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Sunderland City Council is rolling out its prototype regional federated identity initiative across the north-east of England.

The council, which designed, developed, and deployed the Trusted Services Infrastructure (TSI) in association with the North East Connects Partnership (NECP) - which consists of 25 local government organisations - has said it is encouraging local businesses and organisations to come up with innovative ideas to exploit the system for their own identity projects.

Federated identity is an arrangement where a number of organisations can register the authenticity of a person's identity accepted in a much wider circle. The TSI enables citizens to gain access to shared services provided by the public and private sector.

The move follows two successful pilot schemes. The first in 2003-04 provided local log-in, buildings access and network log-in for 400 students at Sunderland College.

The other, in September 2005, saw NECP deploy 8,500 smart cards for the University of Sunderland Student Union. They hold membership details, discount privileges and digital certificates to authenticate online services.

The university plans to relaunch the smart card scheme combining the student union with other education services with a view to providing 17,000 cards.

Using ActivIdentity technology and Smart Connect software, the initiative currently has the capability to manage up to 80,000 smart card holders for use in third party payment and e-ticketing services. Future plans include building ticketing capability for use on public transport.

Con Crawford, Sunderland City Council strategic projects officer, said: "The infrastructure is a prototype capability designed to support the government's drive towards shared services and ours compliments central government's Shared Services Unit.

"Since our definition of this embraces all sectors we are now promoting it to public and private sector organisations to encourage their use of the system.

"Federation protects the company asset, including confidential employee information, while the use of third party services can enhance the whole cardholder proposition."

NECP is currently working with accountancy package company Sage, in a partnership that has already supplied access control smart cards for systems at the company's global head quarters in Newcastle.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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