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Last modified: May 23, 2005
Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF)

[April 30, 2000] The UDEF "Universal Data Element Framework" is described as a 'Dewey Decimal-Like Indexing System' for the Web. Ken North noted on XML-DEV that the UDEF key/alias mechanism is similar to BizCodes.

[April 29, 2000] Ron Schuldt wrote: "I believe that a UDEF based naming convention that conforms to ISO/IEC 11179 and that uses the property terms (class words) of DoD 8320.1-M-1 is a necessary part of the global registry and repository. The article by Bill Lewis does an excellent job of highlighting the fact that XML needs an answer to the semantic dispersion problem. Until a solution is widely adopted, the various XML dialects will continue to generate applications that are designed for computer-to-human-to-computer integration. A joint AIA/EIA/DoD effort to create a National standard for Data Interoperability and Configuration Management (EIA 836) is planning to include the UDEF naming convention as part of the standard." [See now: Data Element -- UDEF Cross-Reference]

UDEF addresses a "problem has been labeled 'semantic dispersion,' the dilution of shared meaning due to proliferation of synonyms and homonyms. What is needed is a direction toward 'semantic convergence,' clarity of shared meaning with a minimum number (approaching zero) of synonyms and homonyms. Are there frameworks or tools available today that support semantic convergence, and by doing so, help XML developers and their companies work toward a truly common vocabulary? One such framework is the Universal Data Element Framework, or UDEF. Ron Schuldt, its originator, calls it the 'standard' to harmonize other 'standards.' He describes the relationship between UDEF and XML in these terms: 'The fundamental thing that XML lacks is what UDEF has to offer. Specifically, XML lacks a rigorous rules-based approach for standardizing tag names across multiple domains of discourse. UDEF applies a rigorous rules-based approach for naming data elements (tags) from which one is able to derive a taxonomy-based intelligent ID to the name. The ID is the key that allows an unlimited number of aliases. Any XML system that is based on a normalized and widely adopted data dictionary (such as X.12, EDIFACT, STEP, and MIL-STD-2549) could continue using the tag names that are widely used or adopted, while using the UDEF ID to span the different standards.' UDEF is a tool for identifying and resolving 'semantic equivalence,' multiple names meaning the same thing. It therefore resolves synonyms and prevents homonyms. It's been used as the basis of a product configuration data dictionary for the federal government (MIL-STD-2549), and is currently under consideration by the Electronics Industries Alliance, as well as the XML/EDI Group.

UDEF Object Word Definitions and Property Word Definitions, from an "AIA e-Business Activities Overview" by Ron Schuldt (Lockheed Martin), January 30, 2002.

Object Word Definitions:

  1. Entity: Any concrete or abstract thing of interest, including associations among things
  2. Asset: Any data or information about any resource, other than human, which is used, consumed, or available for use/consumption by any process of an enterprise
  3. Document: Any data or information about any collection of data or information, regardless of format, which has definable boundaries and is so designated for one or more purposes
  4. Enterprise: Any data or information about any definable boundary collection of human and asset resources used to perform a collection of processes to create one or more products which are intended for use or consumption by outside entities
  5. Environment: Any data or information about any natural or man-made surrounding that is relevant to the enterprise
  6. Person: Any data or information about any person that is relevant to the enterprise
  7. Law-Rule: Any data or information about laws (natural or man-made) or policies that govern any process of the enterprise
  8. Place: Any data or information about any location that is relevant to the enterprise
  9. Process: Any data or information about a definable course of events distinguishable by its purpose or by its effect, whether natural, manual, automated or machine supported and which is relevant to the enterprise
  10. Product: Any data or information regarding something that is the result of a set of processes and which is intended to be used or consumed by activities outside of the enterprise
  11. Program: Any data or information about any definable collection of enterprises bound by a common set of objectives
  12. Condition: Any data or information that describes the state of something of interest to the enterprise

Property Word Definitions:

