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Registered E-post will soon be reality

Data contained on a USB stick will soon replace the conventional postal stamp


Customers wishing to send registered post by email will be able to do so in a year’s time in an innovation targeted mainly at businesses.

To ease the introduction of a digital postmark, Swiss Post has bought the firm SwissSign, which specialises in digital encryption.

The technologically advanced postmark will act as a guarantee of delivery, Swiss Post said in a statement.

Its incaMail communication platform will allow letters to be displayed electronically in a legally binding form.

It added that "all the necessary infrastructures and processes are [already] in place for secure data transmission".

Describing the structure of these electronic documents, the post office said that public key infrastructure (PKI) technology would ensure that the e-products look similar to conventional letters.

However, the message’s content would either not be visible or would be encrypted. The sender would be required to attach a signature to the contents and the message would then be forwarded.

This process would be documented and the addressee would confirm receipt with his or her electronic signature. The sender would also receive proof that the message was delivered.

Swiss Post and the Federal Court have already agreed to conduct a pilot project in the future, which will use incaMail as an electronic delivery platform for document-exchange between lawyers and the courts.


SwissSign was the developer of the PKI solution. The firm was acquired by the post office for a seven-figure sum and will continue to operate under its current name.

The company has applied for its technology to be certified under Swiss law, something which the post office expects to happen in the near future.

The head of mail at Swiss Post, Josef Bösch, said the volume of letters sent was in decline and was expected to fall by 16 per cent by 2010.

"More and more people are turning permanently to new technologies, rather than sending letters by traditional means," he said.

Traditional post offices would also have a role to play in the envisaged digital revolution.

"Our dense post-office network can continue to provide a useful service... digital identities have to be issued somewhere and real identities verified," said Bösch.

Since the beginning of 2005, the electronic signature in Switzerland has had the same status as a handwritten signature for contracts and business transactions.


Key facts

On January 1, 2005, a new law came into force which gives electronic signatures equal status with handwritten ones.
This new form of proof of personal identity has already been introduced in Finland, the Netherlands and Austria.
Electronic signatures are based on an asymmetrical coding system, which makes it possible to identify the sender and at the same time verify the integrity of the message.

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