Digital accreditation symbol and digital calibration certificate: DAkkS and PTB prepare introduction
Fast, straightforward and useful – that is the verdict of pilot phase clients on their use of the digital accreditation symbol of Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS). Since March 2023, the digital accreditation symbol has been issued on a test basis as an “eAttestation” on electronic result reports produced by selected pilot phase clients. The digital calibration certificate developed by the National Metrology Institute of Germany (PTB) served as the machine-readable version of the eAttestation. This allows conformity assessment bodies to issue digital results reports in a machine-readable and cryptographically secured form and to integrate them automatically into Industry 4.0 applications. From 30 March 2024, accredited bodies can apply for the digital accreditation symbol and put the applications into practice.
What is the DAkkS digital accreditation symbol?
The digital accreditation symbol is based on an electronic seal, a kind of company stamp with additional accreditation information. Its use is comparable to the use of digital signatures by natural persons. The digital accreditation symbol enables the correct provision of evidence of accreditation in the digital space.
With the development of the digital accreditation symbol, DAkkS is the first accreditation body in the world to provide a digital identity for accredited bodies with cryptographically secure key material via a trust service provider. DAkkS actively assists the digital transformation and making an important contribution to the development of a digital chain of evidence in the quality infrastructure in support of a global paperless trading system.
Pilot phase: the digital accreditation symbol in use
DAkkS and PTB announced the official conclusion of the pilot phase at the AKKKO 2023 accreditation conference, which took place on 11 and 12 September in Berlin, and where four of the six participating pilot phase clients from different accredited areas presented their results and impressions from the pilot phase in Forum 1, “Digitisation in testing and accreditation”.
During the pilot phase, the participating bodies added the invisible digital accreditation symbol to their digital result reports as a form of verifiable confirmation of the integrity of information and authenticity of the origin of the document from the accredited body. Verification is possible worldwide and in real time by both machines and humans. The focus of the development of the digital accreditation symbol is on automated, machine-based application and verification.
The testimonials of the pilot phase clients at the AKKKO conference indicated a positive view.
Embedding the digital accreditation symbol in the conformity assessment body is dependent on its specific circumstances. Every commercially available sealing software is applicable and the sealing process can be performed either manually or automatically. The individual approaches to solutions were briefly presented by the participating clients.
The findings of clients in the pilot phase confirmed that sealing and verification of the digital accreditation symbol on common digital file formats is simple and straightforward, regardless of whether the process in place within the body is manual or automated. Application of the digital accreditation symbol to PDF and XML files proved to be as successful as the verification of the sealed documents.
Digital calibration certificate (DCC) as eAttestation successfully tested
Combining the digital accreditation symbol by DAkkS with the digital calibration certificate (DCC) developed by PTB makes fully automated processing of the DCC as an “eAttestation” possible. On this basis, automated and networked production processes and their quality assurance will be possible in the future, enabling improvements in efficiency and cost reductions in process flows, for example in Industry 4.0 applications.
PTB and DKD, the German Calibration Service, are undertaking efforts to harmonize the content for the DCC. With this, the expert committees at DKD are actively helping to advance the semantics, also in the international context, and to further support “Made in Germany” as a quality assurance pioneer
Pilot project as a building block of the “QI Digital” initiative
The successful pilot project is also an important building block of the “QI-Digital” initiative to digitise the quality infrastructure (QI). In the “QI-Digital” initiative, DAkkS and PTB are working together with other partners to create digital, fit-for-the-future solutions in the various areas of the QI: metrology, standardization, accreditation, conformity assessment and market surveillance. The goal is to achieve seamless integration of the individual process steps in the QI. The successful pilot run of the digital accreditation symbol and the digital calibration certificate makes an important contribution here.
In addition to DAkkS and PTB, other bodies involved in the “QI-Digital” initiative include the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) and the German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies in DIN and VDE (DKE). The initiative also involves other partners from the conformity assessment landscape, industry and academic disciplines. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) supports QI-Digital as a substantial contribution to the success of innovative technologies, products and processes – to strengthen Germany as a business location.
Die 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 Brunswick 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.