  1. Amount: always monetary
  2. Code: a character string used to replace a definitive value
  3. Date: a day within a particular calendar year (a type of date time)
  4. Date Time: a particular point in the progression of time
  5. Graphic: a diagram, graph, mathematical curve or similar representation
  6. Identifier: a character string used to identify and distinguish uniquely
  7. Indicator: a list of two and only possible values (synonym for Boolean)
  8. Measure: a description of the attributes associated with a numeric value that is determined by measuring an object (Unit of Measure)
  9. Name: a word or phrase that distinctively designates a person, place,etc. (a type of text)
  10. Percent: a rate expressed in hundredths between two values with same UoM (a type of numeric)
  11. Picture: a visual representation of a person, object, or scene
  12. Quantity: a number of non-monetary units -- associated with objects (a type of numeric)
  13. Rate: a quantity or amount measured with respect to another quantity or amount (a type of numeric)
  14. Text: a character string generally in the form of words of a language
  15. Time: the time within a (not specified) day (a type of date time)
  16. Value: numeric information that is assigned or determined by calculation, counting, or sequencing (a type of numeric)

General: News, Articles, Papers, Presentations

  • [May 23, 2005] UDEF Forum Charter. Version 0.3. May 12, 2005. ['This draft charter is for discussion and approval at the UDEF Forum Kickoff Meeting in Arlington VA on May 24-25, 2005. The Open Group, which has hosted an informal UDEF Interested Parties group for some time, has now officially decided to form a new UDEF Forum. The Forum will be constituted and its charter confirmed at a Kickoff meeting in Arlington VA on May 24-25, 2005.'] "The vision of the UDEF Forum is that: (1) The UDEF is established as the universally-used classification system for data element concepts; (2) The scope of the UDEF trees includes data element concepts commonly encountered in e-commerce and other information domains; (3) Mappings are defined to the UDEF from all relevant metadata standards; (4) Metadata management products generally support the UDEF; (5) There is a global UDEF registry and repository for the UDEF trees themselves and for mappings to the UDEF from other classification systems. The mission of the Forum is to realize that vision, by: (1) Ensuring that the appropriate technical, legal, and commercial frameworks are in place for the operation of the registry and repository, including: [a] Technical infrastructure, standards and procedures for making additions to the UDEF trees and for their use, and [b] Legal agreements and (where appropriate) commercial terms for use of the UDEF IP by end-user companies, product vendor companies, and standards bodies; (2) Ensuring that the appropriate training programs and materials are available; (3) Ensuring that the appropriate promotional programs are in place..." [source PDF and reference page at the Open Group]

  • [January 27-28, 2005] UDEF Interested Parties Meeting at Open Group. Summary: "The concept of the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) has gained considerable interest as a means of simplifying information management through consistent consistent classification and assignment of a structured indexing identifier to the names (metadata) of data... To translate that interest into practical deployment, we need: (1) to establish the necessary infrastructure, notably the UDEF registry; (2) to establish a communications strategy that will bring UDEF to the attention of potential users and product developers; and (3) to establish a formal body of experts and other interested parties that will take responsibility for the promotion and deployment of UDEF. The objectives of the meeting were to review the situation and discuss practical steps towards establishing the infrastructure, the communications strategy, and the formal body for UDEF, in order to reach industry consensus on these points, so that a work program can be put in place... It is envisaged that a global non-profit organization should support the UDEF registry on the web, provide the necessary infrastructure and management for the process of extending the UDEF trees, be responsible for UDEF training, and promote the UDEF concept to solution providers and end users. The detailed requirements for the UDEF Global host were reviewed... [At the meeting] the way forward was discussed. The Open Group is potentially able to be the global host for the UDEF. For this to work, the right organizational, technical, and commercial conditions must be in place, and the UDEF community and The Open Group must be satisfied that this is the case. The organizational structure must be open, and must not permit dominance of the UDEF by a single body that could exploit it for commercial gain. As regards technical structure, there are a number of possible implementation models for the registry and repositories, including a single, centralized registry/repository, and a highly-distributed registry/repository system, perhaps modeled on DNS. A commercial structure is necessary to provide funding for development of the UDEF infrastructure... The Open Group will discuss possibilities bilaterally with interested parties, with the aim of formulating a proposal for the establishment of the UDEF infrastructure that is acceptable to the AFEI and to the UDEF community..." See also the XML-DEV posting from John C. Hardin. [cache (requirements)]

