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Data science

Digital calibration certificates

Frequently asked questions

The calibration certificates I currently receive are Portable Document Format (PDF) files. Are they not digital calibration certificates?

A PDF calibration certificate is a digital form of a paper calibration certificate. Both paper and PDF forms of certificate have limitations. Using the information they contain generally requires the information to be copied manually to another format. An audit involving the certificate requires a human to read and confirm that it is valid. The term digital calibration certificate (DCC) refers to a form of calibration certificate that addresses such issues as well as providing additional benefits.

How does a DCC differ from current certificates?

A DCC is a text file that provides all the information in a standardised form that a computer can read. Providing calibration certificates in such a form means that data can be accessed and used without the need to manually transcribe or copy and paste the data, reducing data transfer errors. Auditing checks, such as checks on the validity of certificates can be automated meaning that such checks can be carried out more quickly and auditors will be able to focus on technical aspects relating to the calibration.

Are there any other differences?

While a paper or PDF calibration certificate often contains only summary information from the calibration, to reduce the number of pages the certificate comprises, a DCC can contain supplementary information, for example, measurement results that are requested by some customers.  

I already receive supplementary information in a spreadsheet that accompanies the calibration certificate. Do I really need DCCs?

Currently, some calibration services provide supplementary information in an electronic file on request. The way such information is supplied varies from one calibration service provider to another, making data difficult to share, and meaning that changing calibration service provider may require re-writing of software used to access the data. The introduction of DCCs will ensure that all data, including supplementary information, is provided in a standardised manner.

I only use my certificates to pass audits. Do I really need DCCs?  

It is anticipated that DCCs will facilitate automated auditing of complex supply chains and it is therefore reasonable to imagine that auditing in general will embrace automation. However, during the transition from paper or PDF certificates to DCCs, and beyond, a human-readable form of all or part of the DCC will be available, most likely in an encoded form that is stored in the DCC and easily retrievable.

How do I know I can trust a DCC?

Just as a paper certificate can be trusted because it’s been checked, signed and initialled, DCCs will be checked and electronically signed and secured to ensure that they cannot be tampered with once they have been issued. The approaches implemented to ensure trust in DCCs may vary between calibration service providers.  

Will I need to purchase expensive software to be able to work with DCCs?

It will not be necessary to purchase proprietary software to access the contents of a DCC. DCCs are text files, albeit having a standardised structure, and can be opened using modern text editors. There are different languages, for example, XML and JSON, in which DCCs can be implemented, but these languages are open formats for which much documentation exists. Calibration service providers should also provide support, in the form of guidance material and example software to read and use DCCs, to help calibration service customers with the transition to DCCs.  

Where can I get more information? 

Digital Calibration Certificate - DCC 

EMPIR SmartCom project

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