A consortium of mobile operators has produced a new conformance scheme to make mobile data services easier and safer to use.

The Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP) consortium is developing recommendations on how to specify and build mobile terminals such as smartphones and PDAs. It has now come up with the conformance plan where suppliers can state if their technology complies with the relevant OMTP recommendations.

Those recommendations, called Product Profiles, are designed to give everyone involved a level playing field, said OMTP managing director Tim Raby. "At the moment you get fragmentation because two companies might ask suppliers for the same thing in slightly different ways," he said. "We attempt to get people to agree on common characteristics."

That fragmentation too often means that developers must create different versions of an application for different networks and handsets, even though the basic functionality required is the same in every case. A shared library of OMTP-developed specs or requirements should make it easier for network operators, device manufacturers and technology providers to compare and contrast technology offerings. It also gives them boilerplate specs to use in compiling RFPs, Raby added.

"We are not operating at a detailed technical level so we don't have IPR issues, and we encourage multiple solutions to a problem as long as they do the same thing," he said. One of the OMTP's first specs is a trusted hardware environment [pdf] for mobile security.

"For example, it says that the phone is divided into security domains with certification, if the phone is in a certain domain it has certain access rights without asking the user. We define trust domains and the functions they can access," Raby said. What it doesn't define is how those domains are implemented, the APIs involved, or anything else at the technology level.

Nor is it a standardisation process, except in that it can create a standard list of requirements, Raby added: "We debate the requirements before standardisation starts, by making it clear what the usage requirements are."

The OMTP has also released recommendations for device management and for creating consistent user interfaces for mobile data apps, drawing mainly on its operator members - who include Cingular, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone - for usage data.

Raby acknowledged that the conformance process only produces a claim that something meets the requirements and a statement of where it is non-compliant - there is no checking or inter-operability testing involved. He said however that it provides a common forum for those involved in building and operating mobile data services to discuss how to make them better and simpler to use.

"There are not many places where so many competing organisations are willing to sit in the same room and discuss changing their business models," he added.