Joint effort for a new identity

Wanted: future-proof, lifelong academic identity. Offered: opportunity for university members to be involved.

Text: Petra Kauer-Ott, published on 24.07.2014

Would you like to play a part in the next phase of AAI's evolution towards a user-centric identity management solution? We are looking for university members to help us create a new digital identity known as the Swiss edu-ID. The groundwork has already been done, and it is now time to get started on the details.

The intention is to make identity management for Switzerland's universities user-centric, flexible, lifelong, secure and high-quality going forward so as to meet people's increasing need for independence in terms of time, space, hardware and service providers. It will have to pick up where the current organisation-centric and time-limited identity solutions reach their limits.

The Swiss edu-ID will become the new key granting access to data and services, providing broader scope for users and universities alike as regards mobility and lifelong learning.

The foundations are laid

A framework is in place for the new academic identity in the form of the high-level architecture and the integration of a unique identifier into the AAI test federation system. Shifting to centralised identity management is part of the process that will help to ensure that users have a lasting digital identity in future. The Swiss edu-ID concept also includes identity management options and improved control over the exchange of identity information as well as a single login that also covers mobile applications.
Universities will no longer need to set up entirely new identities for their future users. Instead, they will be able to add their own details ("attributes") to existing identity information and thus improve its quality. Linking identities (e.g. with an Open Researcher and Contributor ID or ORCID) is also of central importance.

New working groups poised to start

Working groups comprising representatives of the universities have already made a substantial contribution to designing the high-level architecture, the unique identifier and the attribute specifications. The aim now is to flesh out the concept that has been worked out and to put it into practice. This will also be done with the aid of working groups to ensure that the needs of universities and their members can be taken into account in this important phase of the project.

We would like to encourage members of the Swiss academic community to sign up to one of the working groups and play an active role. The first groups are scheduled to begin work in October 2014 (see box "working groups"). If you are interested, send an e-mail to stating which group you would like to join.

Pilots sought for 2015

A number of pilot applications will be used to test the integration possibilities for the Swiss edu-ID. Various types of applications can be considered, including e-portfolios, mobile apps, research community IDs (ORCID etc.), IDs for social networks and ID frameworks (STORK, SuisseID etc.).

Pilots can be started from 2015. Should funding be needed, it must be applied for as soon as possible (please note the submission deadlines of 10 August 2014 and 15 February 2015!). With this in mind, we would ask anyone who is interested to contact us and attend one of the information events.

About the author
Petra   Kauer-Ott

Petra Kauer-Ott

After several years as an e-learning coordinator at the University of Zurich, geography graduate Petra Kauer-Ott joined SWITCH in 2009 and coordinated innovation and cooperation projects. She started working on the Swiss edu-ID project in 2014.


The Swiss edu-ID

SWITCH is working on a lifelong academic identification service known as the Swiss edu-ID. This will allow authorised users to access protected data and services whenever and wherever they need them throughout their lives. Valid internationally, it will act as a kind of virtual passport. The basis for it – SWITCHaai – has already existed for more than a decade and will serve as the starting point for planned developments.
Further information

Why not join one of our working groups?

  • Processes: identifying and analysing relevant IdM processes and interfaces
  • Regulations: reviewing internal regulations and guidelines as well as policy requirements
  • ORCID: drafting ORCID usage scenarios and handling integration
  • Mobile App Support: identifying requirements, improving support, carrying out evaluations
  • Governance Model:testing usability and user-friendliness
  • Business Model: investigating various options


Sign up by 30 August 2014



Key deadlines & information events

10 August 2014: SUC-P2 deadline (project start from January 2015)

13 August 2014: AAI TechUpdate & Swiss edu-ID Introduction

30 August 2014: deadline for working groups call-up

11 September 2014: project presentation at UNIL

25 September 2014: project presentation at UNIBE

15 February 2015 SUC-P2 deadline (project start from August 2015)

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