  • [January 2005] UDEF Overview. Presentation (in PowerPoint format), given at a January 2005 Open Group meeting in San Francisco, CA, USA. See also HTML. [cache]

  • [April 28, 2000] "Harmonizing XML Tag Semantics via UDEF Intelligent Identifiers." By Ron Schuldt. Slides from the presentation at XML '99. (December 7, 1999). The UDEF "Universal Data Element Framework" is described as a 'Dewey Decimal-Like Indexing System' for the Web. Presentation also in PowerPoint format. Abstract: "The integration and harmonization of data semantics is a recognized challenge that stands as a barrier to enterprise applications integration and seamless electronic business. The Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) is a proven rules based approach for establishing data semantic context across multiple domains of discourse. If adopted by the XML community at large, the UDEF-based intelligent identifiers would enable businesses to achieve their XML driven internal (application-to-application) and external (business-to-business) integration visions." [cache, PDF]

  • [September, 2002] "AIA eBusiness and the Metadata Harmonization Project." By Ron Schuldt (Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems; Co-Chair, AIA Electronic Enterprise Working Group). GEIA Workshop, September, 2002. 32 slides, PDF format. Within the AIA Electronic Enterprise Working Group (EEWG), the Metadata Harmonization project (assigned by e-BSG ) is led by Ron Schuldt of Lockheed Martin. The Metadata Harmonization Project (MHP) is defining an Aerospace Process Standard that will enable companies in the industry to reduce the costs of integrating their systems with trading partners. UDEF Summary: "The Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) is a rules based metadata naming convention that greatly accelerates data integration for large data integration projects. Once a data element concept has been mapped to the UDEF, the data element can then be assigned a UDEF derived intelligent unique ID. The Business Problem Currently: (1) Point-to-Point Interfaces are the Norm; (2) Mappings are Time Consuming Process; (3) Lack Consistent Naming Convention; (4) Lack Standard Data Names; (5) System Experts Often Retained to SupportInterface Development. Benefits of UDEF: (1) Depending on complexity, the time and effort required to analyze and map any pair of systems reduces substantially (potentially by order of magnitude) as the number of systems to be integrated increases beyond three or four [break even point]; (2) UDEF IDs add computer sensible intelligence to the names of elements within any system -- hereby reducing dependence on requiring the system expert for mapping the system to any other system; (3) UDEF is gaining momentum as an e-business standard -- adopted by AIA, EIDX, and OAG -- gaining interest by UCC, CompTIA, DISA, and RosettaNet... The UDEF Naming Convention complies with ISO 11179 Naming Convention and Supports ebXML. Names are constructed to follow the rules of English -- modifiers precede the word they modify..." Data Element Name are constructed using a tokens from the Object Class List and Property List, together with qualifiers. The Object Class List: Entity, Document, Enterprise, Place, Program, Product, Process, Person, Asset, Law-Rule, Environment, Condition, Liability, Animal, Plant, and Mineral. The Property List: Amount, Code, Date, Date Time, Graphic, Identifier, Indicator, Measure, Name, Percent, Picture, Quantity, Rate, Text, Time, and Value. [source .PPT]

  • [August 7, 2002] "XML Standards Relevant to the Aerospace Industry." By Ron Schuldt (Co-Chair, AIA Electronic Enterprise Working Group). August 7, 2002. 12 slides. Slides 7-12 particular describe UDEF. [cache]

  • [March 20, 2002] "Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) for Enterprise Integration." Version 1.0. March 20, 2002. 199 slides. source .ZIP

