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The International Data Space Association (IDSA) selected six candidates to apply for certification of its connector. Each candidate has featured in an IDSA blog. Italy’s Engineering Group is one of these six candidates. In this article, EHTEL draws on the wealth of ideas expressed by Engineering’s Angelo Marguglio, and gathered further insights from him and from Matteo Melideo, Head of IT Systems for Health Research Unit.

IDSA selected six candidates to apply for certification of their connector. EHTEL member, the Engineering Group from Italy, is one of those six candidates.

Engineering’s background

Engineering Group is a digital transformation company based in Italy that operates in many countries around the world. It has 12,000 employees.

Angelo Marguglio, Head of Engineering’s Digital Industry R&D unit, has been involved in the IDSA’s architecture working group from the very beginning. As a computer engineer, he helped with the ongoing collaboration among companies and initiatives.

In January 2023, Angelo took time out to highlight Engineering’s involvement in IDSA’s digital ecosystem. From his base in the southern Italian city, Palermo, he described how the company started by providing digital solutions to deploy data spaces in the manufacturing sector. As he outlined:

We started collaborating with IDSA a long time ago to figure out how to support the digital transformation of […] supply networks and extended enterprises, focusing on how to create trust between different players and stakeholders.”

Engineering is also working on yet other domains – like health.

Engineering connector

Open source, and cross-domain, technology for European data spaces

Two years ago, Engineering began developing the TRUE Connector (TRUE stands for TRUsted Engineering).

Open source is at the heart of this connector work. The connector is part of the FIWARE ecosystem (a curated framework of Open Source Platform components to accelerate the development of Smart Solutions), and is part of FIWARE’s catalogue of solutions. It can be integrated with the main IDSA infrastructural components, empowered by open source implementations to handle data usage control, and even handle personal data that are compliant with Europe’s 2016 General Data Protection Regulation.

Cross-domain technology is also really important. Initially, Engineering concentrated on the manufacturing domain. Yet it soon saw that the connector technology is domain-independent and therefore works well in other domains. As a result, the TRUE Connector has been adopted to digitise several value chains that are circular and sustainable. Experimentation has also occurred in domains like energy, smart buildings, and agri-food. The health and care sectors are also obvious candidates.

Many companies are eager to benefit from data sharing and the data economy. Engineering supports such companies in the digital transition that is needed to take advantage of connector technology: underpinning it is a huge potential market that needs to be addressed. Engineering also champions, and is fully aligned with, the strategic efforts of the European Commission to foster growth in European industry.

IDSA certification

A certified connector ensures that defined levels of security, including infrastructure reliability and process compliance, have been met. It also provides guarantees on the availability, confidentiality and integrity of the developed solution.

Engineering made the decision to apply for IDSA certification:

We realized that it is important to get the certification to make the connector available to our business partners,” said Angelo. “And then we got selected!

Selection as a candidate for certification has numerous, obvious, important benefits for the connector. The certification process is now underway.

Next steps

Working with an open source connector makes it significantly easier for companies to join the data space ecosystem. On open source Angelo emphasises:

Open source technology can support [different partners’] business[es], if we work together with the best technology providers. We need to be pioneers in adopting this technology.”

What is the situation today? Currently, there are no significant technical barriers to limit the adoption of data spaces technology in either small or large businesses. Yet there are mainly operational and business obstacles. For instance, standardisation is still largely not present. The community has to push now for a solution on standardisation between data spaces – in order to be business competitive. But, in Angelo’s eyes, the real challenge remains access to the value of data sharing.

In many initiatives we talk about vertical, domain-specific data spaces, which are for sure valuable, but [in Engineering], we see that cross-domain value is even more attractive for our partners.

In the coming months of 2023, Angelo and his team plan to increase the number of contributors to the TRUE Connector initiative. In this way, the connector can be developed further, and – ultimately – adopted as a standard. Hence, the entire data spaces community will experiment in the initiative, and members will be able to provide new insights and requirements for the connector’s adoption in a variety of domains.

Having an overview of these opportunities and steps towards standardisation / certification can help people who work in all kinds of sectors understand the value of safe, secure, interconnected data. This has been one of the main benefits of the recently-completed, OPEN DEI project, that has enabled people working in a myriad different domains and sectors to understand the benefits of data sharing in and across fields and industries.

New directions in health and care

Last but not least, what does Angelo think of the possibilities for such a connector in the health and care fields? At the beginning of March 2023, he said:

“The TRUE Connector is sufficiently generic to be adapted in any domain, including the healthcare one. One of the possible adoptions could be to contribute to the feeding of Healthcare Data Spaces. In this domain, the use of a standard and trusted connector is of paramount importance as we need to work with really sensitive personal data.”

To get more involved in these new directions, it is extremely important to stress the certification of these connectors and the quality of the data they are able to treat and transfer. Healthcare is an extremely regulated market where, in addition to the GDPR, a new Medical Device Regulation has entered into force affecting also the software which is considered itself a Medical Device. In this respect, it is worth to understand the impact standard and certified connectors can have also in assuring adherence to the just mentioned regulation.

More information on the TRUE Connector is available on Engineering’s own website, particularly regarding Europe’s federated and secure infrastructure initiative, Gaia-X: TRUE Connector: easing data sharing in Gaia-X.


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