SWITCH edu-ID picks up pace

The project application "Swiss edu-ID Deployment Step 1" has been approved. The related SWITCH edu-ID service will enter operation in 2017.

Text: Petra Kauer-Ott, published on 15.03.2017

The lifelong academic identity finally promises to become a reality.
The "Scientific information" programme was instrumental in the development of the Swiss edu-ID, and swissuniversities also approved the project application for the first step in deploying the new identity infrastructure in December 2016. The plan is for the Swiss universities to be migrated from SWITCHaai to the lifelong academic identity SWITCH edu-ID in stages by 2020.

User-centric identity

Based on the universities' requirements as well as input from the community, the new identity has been tested using pilot applications for universities and national services. The advantages this user-centric identity with flexible quality brings for online registrations (see box) are very clear. With this in mind, several universities intend to use the new solution for their enrolment in 2017.

The service will offer greater functionality than its predecessor to account for today's much more networked environment:

  • Self-registration and user interface
  • Validation mechanisms (e-mail, mobile number, home address etc.)
  • Notification of changes for users, services and universities’ identity management systems
  • Authentication for non-web-based applications (e.g. mobile apps)
  • Support for multiple affiliations (membership of more than one organisation)
  • Identity linking (e.g. with ORCID)
  • Attributes for access to national services (interinstitutional or organisation-independent user groups)
  • Lifelong identity support

The planned yearly development steps will make it possible to take account of new requirements and to optimise the infrastructure on an ongoing basis as organisations move over to the new service.

A changeover like this can't happen overnight. This is why, at the start of 2014, we proposed a four-year window for migration and development in our input for the Swiss Roadmap for Research Infrastructures 2017-2020. Now the migration can begin at the organisation level in 2017 as planned. We expect the universities with an urgent need for the new functions to be the first to make the move to the SWITCH edu-ID.

Andreas Dudler, Managing Director SWITCH

Initial practical experiences

An initial version was launched at the start of March 2015 under the Swiss edu-ID project. While the pilot solution did not have many functions, it successfully covered a number of use cases and thus helped in gathering practical experience. A solution has been developed in conjunction with the Consortium of Swiss Academic Libraries, for example, that verifies the authorisation of users resident in Switzerland before providing them with access to licensed content.

Developing in line with the universities' needs is a must in a project of this kind. We decided to develop new functions primarily on the basis of specific use cases in order to add value immediately. By continuing development step by step, we can retain our flexibility and keep adding functions that meet genuine needs.

Christoph Graf, Project Lead Swiss edu-ID

More and more new functions will now start to be rolled out, enabling universities to shift their entire organisation to the new SWITCH edu-ID infrastructure. The changeover requires no effort for the vast majority of services, which are also referred to as resources. However, universities that want to extract the maximum benefit from the changeover must undertake a detailed analysis of their own processes and needs in terms of identity management. Adapting processes within an organisation takes planning and time. The first seven universities are therefore starting preparations this year, evaluating the added value, estimating the cost and comparing various options. SWITCH is helping them in these efforts and will share the knowledge acquired with the remaining universities so that they can prepare themselves quickly and carry out the migration by 2020. 

Support through swissuniversities

swissuniversities plans to promote central services so that resources can be pooled in the interests of strengthening Swiss tertiary education and research. The lifelong academic identity is an essential prerequisite for this.

Roland Dietlicher, who leads the "Scientific information" programme for swissuniversities, sees the new academic identity as a key project:

Providing access to the academic service network necessitates a robust authentication and authorisation infrastructure. The lifelong academic identity opens up promising possibilities for the future and is much more flexible than SWITCHaai. SWITCH guarantees continual development, which is vital for a basic infrastructure designed to remain in use for several decades.

Roland Dietlicher, leads the "Scientific information" programme (SUK P-5)

After their preparations, the first universities will be able to make the move to the SWITCH edu-ID in 2018. Others will begin planning in 2018 and 2019. In parallel with this, new functions are planned for the infrastructure, all of them aligned as closely as possible with the universities’ needs and based on specific use cases in participating organisations.

The latest SWITCH edu-ID developments can be followed via the blog or the newsletter. We will also publish details of major components going live and extensions to the service here.

Further information:
Project website (https://projects.switch.ch/eduid/)
Project description/Roadmap 2017 (https://projects.switch.ch/eduid/about/roadmap/)
Identity Blog (https://identityblog.switch.ch/)
Story dossier (http://www.switch.ch/dossiers/identity-management/)
Swiss edu-ID at swissuniversities (https://swit.ch/edu-id@swissuniversities)


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.


SWITCH edu-ID benefits

For organisations

One identity for all: The identity can be used not only by university members, but also by anyone connected to a university such as alumni, partners, guests etc.

Compatibility: The SWITCH edu-ID is a standardised Swiss-wide solution for academia and is internationally compatible.

Data quality and up-to-dateness: It is possible to see how well identity data are verified and how up to date they are. Quality can be increased as required by the organisation itself or qualified third parties.

Future-proofing: Scalability is built into the architecture.

For service operators

Security: The proven SWITCHaai basis, controlled guidelines and high-quality attributes guarantee a secure system.

Standardised solution: The administrative workload is reduced, self-registration and access based on attributes and/or roles for all user groups are possible, data are updated regularly, and processes are improved.

For users

One identity: The identity is for all academic services – lifelong, user-controlled and secure. 

It can be used outside the confines of web applications, e.g. for mobile apps. 

Transparency: Data quality and forwarding are visible to users. Data quality can be increased as needed.

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