Gamifying IOTICS: Symmetry
Chief architect Fabrizio explores the parallels between IOTICS and multiplayer video games
In this series of posts we are discussing the three core principles underpinning IOTICS vision: Virtualisation, Symmetry, Secure Interactions. For those that missed part one, for shame, let’s do a quick recap
IOTICS enables the creation of secure and scalable ecosystems of parties who want to cooperate by sharing and exchanging data and events.
Parties are joined into a decentralised network where they can share and exchange data with each other still retaining full control of their respective access control and governance policies.
The conceptual architecture of the solution is underpinned by three main ideas:
- Virtualisation: Every real asset is virtualised in IOTICS as Digital Twins.
- Symmetry: Interactions between real assets occur ONLY between digital twins
- Secure interactions: an interaction – or exchange of data – from a twin to another twin must be allowed by the receiving twin. IOTICS provides the brokering framework.
Throughout this series we’ll be using an imperfect, but appropriate analogy. IOTICS as a multiplayer video game environment. Multiplayer games are an ecosystem of parties cooperating for a common purpose: no matter what game they play, everybody shares the common goal of being entertained. Everybody cooperates, playing according to the ecosystem rules enabling every player to benefit.
Last time we looked at Virtualisation specifically how, in IOTICS, assets are represented as Digital Twins: virtual representations of the asset: a digital twin references metadata semantically describing the asset, it contains feeds for the asset’s data and controls for changing the asset’s status.
In this post we discuss Symmetry and we’ll show how this characteristic allows enhanced security, simplicity and reliability.
Symmetry, what’s all the fuss about?
Symmetry is closely linked to virtualisation and it, in essence, emerges by enforcing twins to interoperate with each other only and exclusively by means of their respective digital twins.
As simple as that.
Symmetry: assets interacting by means of their respective twins
Why does it matter
IOTICS enforces a symmetrical approach to interoperability for a variety of reasons.
Symmetry implies inherent security. Real assets interact with each other by means of their twins therefore they don’t need to know the other’s whereabouts. Interacting via twins prevents also having to expose internal interfaces of the real asset to the other party.
Reliability is possible because producers and consumers can encode in their respective twin’s agent the logic to compensate for loss of connectivity to real assets: for example a twin may simulate feed data or respond with predetermined error conditions that can provide useful details to the consumer.
Both producer and consumer of data are abstracted; In fact – in IOTICS – there’s a blurred distinction between producer and consumer (each twin can be both).
By enforcing symmetry both parties rely on a common approach/interface (the twins’) making establishment of interactions simple.
Interoperability is simplified by enforcing symmetry.
IOTICS promotes a data centric approach to interoperability.
Interoperability between two systems can occur when two systems can exchange data over a common protocol, can parse the format the data is encoded in and share a common vocabulary that provides the meaning of the data.
IOTICS’ symmetrical approach solves the first two levels of interoperability (one protocol, one format) leaving all the effort to the third aspect.
Traditional system integration approaches are typically asymmetrical. For example, for systems exposing data over a REST web service, only the first level is implemented (the common protocol is HTTP). The data format may be negotiated using standard HTTP; but the semantic is left out, hence requiring manual point to point integrations.
This is a follow up / side effect of the security trait of symmetry: symmetry enables decentralisation.
Each party can own its own twin and be part of the network. Being visible in the mesh is a matter of allowing the twin to be visible. In any case twins are in control of their own destiny.
In game analogy
In our multiplayer arena analogy, symmetry is a key feature. For security is clearly a must have. In fact, this is the key reason to success: players can connect to each other in their arena without having to know each other (and for the parents’ peace of mind)
Reliability is achieved by imagining the software making the agent able to compensate for the lack of ability of the player or augment the player’s behaviour (for example, the auto-aim at the enemy or the ability to repeatedly fire)
Regarding abstraction and simplicity, as long as the protocol for network comms is correctly implemented and the game logic is common, in theory, any player can come in with their own console and game implementation and play (barring commercial arrangements that may prevent this to happen) it’s like having a playstation and an xbox playing call of duty modern warfare in the same arena.
But as far as the players and consoles are concerned the game is totally decentralised. In fact, two remote players work in a trust-less mode since both players can play without having to trust each other: each party can know about the other party according to the registered profile and can interact according to the rules of the game.
An interesting scenario opens up when two players want to play by sharing the same console. In this case an “off band” establishment of trust is necessary for one player to get “plugged in” the other player’s console. But once that’s completed successfully, the game’s rules kick in to govern the experience.
This scenario demonstrates how the responsibility of handling trust and security shifts outside IOTICS once the interactions occur outside the network.
IOTICS offers a novel approach to data sharing based on virtualisation, symmetry and secure interactions.
All three of these concepts contribute to making IOTICS a secure platform for data sharing and exchange that fosters the creation of ecosystems across enterprise boundaries.
In this article we discussed symmetry. By enforcing symmetry IOTICS is secure from the ground up, and applications can be implemented more easily and with greater reliability.
In the next and final article we’ll discuss “secure interactions” which underpin the security of the data ecosystem.
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