At the beginning of the 1990s, the Internet’s various fragmented information networks were combined into one integrated network of systems. As a result, the commercial utilization of the Internet boomed, creating com- pletely new business models and economic structures in the process. A similar reaction is now anticipated from the digitalization of industry and society at large. However, the main question is: “How can all the separately structured, isolated systems be fused into one seamless network of systems?”
So far, the problem has mainly been addressed from the standpoint of centralized and decentralized system architectures. Our analysis shows, however, that completely new and innovative technological approaches, such as the blockchain technology, are emerging to address this problem. These new distributed architecture solu- tions may completely revolutionize the anticipated structures and business models of the digitalization current- ly in progress, as they allow machines to autonomously share much more than just data, e.g. computing power, storage capacity or even electric power. As a result, understanding digitalization in its full capacity requires a systems approach and a new kind of higher-level thinking on the scale of a network of systems.