M-commerce, certifications next for Liberty Alliance

Single sign-on standards group the Liberty Alliance Project said Tuesday that it was taking over the work of European mobile computing standards group Radicchio Ltd. and that it will unveil a new program to certify products and services for compliance with the Liberty Alliance's federated network identity standards.

The announcements come as the trade group looks for ways to increase adoption of Liberty specifications and build a secure foundation for the growth of mobile and wireless transactions, according to Liberty Alliance executives. The Liberty Alliance is a consortium devoted to creating open standards for managing user identity information online. The group has more than 160 members, including leading corporations, non-profit groups and governments.

Radicchio is a U.K.-based cross industry group that was created in 1999 to foster a secure platform for conducting transactions using mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants). The group developed a platform called the "Trusted Transaction Roaming platform," or t2r, for authenticating mobile device users across different mobile networks. The t2r platform was recently submitted to the European Commission for evaluation.

Under an agreement, which is still being negotiated, t2r will be transferred to the Liberty Alliance Project along with any other specifications and assets belonging to Radicchio, according to a statement released by Radicchio Tuesday at the ITU Telecom conference in Geneva.

Once the transfer is complete, Radicchio will discontinue operations, according to James van der Beek, senior manager of strategy at Radicchio member Vodaphone Group PLC.

The t2r platform uses the Liberty Alliance's Federated Identity Architecture, Radicchio said in its statement.

The decision to fold Radicchio, which counts leading IT players including VeriSign Inc., Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, Vodafone and Orange SA as members, grew out of the realization that the challenge of mobile commerce was converging with that of verifying user identity, Van der Beek said. "Identity impacts everything and the Liberty Alliance is the place to handle identity," he said.

The merger also fits with the Liberty Alliance's focus on a new generation of identity services, according to Simon Nicholson, chairman of the Business and Marketing Expert Group at the Liberty Alliance and a manager of strategic initiatives at Sun Microsystems Inc.

Inheriting the t2r platform will give the Liberty Alliance a head start developing standards for mobile payment and wallet services, Nicholson said. "It's a logical next step for the Liberty Alliance to solve those future problems," he said.

The Liberty Alliance is also launching a certification program to make sure single sign-on software products and services adhere to the group's published guidelines and interoperate with other Liberty products, according to Liberty Alliance executives.

On Wednesday the group will announce that it will issue Liberty Alliance logos to products and services that meet its interoperability standards.

Companies seeking certification will participate in quarterly interoperability events sponsored by Liberty, said Roger Sullivan, chair of the Liberty Alliance Certification sub-team and CEO of Phaos Technology Corp., a Liberty member.

The idea is to encourage awareness of the Liberty Alliance standards and inspire confidence among technology vendors that different products designed on the Liberty standards will interoperate, he said.

Having an easy-to-understand certification will make it easier for purchasing managers to evaluate new products for purchase and plan implementations, according to Michael Barrett, vice president of security and privacy strategy at American Express Co.

The first Liberty Alliance certification event is scheduled for November 11 to 14 in Madrid, Spain. That event is already booked, with ten companies signed up to get their products certified, Sullivan said. Subsequent certification events will be held quarterly, with two in the U.S. and two international events each year, he said.

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