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Issue Date: October 2002

MicroStation V8 is e-ready for digital signatures

October 2002

On Friday, 23 August 2002, President Thabo Mbeki signed into law the legal use of digital signatures. As a result, Bentley’s prime graphics engine, MicroStation V8, will soon ship its next release with digital signatures enabled. The Rights Management features coming in MicroStation V8.1 offers new ways to protect intellectual property and control access to project data.

A written signature is a unique representation of your authority. It indicates your understanding of a requirement, serves as your approval of a transaction, and signifies your guarantee to honour a contract. Ironically, in this digital age, we carry out personal and business transactions everyday without the application of a signature.
There is no pen to hold when one sends out an e-mail message and no paper to sign when one makes a purchase over the Internet. And yet, the content of these exchanges is no less significant than if they were being completed face-to-face. The medium may be different, but the implication is the same. The creation and maintenance of AEC content is a great illustration of the challenges that are borne out of the digital separation of content creation and the approval process. Ironically, in the pursuit of the ideal 'paperless project' through the application of information technology, the accepted approval paradigm remains a hand-written signature on a paper drawing.
But recent acknowledgment of digital IDs, certificates, and signatures offers new opportunities to streamline workflows and strengthen the protection of one's digital intellectual property. Bentley is introducing new techniques for validating and protecting the digital AEC content that one creates, with MicroStation V8.1. Digital Signatures and Digital Rights (called File Protection in MicroStation) are key new features and help to mark a significant milestone for Bentley users. Together, they initiate a Digital Rights Management implementation that begins with MicroStation V8.1 and will continue with broader implementations in Bentley ProjectWise and Digital InterPlot in the future. Digital Rights Management offers a number of practical and encouraging benefits.
When a digital signature is applied to a DGN file and its references, it indicates to others that the current state of the design has been approved. Moreover, one is stamping that content with an indelible mark that will visually change if the file contents change. In other words, a valid digital signature verifies the content is intact; an invalid digital signature indicates that the content has been altered. Any change made to a file or any of its attached references constitutes an alteration and will invalidate a previously applied digital signature. The only change to a DGN that will not invalidate a digital signature is the application of an additional signature. For example, if you are a system administrator, you can even approve the state of a symbol library by applying a non-graphic digital signature. Digital Rights Management implementation also includes the ability to assign and protect digital rights to DGN content.
MicroStation File Protection is designed to help the author protect his 'digital copyright'. The whole idea of Digital Rights is based on the idea of making the contents of a protected file inaccessible to unauthorised persons, even if they hold the file itself. Since the file is protected, only controlled access is possible. In addition, the author may grant or deny the right of designated users to publish or modify the file's contents as well. One can define degrees of accessibility. View-only access is the highest level of protection, or the most limited accessibility to the content. One can also add incremental rights, such as the ability to print, export, or use the full extent of all of MicroStation's editing tools (or any combination of these predefined rights).
The broadest access is not limited even to full editing rights, but adds the ability to define digital rights for other consumers of the data (called unlimited rights). What is more, one can set an expiry date that will help to motivate project managers or subcontractors to take immediate action in approval workflow.
Design history
MicroStation V8 also introduced Design History, which is change management to AEC workflows. It provides the ability to determine who changed what and when the changes took place, by navigating the recorded changes inside DGN files. Digital Signatures are designed to work within the confines of Design History - signature applications can be included in a revision to a file and can be recalled in a valid form relative to the state of the DGN content at that time.
Subsequent DGN changes invalidate digital signatures, but since Design History can recall any revision of a DGN, it stands to reason that a revision including a valid signature can also be recalled. Furthermore, one will be able to store not only the changes, but the milestones in the project approval process as well.
For more information contact Bentley Systems, 011 462 5811.

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