SWITCH rolled out the Swiss edu-ID at the start of March 2015. What is it, and what benefits does it bring?
The Swiss edu-ID is a lifelong digital identity for everyone connected to the Swiss academic community, i.e. students, graduates, researchers, lecturers and university staff. It can be thought of as an extension of SWITCHaai, which controls access to resources on the Web (see box). While SWITCHaai is centred on organisations, the Swiss edu-ID is user-centric. This change in approach came about because SWITCHaai was reaching the limits of its flexibility in some cases.
In contrast to the organisation-focused SWITCHaai, therefore, each individual receives only Swiss edu-ID, which they bring to their university and retain when they leave or transfer. The university can add to this digital identity, for example with an attribute confirming that the user is a student. When this is no longer the case, the attribute can be removed. This Swiss edu-ID remains valid through changes of university and role, with its content updated to reflect the holder’s current circumstances. This means that guests, external staff and alumni can all be served appropriately as long as they have a Swiss edu-ID. Anyone who does not already have one can select Swiss edu-ID as their home organisation when signing up to an IT service and will then be guided through the creation process.
The Swiss edu-ID is largely compatible with SWITCHaai. Many of the 800 IT services that currently employ SWITCHaai for access control can be unlocked or used with the first version. On top of this, it is particularly easy for anyone who already has a SWITCHaai account to create a Swiss edu-ID because the basic information can simply be copied over.
Version 1 of the Swiss edu-ID went into operation at the beginning of March 2015 and supports the following features:
What comes next? Version 2 will allow universities to add attributes, thus ensuring that the Swiss edu-ID covers the same functionality as SWITCHaai – and more besides. It is scheduled for rollout in the middle of 2016.