The European Commission has backed a research project to develop the basic groundwork for establishing a secure electronic commerce service. A consortium of 20 partners from European industry, led by IBM Corp and including DigiCash NV and Europay International SA, together with academic institutions such as the Universities of Hildesheim and Freiburg, have joined the SEMPER Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe initiative, whose goal is to provide the first open and comprehensive solutions for secure commerce over the Internet and other public information networks. Plans call for IBM France SA to act as co-ordinator for the project, with IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory providing the technical leadership. According to an IBM source, the need for secure transactions in this new business environment has triggered a number of similar initiatives, but these have been almost exclusively in the US and largely proprietary, or otherwise closed solutions, involving only electronic payment issues. In contrast, SEMPER is billed as working to provide a comprehensive solution for secure electronic commerce, which will address legal, commercial, social, and technical requirements for an electronic marketplace. The project calls for the first of the three one-year phases to address a coherent security model and a generic, open security architecture for the electronic marketplace. The architecture is intended to be independent of specific hardware, software or network architectures, and the most fundamental electronic commerce services, such as secure offering, ordering, payment and information delivery, will also be integrated in the first phase. Subsequent phases will focus on more advanced services, including fair exchange of documents; credentials; advanced document processing; notary services; and multimedia-specific security services, such as protection of intellectual property rights. Multi-party security and protection of user’s privacy will apparently receive prime attention. SEMPER will use and integrate existing architectures, tools and services wherever these are appropriate. Early trials will be conducted via the Web, with subsequent tests over broadband Asynchronous Transfer Mode networks to demonstrate the wide application of its architecture and services.