• C. Langen, U Wajid

On the Open Nature of eFactory Data Spine

eFactory is a federated smart factory ecosystem and a digital platform that interlinks different stakeholders of the digital manufacturing domain. A vital component in the eFactory ecosystem is the Data Spine that offers interoperation services at the level of protocols, message formats, data structures, data models, software services, and processes ranging from field level control to business process enactment. The Data Spine is offered as an Open platform in the eFactory federations, allowing its use to establish an ecosystem of connected systems, platforms and user communities. So, what is an Open Platform?

An open platform describes a software system which is based on open standards, it provides published and documented application programming interfaces (API) that allow using the software to function in other ways than the original way in which the programmer intended. Using the published interfaces, a third party could integrate with the platform to add functionality. An open platform actually implies that the vendor allows, and perhaps supports, the ability to use the platform in many different ways. Moreover, using an open platform a developer could add features or functionality that the platform vendor had not completed or had not conceived of. An open platform may also allow the developer to change existing functionality, as the specifications are publicly available.

The micro-service architecture, adopted in the design and development of eFactory Data Spine, allows applications/services to be accessed in a distributed computing environment. Therefore, any system can leverage the micro-service architecture of Data Spine to enable interconnectivity and interactions with other software systems.

According to the working paper on Opening Platforms: How, When and Why [1], a platform is open to the extent that: 1) no restrictions are placed on participation in its development, commercialization or use; or 2) any restrictions—for example, requirements to conform with technical standards or pay licensing fees—are reasonable and non-discriminatory, that is, they are applied uniformly to all potential platform participants. This working paper associates several roles with platform-mediated networks, including: 1) demand-side platform users that are commonly called end users; 2) supply-side platform users, or application developers who offer complementary value in tandem with the core platform; 3) platform providers, who serve as users’ primary point of contact with the platform; and 4) platform sponsors, who exercise property rights and are responsible for determining who may participate in a platform-mediated network and for developing its technology. For a given platform, each of these roles may be open or closed. Consequently, characterizing a platform as “open” without referencing relevant roles can cause confusion.

In this context, the eFactory Data Spine platform is open with respect to all four roles. Any organization or individual can use the Data Spine to establish interconnectivity or perform integration (demand-side user role). Likewise, any party can offer an integrated software application based on the integration capability offered by the Data Spine (supply-side user role). Any party can bundle the Data Spine as part of their platform offering (platform provider role). Finally, any party can contribute improvements to the Data Spine, subject to the rules of the eFactory project and eFactory Foundation community that maintains the Data Spine (platform sponsor role).

Stay tuned for more updates about the eFactory platform and the federated ecosystem ..

[1] Eisenmann, Thomas & Parker, Geoffrey & Van Alstyne, Marshall. (2008). Opening Platforms: How, When and Why?. Platforms, Markets and Innovation. 10.2139/ssrn.1264012.

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