Calibration certificates and national emblems: the digital future
German products enjoy an excellent reputation – thanks to a complex system for the assurance of quality and protection of consumers: the so-called quality infrastructure (QI). To ensure that this promise of quality remains true in a digital world, the necessary instruments, such as calibration certificates and national emblems, must also become digital. The National Metrology Institute of Germany (PTB) and Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS) have now begun a close collaboration on the practical introduction of such machine-readable calibration certificates (DCCs) with a digital national emblem. The goal of the stakeholders with this measure is to support the German economy in its digital transformation and advocate for uniform European and global standards in this area. This project is part of the joint QI Digital initiative, in which PTB and DAkkS are working together with the other partners in the initiative, BAM, DIN and DKE, on solutions fit for the future.
Working together with a network of stakeholders from the scientific community, industry and QI stakeholders in the private sector, the QI Digital initiative has set itself the goal of developing a modern quality infrastructure that covers the needs of a networked and automated value chain and reduces costs. Digital and machine-readable reporting of results, in the form for example of calibration certificates, constitute an important component of this infrastructure.
A calibration certificate provides evidence that a measuring device has been calibrated in accordance with applicable requirements. Digital calibration certificates (DCCs) also include this technical information in machine-readable form – a clear advantage for manufacturing and quality surveillance processes, where digitisation is becoming more and more common. In recent years, PTB has therefore worked closely with industry and international partners to develop a technical format for a digital calibration certificate that is suitable for worldwide use.
In close cooperation between DAkkS and PTB, the integration of a digital accreditation symbol as a machine-readable emblem will also now soon be here. This step enables machine-readability of all information issued by accredited bodies without media discontinuity. On the basis of selected pilot projects, DAkkS and PTB are now working on the process flows required to put digital calibration certificates and the digital national emblem into practical use quickly and extensively.
About the technical specifications
A digital calibration certificate contains all calibration information in a structure that computers can understand to ensure that the information can be read and used automatically directly in digital systems. The principle can be transferred to any other metrological document. It is based on technological developments which, under the leadership of PTB, have in the meantime gained widespread national and international currency: the DCC is based on the established mark-up language XML. Uniform semantics enable the transfer of calibration information in a form that can be interpreted by machines, which at the same time meets the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard relevant to laboratories.
The digital DAkkS accreditation symbol is based on a so-called public key infrastructure (PKI), a cryptographic system that enables the issuance and management of secure digital identities. In this system, the DAkkS national emblem is issued using a qualified seal certificate for advanced seal signatures, which is defined in Article 3, paragraphs 26, 30 of Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 (eIDAS). This procedure allows the identity of the issuing accredited body and the status of the accreditation issued by DAkkS to be digitally verifiable by a trust service provider.
Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS)
DAkkS is the national accreditation authority of the Federal Republic of Germany. With an accreditation, it confirms that laboratories and certification bodies can perform their work competently and in accordance with the requirements of internationally applicable standards, legal bases and relevant rules, and monitors the fulfilment of these requirements. That is its legal mandate. With the accreditations it issues, it helps to make products, processes and services safer and to simplify trade in Europe and around the world on the basis of reciprocal agreements.
The National Metrology Institute of Germany (PTB)
PTB is Germany’s national metrology institute and the higher technical authority of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. It is therefore the highest authority with respect to all questions of correct and reliable measurement. In total, more than 2,100 people are employed at its Braunschweig and Berlin locations, carrying out research into fundamental questions concerning physical units, calibrating measuring instruments for the highest accuracy requirements and conducting conformity assessments. Together with other stakeholders, PTB is working towards a digital and future-oriented quality infrastructure.