 60 millions people are affected by identity theft and 12 billion peoples records misused in 2018 and expected to increase to 33 billion by 2023. Security and privacy preservation are important concerns for Industry 4.0 applications. There may be chances of unauthorized data breaching or information leakage leading to the financial losses to Industry 4.0-based applications. In the absence of robust security architecture, the system along with data are prone to various types of attacks (such as DDoS, ARP spoofing attacks, data rate alteration, network congestion, manipulation, noise interference, phishing and config threats) which can harm the confidentiality and integrity of data and can affect the overall functioning of any system. For such types of attacks, prevention is better than any reactive defense mechanisms to assure confidentiality, integrity, and privacy within the legal compliance rules. It has been found in the literature that with an increasing rate of automation in Industry 4.0, the probability of violating the security rules and launching new type of cyber-attacks is also increasing. Access control, authorization, confidentiality, availability, and integrity are the prime concerns in Industry 4.0.

To mitigate the aforementioned threats, current Industry solutions are using the centralized, client-server based architecture in which the centralized authority holds all the privileges. But, if the centralized authority is compromised then the entire system may crash. Conventional security mechanisms such as Data Encryption Standard (DES), and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and their variants are also being used but they have high computation and communication overhead. However, a revolution in this area came with the introduction of the concept of ‘‘Bitcoins’’.

Blockchain potential

The blockchain technology has the potential to handle various security attacks as it can eliminate the need of the centralized authority to perform various operations. In the blockchain technology, a number of users participate in transaction verification and validation. It uses a structural distributed database which stores data from all the nodes in an encrypted form validated using various checks such as Merkle hash tree (MHT) and Elliptical Curve Cryptography (ECC). As the database is distributed, so there is a risk of getting crashed or corrupted. Transactions are linked together with cryptographic keys and immutable ledgers which makes it difficult for attackers to manipulate or delete the recorded information. Data is always stored in an immutable manner using timestamps, public audit and consensus mechanisms. The use of these mechanisms makes security architecture a robust and assures data integrity and privacy.

Blockchain applications

In this paper, we provide insights to the readers about the importance of the blockchain technology for various smart applications, where security remains paramount. We discuss the traditional security systems, background, and history of the
blockchains, describe the basic architecture of the blockchain technology, including the verification of each transaction in the distributed network which makes a permanent, verified and unalterable nature of ledger for the information or data. The blockchain reference architecture which consists of three different networks such as public network, cloud network and enterprise network. We focus on the real-time deployment of the blockchain for various applications such as smart
healthcare, smart farming, supply-chain & logistics, business, tourism& hospitality, energy, agriculture, digital content distribution, smart city, IoT, and smart manufacturing
which are also considered in the survey part of the paper. And moreover, we emphasize on the open issues and challenges in Industry 4.0-based smart applications and suggests some blockchain based solutions for those applications. Finally, we demonstrate the suitability of the blockchain technology for smart applications.

This article has been extracted and freely adapted from a research of UMESH BODKHE, SUDEEP TANWAR, KARAN PAREKH, PIMAL KHANPARA, SUDHANSHU TYAGI, NEERAJ KUMAR, and MAMOUN ALAZAB – Department of Corporate and Information Services, NTG of Australia – May 12, 2020