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News From Graphic Communications Association



Issued June 11, 1998

Press inquiries: Contact Don Thieme
+1 703-519-8190

(Brussels/Alexandria, VA) — The Electronic Commerce Workshop of the Information Society Standardization System within the European Committee for Standardization (CEN/ISSS) approved a major new project during its June 5th meeting in Brussels to study and promote the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) for electronic data interchange (EDI).

The use of XML for EDI, known as XML/EDI, combines two winning approaches in electronic commerce. The eXtensible Markup Language (XML) is a standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, the organization that developed the Web. XML promises to make the electronic exchange of documents and other exchangeable information much easier and less expensive. EDI is the generic name given to standards for the computer-to-computer exchange of business messages.

"With a successful track record of more than 20 years, EDI is a proven technology for electronic commerce," says Martin Bryan, the Project Team Manager appointed by the CEN/ISSS Electronic Commerce Workshop. "However to deliver the same business benefits for the future, EDI must be brought in line with current Internet developments, particularly XML."

By using available web browsers and Internet software tools, XML/EDI promises to dramatically reduce the cost of doing EDI and thus reach out to a broad audience of companies and organizations. Bryan adds, "It is very important that small and medium-sized companies receive the proper tools to compete in the electronic markets."

CEN/ISSS has been set up to bridge between formal and informal standardization in the information and communications technology field. Its Electronic Commerce Workshop, which has over 120 registered participants, brings together stakeholders to provide an open and cohesive focus for voluntary electronic commerce standardization in Europe. Among its collaborative partners is EBES, the European arm of the UN/EDIFACT activities hosted by the United Nations on the international EDI standard and also a part of CEN/ISSS.

For this project, the CEN/ISSS Electronic Commerce Workshop will team with the European chapter of the XML/EDI Group, an international grass-roots organization devoted to apply XML to structured business data and document exchange. This group already has a joint project underway with the Data Interchange Standards Association and CommerceNet to map the EDI standard for North America, known as X12, to XML. The XML/EDI Group is a special membership organization of the Graphic Communications Association Research Institute (GCARI) of Alexandria, Virginia USA.

The new project, scheduled to start before the end of the year, will develop a demonstration system and a support center that will promote best practices for using XML/EDI within Europe. To achieve this aim, the project team will pilot test the use of XML for the interchange of EDI messages; and create a European center for obtaining information on the use of XML/EDI.

The project will build on work ongoing in many European countries and organizations. Nordic countries in particular have pioneered the adoption of XML/EDI. Norway plans to test XML/EDI in a major EDI project that collects statistics, called the KOSTRA project. Finland will use XML/EDI in the transport sector.

The CEN/ISSS European XML/EDI Pilot Project will provide an international dimension to these developments, and provide a focal point for European input to the Guidelines for the use of XML for Electronic Data Interchange under development by the International XML/EDI Group. The project is open to all interested parties.

The European Committee for Standardization, CEN, creates European Standards (except in the electro-technical and telecommunications fields) for technical harmonisation, which become applicable in 19 countries. It works on the basis of cooperation between its 19 national members, which are the standards bodies of the EU and EFTA countries, and one from Eastern Europe. CEN has published more than 4000 European Standards, with 9000 in preparation.

CEN created the Information Society Standardization System (ISSS) in 1997 as the focus for its information and communications technology activities. Bridging between the formal and informal worlds of standardization, CEN/ISSS aims to provide market players with a comprehensive and integrated range of standardization-oriented services and products, in particular consensus- based specifications through an open process. http://www.cenorm.be/isss/

Electronic Commerce Workshop is a key activity for CEN/ISSS, which provides an open and cohesive focus for electronic commerce standardization activities in Europe. The XML/EDI project is one of a number of projects of the Electronic Commerce Workshop. http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/ec/

GCARI is an affiliate of GCA, the leading worldwide, technology management association that represents over 300 companies involved in electronic information management and various forms of publishing and distribution. GCA has promoted and supported XML since its creation. http://www.gca.org

The XML-EDI Group is a special membership organization of GCARI, an affiliate of Graphic Communications Association (GCA) in Alexandria, Virginia USA. The XML/EDI Group provides the authoritative source of information, support and advocacy for the use of XML in the transfer of structured business data, documents and processes. http://www.xmledi.com

For further information, please contact Stewart Sanson, CEN: + 32 2 550 0852, e-mail: sanson@cenclcbel.be Man-Sze Li, CEN/ISSS Electronic Commerce Workshop, + 44 181 347 7355, e-mail: msli@icfocus.co.uk; Alan Kotok, GCARI: + 1 703 519 8172, e-mail: akotok@gca.org; Martin Bryan, XML/EDI Group: + 44 1452 714029, e-mail: mtbryan@sgml.u-net.com.


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EDITOR’S NOTE: The above is a joint press release from the Graphic Communications Association Research Institute (GCARI), and The European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

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Revision date: June 11, 1998