Mailing system maker taps Certicom for security

A European mail equipment manufacturer is turning to Canadian-developed security technology to help comply with changes in Canada Post’s requirements for postage meters across the country.

Paris, France.-based Neopost Monday

said it was using the Security Builder Crypto toolkit from Mississauga, Ont.-based Certicom Corp. to generate digital post marks (DPM) in its digital mailing systems.

Postal authorities in Canada and the United States have mandated a transition from mechanical meters in postal outlets to ones that can put DPMs on a piece of mail. Two years ago, Canada Post provided its outlets with a timeline that explained when it would withdraw support for certain products from companies like Neopost and Pitney Bowes. The final deadline is Dec. 31, 2006, when it will no longer approve meters that are not compliant with its remote-reset, security and product data capture requirements.

Neopost Canada president Alain Fairise said Certicom’s patented Elliptic Curve Cryptography would help it meet the security portion of those requirements by ensuring that every print is unique and can be traced back to a single machine.

“”There is no way, for example, to photocopy the stamp and claim that it’s genuine,”” he said.

Brendan Ziolo, director of marketing at Certicom, said ECC also provides a smaller key to DPMs, which can be an important consideration.

“”If you use one of the other schemes that are part of the standards, it would actually cover the whole envelope and/or postcard,”” he said. “”It’s actually a physical size thing, because what you’re doing is digitally signing it, and turning the signature into bits or part of the code. The more bits it takes, the bigger that area has to take.””

In addition to size, ECC could increase the rate at which DPMs are processed per minute, though he did not give an exact number. Neopost said the Certicom technology will make its machines faster than any in the industry.

A number of postal outlets have already made the switch to digital meters, Fairise said, though Canada Post could help by providing an incentive program to those who don’t wait until the last minute.

“”There are very concrete benefits to the user, which may not be the ones you would think of up front,”” he said. “”What people like, for is example, if that you don’t need to change the date manually for your meter. Before, you had to play with little levers every day to print the right date on your stamps.””

Postal outlets also like the fact that digital inking is cleaner than liquid ink, added Fairise, as well as the fact that the new equipment is connected to a network that could give them access to services that weren’t available before.

Certicom has brought its business back to life through strategic licensing of its patents, some of which are part of the toolkit, Ziolo said. “”If you just license our patents, you actually have to go and do the implementation yourself,”” he said. “”Many of the organizations we sell to don’t have the security expertise to do that.””

Certicom’s founder, Scott Vanstone, is also working with Neopost rival Pitney Bowes on patented technology specific to the mailing industry, but Fairise said Neopost will differentiate itself on customer service.

“”You’re really entering into what we like to call a five-year-long love story,”” he said. “”Every single day over those five years, you’ll be looking to your supplier to support you. That’s really where the value of the relationship is.””

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