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With interoperability in focus

At the last meeting of ISO/TC 292, which took place in Edinburgh in September 2016, we talked to Mrs Marietta Ulrich-Horn, project leader of ISO 20229 on “interoperability of object identification and authentication systems”. The project has just reached the committee draft stage and will also within short receive a new number in the 34000 series.

Please highlight the benefits of ISO 20229?

In a digitized society, products and objects can be identified piece by piece, by giving each of them a unique ID. Means to mark them are both to be seen as “internet of things” with electronic IDs, but also more simply by carrying a unique QR code and the like, linking to the internet. There products can be verified and traced, and certainty about their genuineness can be gained or improved. To make such unique item identification work, IT systems are in place, e.g. for verification or traceability through the supply chain.

In an extensive research within and beyond our working we could highlight the fact, that practically all stakeholders in product security, have an interest in enabling interoperability among various existing and emerging schemes to identify products. Therefore this standard on “establishing interoperability of object identification and authentication systems, to deter counterfeits and illicit trade” will be of great importance.

What kind of expertise are you looking for in order to finalize ISO 20229?

We do have experts from service providers of object identification systems, as well as other experts from the security business, mainly from the providers’ side. It would be valuable to have even more service providers in the team, for more diverse inputs.

We still look for additional users, for organizations which have come across the necessity to use several coding schemes in parallel, for example due to different requirements in different legislations, when it comes to governmentally regulated product identification.

It would be beneficial to have more experts coming from organizations, which really operate many object identifications systems, for verification and/or for traceability, in parallel.

What are the key challenges in developing ISO 20229?

Interoperability, in the area of object identification systems, is in an early stage. Without a standard, interoperation among diverse systems will only emerge very slowly.  As we do not want to narrow down new ways and technologies, we need to describe the necessary agreements and secure arrangements, rather than creating “the” one IT-architecture for interoperability. As a result of interoperability there will be increased security, by the establishment of trusted third parties. This helps in dismantling fake product identification services.

What is your personal motivation to work in ISO/TC 292 and why does your organization support your involvement?

Being CEO of a quickly growing enterprise in the authentication business, it is of course difficult to spend several weeks a year in ISO standardization activities. Time consuming activities grew even more, once I became project leader of a new standard.

However, working on security standards is rewarding on its own. Drawing on my education in social anthropology and business administration, I still want to go beyond what I have achieved. I can draw on my expertise, such as releasing consumers from – sometimes deadly - harm by counterfeits, or such as enabling right holders to deter fraudsters and get more control over their distribution chain.

Being project leader in ISO 20299 enables me to contribute to topics of importance to global security. And on the other hand, there is a lot of mutual learning among the experts in the working group, valuable for all of us.

Interview made by Joachim Koerner