SiEvEI 4.0 – Trust in Distributed Manufacturing with Smart Secure Items


High-Profile Project Consortium for Secure Flexible Factories

Distributed manufacturing and manufacturing-as-a-service have the potential to revolutionize the industrial world. As the fundamental technologies for the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 have matured, advanced connectivity, sophisticated machine communication and automation, additive manufacturing, and many other recent advances in industrial engineering mean that smart factories have already become a reality. The ball is no longer in the court of technology per se, but in the court of business models and operating logics: The designers and vendors of products need to embrace their new potential and transition how they operate away from the monolithic supply chains of old to the responsive and flexible supply networks of a genuine smart manufacturing future.

The SiEvEI 4.0 (Safe and intelligent electronic systems for trustworthy electronic products in Industry 4.0) project was initiated under the careful guidance of Siemens AG as the consortium’s coordinator to overcome that hurdle. Bringing together the engineering expertise of security specialists like Wibu-Systems, semiconductor and sensor technology leaders at Fraunhofer IZM, Wagenbrett GmbH & Co. KG, and Sensorik-Bayern with dedicated researchers at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Bielefeld, the project group started with its three-year commitment in March 2020. It intends to produce a durable hardware and software chain of trust (COT) that can hold together the “flexible factory” of different distributed manufacturing partners.


A digital and connected society is forced to re-evaluate its understanding of security, as it can no longer leave the safety and security of its technical infrastructure – big and small alike – to trust or to isolated stop-gap measures. As recent cyber-incidents and hard-fought political debates about the trustworthiness of individual manufacturers have shown, malicious state and non-state actors are ready to find the exploits and vulnerabilities, more often than not by seizing on the weakest links in the chain. Poor product quality, in itself a safety concern, can also invite their attention, so the issue is not only the need to trust the developers and vendors of devices, but also the integrity of the actual manufacturers and the integrity of the manufacturing process.

A chain of trust is needed that goes beyond the attention paid to the individual product to cover the entire value chain and product lifecycle, including the infrastructure needed to produce, ship, and operate the products. The SiEvEI 4.0 project consortium proposes a technological solution that ensures that necessary trust even when the monolithic manufacturing model opens up to accommodate distributed manufacturing by multiple actors and service providers.

Objectives and Approach

The SiEvEI 4.0 project intends to establish a means to form and maintain the required COT without affecting the essential promise of Industry 4.0: agile and responsive manufacturing that can be adjusted to given requirements in real time (location, production volume, contributing actors, machine and product configuration and customization). It does so by injecting a token of trust – in the form of a smart secure item – into the required flexible manufacturing management systems, supervised and managed by a trustworthy COT infrastructure. With every element in the flexible factory, from machines and their operators to the products themselves, equipped in this way, the COT remains strong even when individual steps or actors are shifted around or replaced.

Innovations and Prospects

The chain of trust proposed by the SiEvEI 4.0 project relies on the development of innovative secure smart items (SSI) and sensor technology to establish the required communication with certificate storage through an edge computing system (ECM).

The SiEvEI 4.0 project builds on the results of a previous initiative of the consortium, which had trialed the integration of sensor systems in electronics systems to allow tracking and state monitoring during production and operation. It refines this approach with a protected certificate storage solution, new integration options for the SSIs in other parts of the manufacturing environment, and a hybrid-learning AI solution that expands the SSIs role from token of trust into a means to track and monitor production quality. The SiEvEI 4.0 project is also designing a 3D planning tool to enable even small to medium-sized manufacturers who may lack the required expertise and capabilities to establish the necessary physical infrastructure, down to the appropriate layout of manufacturing facilities to ensure the correct functioning of wireless communication between machines and with the smart items.

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