D&B and ARI Network Services say the system is analogous to the bar codes widely used to inventory products and are seeking to promulgate their EC-ID identification code as the standard addressing system for online transactions.
An EC-ID will be a 15-digit number that can identify a specific department at a specific location for a given company whenever someone in that department makes a transaction. That way, purchases and deliveries can be tracked and bills can be sent to the right location automatically.
The codes are based on D&B's existing numbering system used to identify 40 million companies in its worldwide database.
"This is something whose time has come," said Torrey Byles, electronic commerce analyst with market research firm Giga Information. He added that the EC-ID system will be most useful for electronic trading systems among manufacturers, distributors, and dealers.
If the EC-ID system becomes widely accepted, Byles said, it would position both ARI and D&B to become a certification authority, or CA, a trusted agency that vouches for the identity of a person or company in electronic commerce.
But Frank Fitzsimmons, D&B's vice president of electronic commerce, said his firm has a relationship with VeriSign, a leading CA that uses D&B data to verify the identity of companies involved in Internet commerce. ARI president and CEO Brian Dearing said his firm is exploring whether to enter the CA arena itself.
ARI initially will focus its marketing on the agrichemical, agriculture, freight, and newspaper publishing industries, where it already provides online commerce directories and EDI (electronic data interchange) services. EDI involves standard electronic transactions sent directly from computer to computer without human intervention.
D&B's worldwide sales force also will push the numbering system with its other information products.