The nine bank members of Identrus LLC have launched a pilot test of the consortium's network for guarding business-to-business electronic commerce transactions.

A root certificate authority, smart cards, and real-time validations of identities will be tested.

Employees of seven founding institutions-ABN Amro, Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Chase Manhattan, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank (including its recent acquisition of Bankers Trust, which was also a founder), and Hypo Vereinsbank-will participate in the six-week pilot. So will those of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Sanwa Bank, which joined Identrus in April.

"This pilot is the first rollout of a proof-of-concept for the Identrus trust hierarchy," said Kristin Kupres, chief operating officer and chief technology officer of New York-based Identrus, which was formed in October. The consortium's aim is to help businesses manage their electronic commerce risks by providing a secure network of financial institutions to handle transactions.

The pilot uses digital certificate authority technology from Baltimore Technologies Inc., validation technology from Valicert Inc., and smart card technology from Barclays Bank. Identrus also plans to test technologies from other vendors to ensure interoperability.

A full commercial launch is planned for early 2000. Identrus expects to be piloting a secure network for consumers by that time.

It also plans to add to its roster of participants.

"Over the next few years we are targeting 300 financial institutions," Ms. Kupres said.

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