IHAN Blueprint as the target architecture

The main objectives of Sitra’s IHAN project are to create a method for data exchange and to set up European-wide rules and guidelines for the ethical use of data.

The Blueprint is our understanding of how components can be built according to IHAN requirements. The document contains detailed functional requirements for all IHAN ecosystem functional components at the end user, service provider and data provider levels. It also contains all non-functional requirements for the IHAN ecosystem. The testbed follows the community-led IHAN Blueprint as the target state architecture.

Rough waters ahead on the testbed - enter at your own risk

The IHAN testbed is the first proposed embodiment of the Blueprint that provides a distributed model of developing the fair data economy. To enable the distributed model, the architecture is based on open APIs as well as open data and protocol standards. The future capabilities are being demonstrated in a concrete manner and the development is currently carried on towards the first public release beta version. Some parts of the architecture integrations still remain unimplemented and some areas are still rough, for example the new developers joining the platform won’t find joining the platform completely painless but these issues are being addressed in the upcoming development phases of the IHAN testbed.

Authentication

For many kinds of applications, knowing who the user is, is important. There are also many data sources that require user authentication. Additionally, the consent mechanism depends on the fact that the user granting the consent is entitled to do so. Various solutions exist in the market but many of them have various issues with pricing scaling and are generally unusable for a global audience. The testbed offers a new kind of authentication infrastructure that could be scaled to the global level.

Demo application

Having open APIs and standards is nice but how can the testbed capabilities be used in practice? This is where the applications come into the picture to actually create value for end users that are seeking more transparent, valuable and interoperable services with fair and ethical means. The IHAN-compatible applications can fulfil this need by exploiting strong authentication and interoperable and consented data. You can currently build demo-grade applications on top of the IHAN platform.

Data product standards

At the very heart of the platform are data product standards. Data standardisation allows developers to rely on the APIs, and to use data from different sources without having to spend significant effort building several integrations. From the technical perspective, when a set of inputs and outputs from an API are combined into a standard, we call it a data product standard. When plugging an existing API into the IHAN testbed a component that uses these data standards must be developed. This component is called a Productizer.

Productizer

Productizers are a way to turn existing APIs into standardised data products available for the use on the platform. There is a clear communication protocol defined for the communication, and Productizers will follow that protocol and implement the standardisation of the selected data sources using independent components that do not require the original API to be changed.  Before building a Productizer you should clarify the data product standards that you are about to use.

Product Gateway

Once we have the Productizer in place, one significant question remains: how do developers access data from various sources in a convenient and secure manner? The Product Gateway is the answer to that, providing the ability to connect applications to a multitude of data product Productizers with a simple yet efficient protocol. It will also be able to handle policies such as which security protocols are to be followed for communicating with different Productizers (for authentication and consent, for example).

Discovery

Applications, as well as developers on the IHAN testbed, will be most interested in one question: what data can I actually use, and how? For fulfilling these requirements, we need the discovery capability. Graph databases have been proved to be the most efficient way of fulfilling discovery capabilities and modelling the real-world identities and links in the graph enables a fast and human-centric way of building solutions and discovering data products.

Consent

With the identification of the users taken care of, the next step is getting their consent. The primary use of consent in the IHAN testbed is to ensure that the data is handled correctly, and access is only granted to applications when the user allows it. Users will first authenticate via the authentication layer, then the consent for accessing the data is requested via the consent directory and once it has been received the applications can relay the authentication and consent information via the product gateway to the Productizers who can then verify these claims by communicating with the authentication and consent systems.

Data sources

For creating value for the application developers and end users, data products from various data sources are needed. The plan is to build a platform where it is possible to plug in any data source with relative ease, and to the build applications that use that data. Before that is possible selected sources are used to empower the first applications built. Selected data sources to showcase the platform capabilities on the testbed are: OpenWeatherMap, World Air Quality Index and Health database mock-up.

Developer portal

For easy access to the IHAN testbed APIs and developer-related material, there is a need for the developer community to have their own place for doing these things. The developer portal will serve as the channel for third-party developers (of both applications and data products) to access and use the testbed capabilities to build more meaningful, ethical and valuable solutions for the end users. A developer portal skeleton has been released to hint at what is being developed. The release of the IHAN testbed will include a fully integrated developer portal for wider communities of developers to join.

How to get started as a developer

The testbed is made for developers to build new applications using the provided APIs and data products in the network.

The testbed is currently at the invite-only alpha stage and is due to open publicly by the end of 2020 complete with a fully functional developer portal.

Send an email to ihan@sitra.fi to join now!