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Trusted Distributed Computing Enables Secure Collaboration

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By Shamik Mehta


Data is one of the most valuable commodities in the world. This means the most valuable companies are the ones collecting and harnessing the most data, such as Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet. These trillion-dollar global tech behemoths are able to store and analyze their own data in-house, without needing to collaborate with any other partners. 

This isn’t always possible for most other firms in the world, which rely on collaboration to open up exciting new business opportunities. Collaborating on data also allows organizations to analyze and monetize their data to improve their products. But this comes with its own challenges; increased sharing and using data across boundaries also makes it vulnerable. The task of safe data collection becomes even more difficult when you take into account the sheer number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices expected to be in the world by 2025 (75 billion, and counting!). 

The solution is trusted distributed computing.

How Trusted Distributed Computing Works

Typically, data is held in the cloud or on-premises servers. As a result, firms that work together on a project are required to transmit and store data on servers that are often outside of their control. With IoT systems, devices already live in unsecured environments and communicate with base servers, even if compromised. This all creates risk, both during the transport phase of data processing and while it is being held on external servers. 

Trusted distributed computing works by establishing a chain of trust between servers and devices during all stages of data processing. By creating a network of safe points and securing the data through the transmission process, each stop along the data’s journey can be verified and authenticated. By using trusted distributed computing, companies can rely on the authenticity of the data they are receiving and prevent system penetration by compromised devices or bad actors.

Why Trusted Distributed Computing Matters

Here are two real-world instances of trusted distributed computing using Intertrust solutions to make data-sharing more secure and efficient. 

DigiKoo

When collaborating, no firm wants to give away data that could later help a competitor gain an edge. This understandably causes companies to be very wary about how and with whom they collaborate. Trusted distributed computing allows partners to achieve a greater level of trust in what is happening to their data, as well as giving them granular access to it.

An example of this is a German project intended to create a better system for identifying charging points for Distributed Energy Resources, such as electric vehicles (EVs), battery energy storage systems (BESS), and more. The project called for utilities, local distribution service operators (DSOs), and municipalities to closely work together. To function successfully, municipality workers required seamless and timely access to multiple sources of data, so they could check the feasibility of a location, as well as collect crowd-sourced user preferences for future EV chargers. This required DSOs to reveal sensitive information about load capacity, grid information, and existing installed assets. 

In order for these parties to work within an environment that kept sensitive data safe, and also complied with strict European GDPR laws, a trusted distributed computing network needed to be created. 

Intertrust and its project partner DigiKoo managed to meet all of the project needs by creating a trusted computing platform. This platform enabled participants to quickly and securely access only the information they needed, meaning those providing the data only had to give as much access as required. 

Smart Thermostats

The IoT is the latest major evolution of how the world connects over the internet. Previously, devices had to be told what to do. Now, they’re empowered to communicate and make decisions autonomously. 

Take, for example, a smart thermostat. When a user makes changes to it, it collects data about how warm or cool they like their home to be. It then learns about the user’s preferences, processes this data, and acts autonomously to ensure their home is always the right temperature. What many users don’t realize is that this data is transmitted to the device’s manufacturer or a collaborating partner for processing. If someone hacks and reverse engineers the thermostat, they could steal data, monitor your home, request data from connected devices, and even affect your health.

The solution is to reinforce each device and the manufacturer’s system itself through a series of security measures. For IoT devices, this entails provisioning unique device identities and cryptographic keys. 

Intertrust has already provisioned 1.5 billion devices with their own unique private key through its Seacert managed PKI service.

Collaborate Safely with Intertrust 

Intertrust has been creating security solutions since the early 90s, most famously through its participation in the Marlin open-source digital rights management standard. We have since brought our expertise to the fields of data security to enable safe and trustworthy collaboration. To find out more about our trusted distributed computing platforms and security, get in touch with our team today.

Shamik Mehta

About Shamik Mehta

Shamik Mehta is the Director of Product Marketing for Intertrust's Data Platform. Shamik has almost 25 years of experience in semiconductors, renewable energy, Industrial IoT and data management/data analytics software. Since getting an MSEE from San Jose State University, he’s held roles in chip design, pre-sales engineering and product and strategic marketing for technology products, including software solutions and platforms. He spent 6 years at SunEdison, once the world's largest renewable energy super-major, after spending 17 years in the semiconductor industry. Shamik has experience managing global product marketing, GTM activities, thought leadership content creation and sales enablement for software applications for the Smart Energy, Electrified Transportation and Manufacturing verticals. Shamik is a Silicon Valley native, having lived, studied and worked there since the early 90’s.