Any institution may obtain a NAAN and begin assigning ARKs. Because long-term identifiers often look like random strings of letters and digits, institutions typically generate (or mint in ARK parlance) and track identifiers with software. To mint ARKs, you may use any software that can produce identifiers conforming to the ARK specification. CDL uses the open-source "noid" (nice opaque identifiers, rhymes with "employed") software, which creates minters and accepts commands that operate them. The noid software documentation explains how to use noid not only to mint identifiers but also to serve as an institution's "identifier resolver".
Once minted and publicized as being associated with a specific object, the ARK becomes a stable, unique, and compact reference that can be included in metadata records, databases, redirection tables, etc. It is often useful to generate and assign ARKs well before institutional commitment has been decided because it is easier than changing the original object identifier that may have been in long established use prior to that decision.
Please send an email to SUPPORT-CDL-L@LISTSERV.UCOP.EDU if you are interested in generating and using ARKs for your information objects.