  • [March 11, 2002] " Position Paper: Uniquely Identifying Native Context for Tag Names." By Ron Schuldt. Date: 11 March 2002. Filename: draft-schuldt-native-context-position-paper-01.doc. "... In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the CALS Industry Steering Group (ISG) tasked a committee to develop a means for integrating the data within the enterprise. Although the resultant Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) went through several evolutionary iterations, it has remained relatively stable for the past 5-6 years. In January 2002, the Aerospace Industry Association's Electronic Enterprise Working Group Metadata Harmonization Project decided to adopt the UDEF naming convention and its associated intelligent UIDs as a suitable means for tagging data within its native context (e.g., its source system). The UDEF naming convention fully complies with the ISO/IEC 11179-5 naming convention standard -- since it uses object class terms and applicable qualifiers, property terms and applicable qualifiers, and representation terms (fully compliant with ebXML core components representation terms). The UDEF uses a fixed set of universally applicable object terms that correspond quite closely with the ebXML context categories... the UDEF naming convention requires a relatively simple rule that is based on the rules of proper English. Specifically, a given qualifier must precede the word it is modifying. In addition, the last word in the UDEF compliant name is always the UDEF property word (same as the ebXML representation word). For example, in the above figure the last data element name example -- 'cost' modifies the property word 'amount' and 'design' modifies 'process' and 'engineering' modifies 'design.' Within the UDEF, each object has a taxonomy of object roles and object types. For example, the 'Enterprise' object includes roles such as manufacturer, design originator, buyer, payment remitter, payment receiver, etc. Also, the 'Enterprise' object includes types such as government, commercial, academic, international, etc. Collectively, the UDEF object term establishes context for the UDEF property term that follows. Similarly, each UDEF property (based on the ebXML representation words) term has a similar taxonomy. For example, the UDEF property 'Amount' has a taxonomy of types of amount such as cost, price, tax, fee, balance, estimate, budget, etc. Since each UDEF root level object and property has its own taxonomy, it provides its own foundation for an intelligent UID... Recommendation: The UBL Library Committee should consider adopting the UDEF naming convention and its rules as the foundation for establishing the complete (fully qualified) name for each business information entity. If adopted, then the Library Committee should also adopt the UDEF derived UID for each business information entity contained in the library..." [source .DOC]

  • [January 30, 2002] "AIA e-Business Activities Overview. Presented at the GEIA Meeting [Government Electronics & Information Technology Association], January 30, 2002." By Ron Schuldt (Lockheed Martin). Slides 23-36 in particular describe UDEF (in the AIA context). [cache]

  • [January 30, 2002] "[Informative] Annex D. Data Element -- UDEF Cross-Reference. 18 pages. Annex ['Appendix D 836 UDEF'] to the Minutes of Meeting G-47 Systems Engineering/G-34 Software Sub-Committee, 29-31 January 2002, San Diego, California. "This Annex provides a Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) name and code identifier for each of the 'data content' element names in EIA-836, i.e., those elements that are the 'leaf' elements in the hierarchical tree, as opposed to the container elements at higher levels whose purpose is to provide context to the leaf elements. Both EIA-836 Data Element names and UDEF2 Names are comprised of one 'object class' word, one 'property' word, and one or more optional 'qualifier' words for the object class and property words. While the EIA-836 names follow this concept the overriding criteria in their selection is the ease in which CM practitioners can recognize the element name. The EIA-836 schemas provide the context for each element. The UDEF name on the other hand is a semantically correct, context driven identifier for a data element. It is therefore generally longer and has more qualifiers. The object word and its preceding qualifiers are separated from the property word and its preceding qualifiers. UDEF names, since they use a precise limited vocabulary, can be reduced to a shorter alphanumeric code identifier... The UDEF naming convention supports ISO 11179 and the ebXML naming convention, both of which have influenced the EIA-836 data element names. The structured UDEF names and codes identifiers enable EIA-836 data element names to be more easily harmonized with other disparate systems. Data Element-UDEF Cross Reference Content: The following table provides the mapping of UDEF names in XML format to corresponding EIA-836 Data Element Names, and provides the associated alphanumeric UDEF codesidentifiers. In some cases there is a wild card symbol (*) embedded in the UDEF name and codeidentifier. The wild card is used for those common elements with multiple usages; therefore, the property word could be preceded by any number of different object words..." [cache]

