Use Case Evidence for Engineering Design

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Owner

James Cheney

(Curator: Simon Miles)

Provenance Dimensions

Primary: Attribution: responsibility (Content)

Secondary: Process: updates, Justification for Decisions:argumentation

Background and Current Practice

Many different versions of a design are considered in the development of an industrial product or process. Detailed records of these versions and their relationships documenting the evolution of a design (or family of designs) over time are needed for several reasons: intellectual property protection, forensic investigation, and fault analysis (or prevention).

Basic technology for this is widely used in software engineering, e.g. source code management/version control. However, other engineering disciplines have a wide variety of alternative approaches to essentially the same thing (e.g. CAD/CAM systems).

Goal

The goals of this scenario are to be able to assert authorship and defend intellectual property claims, track the re-use of designs, ensure the authenticity and authority of a design (or other engineering record) and uncover the reasons underlying any particular design decision.

Use Case Scenario

Alice is an engineer working for Bob's Widget Factory. Alice is part of a team that designs an extensive range of widgets of various sizes, shapes and purposes. Many widgets are not designed from scratch but are based on an existing design in response to customer requests or problems. Also, sometimes parts of the design of multiple different widgets are combined to make a new widget with multiple uses. When this happens, sometimes the different features interact in unexpected ways, leading to the need for further changes to the design. On the other hand, sometimes problems are found in old designs that have been re-used, leading to questions such as identifying which other designs may be affected by the changes, and identifying products that have been sold to customers which may need to be repaired or recalled.

Eve's Widget Hut competes with Bob's Widget Factory. Eve's company often reverse-engineers widgets from Bob's Widget Factory and sells them more cheaply than Bob can because Eve does not have to pay the design costs. Bob would like to be able to prove that Alice's designs are original, and that Eve is using the same design ideas, to defend patent claims or force Eve to pay royalties.

Problems and Limitations

The kinds of data involved in engineering settings varies widely, from source code text in programs to application-specific CAD/CAM formats to images or physical objects developed as mock-ups or prototypes. Ideally, all of these different (electronic and physical) objects could be linked, making it possible to follow the development of a final design through multiple stages.

Intellectual property claims sometimes need to prove a negative assertion, that is, absence of a link between one design and another. In contrast, provenance information can demonstrate presence of a link but it is not clear how it can be used to prove that two designs were really independent - especially if one party is motivated to deceive. Obtaining completeness guarantees may require developing cryptographic standards and protocols for "notarization" by trusted observers or hardware enforcement mechanisms. (See also "completeness" in Information Quality Assessment for Linked Data and Fulfilling Contractual Obligations.)

Existing Work

This is (very loosely) based on discussion of provenance in engineering design by Alex Ball (see http://wiki.esi.ac.uk/UseCasesForProvenanceWorkshop).

Toyota Recall