  • UDEF Codes (Property Words) May 2000

  • [April 28, 2000] "XML Microstandards. Smaller is better when it comes to XML naming standards." [Information Supply Chain.] By William J. Lewis. In Intelligent Enterprise Volume 3, Number 7 (April 28, 2000), pages 66-68. "If I were a bettin' man, as the saying goes, I'd probably not bet in favor of much across-the-board adoption of standard XML schemas. I say this despite the fact that several industries are putting a lot of collective effort into developing these schemas, such as those in repositories at and If XML is to fulfill hopes that it'll be the data interchange lingua franca, we do need standards, but schema repositories just don't provide adequate support for tag names. What I would bet on is the continuing use of these repository-based schemas in the typical 'search, download, and modify' scenario. Of course, then you have to ask how 'standard' the product of such a 'search, download, and modify' methodology ends up being. Typically, developers take what is essentially a monolith, chop away what they don't want or need, and add what they require. Anyone who has done any coding in a real-world development environment will recognize this as the time-honored technique of code (as opposed to component or object) reuse... As the pace of activity around the Web-based XML schema repositories accelerates, the number of registered schemas increases dramatically. As an example, a quick count revealed that among the more than 300 schemas at one of the major XML repositories, at least eight of these describe purchase order documents. As a developer, which should I choose? [...] All of this may begin to sound familiar to those with a data administration background. The problem has been labeled 'semantic dispersion,' the dilution of shared meaning due to proliferation of synonyms and homonyms. What is needed is a direction toward 'semantic convergence,' clarity of shared meaning with a minimum number (approaching zero) of synonyms and homonyms. Are there frameworks or tools available today that support semantic convergence, and by doing so, help XML developers and their companies work toward a truly common vocabulary? One such framework is the Universal Data Element Framework, or UDEF. UDEF is a tool for identifying and resolving 'semantic equivalence,' multiple names meaning the same thing. It therefore resolves synonyms and prevents homonyms. It's been used as the basis of a product configuration data dictionary for the federal government (MIL-STD-2549), and is currently under consideration by the Electronics Industries Alliance, as well as the XML/EDI Group..."

  • [October 1999] "XML: Catalyst for Convergence?" By William J. Lewis. In The Data Administration Newsletter. Perspective Column. "...Convergence occurs only when the meanings of equivalent labels are precisely synonymous. A Balance Amount (Available) is not equivalent to a Balance Amount (Ledger), as anyone who's tried to write a check on an un-cleared deposited check can attest. So we're not converged yet-- is there hope? Check out These folks have the right idea. UDEF is a system for classifying and identifying data elements according to their meaning. Under UDEF, a data element is assigned a unique identifier based on its meaning. Applying this to the above IFX/OFX/XML example, 'Ledger Balance Amount' could be assigned a fully-qualified UDEF identifier, say U-g.9_13.11 (I didn't say it was pretty). Since XML is eXtensible, within any schema an attribute 'UDEF_ID' could be defined on any element. The value of UDEF_ID could be set to U-g.9_13.11, for example, for any XML element that is equivalent to 'Ledger Balance Amount'. A less-precisely-qualified 'Balance Amount' element would take a less-well-qualified UDEF_ID value, say U-g.9_13. True semantic convergence could begin to become a reality..."

  • [July 29, 1998] "A Solution for Global Collaborative Commerce. Universal Data Element Framework. UDEF Power Coupled with XML for Web Mining." July 29, 1998. UDEF Solutions, Inc., Fremont, CA. UDEF overview presentation. 23 slides. "... Universal Code is the 'key' to legacy integration and standards harmonization! Mapping to UDEF is based on semantic equivalence No system needs to change its data element names Allows for an unlimited number of aliases... UDEF is a 'Dewey-Decimal-Like Indexing System' for the Web: a standard for naming data elements, allows rapid comparisons of data element names between multiple systems, and provides a minimal, intuitive set of key words... Once you see the power of XML and UDEF encoding to pluck relevant EDI data from Web pages and legacy systems, you'll see that it truly does represent the future of data-rich Web application development... Ideally - we would turn to a single standard that addressed all of the data for an enterprise - but no single standard exists. In addition, the standards that do exist have significant overlaps that conflict with each other. One is in a quandry when a trading partner wants to use X12 or EDIFACT and STEP to share data digitally..." [source .PPT]

  • [April 1998] "Reducing the Cost $$ of Interfacing Enterprise Applications through the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF)." By Ron Schuldt. CALS Consultant, Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems, Denver, Colorado USA. APLS 21-23 April 1998, London. See the Object and Property Words.

  • See also: BizCodes Initiative

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