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An Open Invitation to:
  Advancing XML/EDI in Europe
A Dissemination Event

Brussels 1 December 1999

 Background to Dissemination Event




Programme of Dissemination Event

European Commission and the ISIS Programme

CEN/ISSS Information Society Standardization System

Registration, Venue & Logistics Information

Download brochure

hosted by European Commission,organised by the ISIS XML/EDI and EXPERTS projects, supported by CEN/ISSS



Background to Dissemination Event

Electronic commerce will become the standard means of doing business. The question is not whether, but when.

Electronic commerce is about bringing people and markets together electronically. Such an interaction is based on a high degree of interconnectivity and interoperability. XML - the Extensible Markup Language developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) - is emerging as a major technology for interoperable and transparent global communications over the Internet and the Web. XML enables the exchange of "smart data", or dynamic information which can be readily analysed, sorted, styled, customised and personalised. It has been said that XML will extend the capability of the Web from a static world library to the world’s commercial and financial hub. XML is widely predicted to lead to a profusion of diverse, interoperable and innovative electronic commerce services in a global and unitary market space.

However, XML alone is not sufficient. Smart data needs to be structured for exchange and its meaning needs to be shared between processing systems. Many believe that the heritage of EDI - Electronic Data Interchange - will have much to contribute to enrich the functionality of XML. XML/EDI builds upon the ground rules of XML and potentially offers the solution for interfacing existing EDI applications with the next generation of XML-aware applications. Moreover, it could lead to a new generation of EDI-based applications, which are simpler and more affordable, and more attractive for implementation by small and medium sized enterprises.

XML/EDI has generated considerable interest among the XML and EDI communities. In January 1999 the European Commission awarded contracts to co-finance two complementary projects for the validation and demonstration of XML/EDI under the ISIS programme, with a view to catalysing the developments of XML/EDI in Europe based on open standards and common best practices. Both projects - the ISIS European XML/EDI Pilot Project (XML/EDI) and the ISIS EDI/XML Procurement Enabling Real Trade Standards Project (EXPERTS) - will be delivering their final results in the beginning of 2000. The main deliverables from the projects will be input to the relevant standardization committees, including the recently established CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop, for public comment and validation.

The present Dissemination Event constitutes a major element of the awareness activity of the two projects.


Objectives of the Dissemination Event

The aim of this Dissemination Event is to:

Disseminate the draft results and findings of the ISIS XML/EDI and EXPERTS projects

Explore the application of XML/EDI in different domains

Discuss the need for best practices for developing and implementing XML/EDI

Highlight and promote the standardization and related activities in XML/EDI in Europe and internationally

Take stock of current developments in XML/EDI, identify open issues and discuss the way forward.

While XML/EDI is a technical issue, the focus will be on the business aspects relating to implementation, as well as development of common practices based on open standards.

Interactions from the participants will be an integral component of this event. A meeting report will be drawn up after the event for public circulation and submission to the CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop as an information document.

Who should attend

The primary target audience are technical managers and standards developers. In addition, potential users, consultants, academics and the supplier community are cordially invited to participate.

Technical knowledge of XML and EDI would be helpful, but not essential.

There is no participation fee. However, for security reasons, all participants must register in advance of the event using the printed form inserted in this brochure or the electronic form on the Web site. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.



XML has been designed to provide a generic way of transferring data across the Internet without having to be constrained by the presentation rules built into the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) that currently forms the basis of data interchange over the World Wide Web. XML uses "tags" (delimiters for XML elements) that say what the information is, not what it looks like. The unifying power of XML arises from a set of rules that enables anyone to create a "markup" (embedded annotations that convey styling or structural information) language from scratch. XML itself does not contain any pre-defined set of markup tags, but allows users to define their own sets, based on agreement on the types of data that they wish to interchange. Unlike most computer data formats, XML markup makes sense to human users. There is an associated XML Stylesheet Language (XSL) that can be used, where appropriate, to exchange information on how each "element" of the transmitted data should be presented to users of the data.

For business communications there is a need for a globally understood set of business markup tags. The EDI standardization work for business-to-business messaging, notably UN/EDIFACT, has already identified a large collection of exchangeable information objects, which provides a good starter set for defining business-related information objects for use within XML applications.

XML/EDI is, however, wider in scope than just the use of existing semantic sets for business-to-business communications. In particular, XML/EDI presents a unique opportunity for the harmonisation of semantic sets currently used in different communities, as well as the implementation of advanced business modelling techniques for arriving at common object models.


Use of XML for EDI between business

XML will provide a means for delivering intelligent documents and messages over the Web. While the concepts within HTML forms allow information to be captured from end-users and sent back to servers for processing, they do not provide mechanisms for recording what has been done at the client machine, or for validating input data prior to its submission to the server. Internet e-mail standards allow existing EDI messages to be transmitted over the Internet. However, such messages cannot be interpreted by general-purpose Internet tools as they use a syntax that is specific to an EDI standard.

Business users need to record transactions at both the receiving and sending ends, and need to be able to validate the contents of messages both immediately prior to or after receipt. They also require mechanisms for uniquely referencing recorded information, over a period of many years, using permanent archives that are legally acceptable as proof of transaction.

XML-encoded messages can be displayed using standard Internet tools, either as tree-based navigable structures or, by processing through an XSL stylesheet, as a presentable document. XML is based on a standard that has specifically been designed for long term storage of data, with the addition of the ability to cover all languages through use of the ISO 10646 Universal Character Code Set (Unicode).

As businesses start to use XML for tasks other than business-to-business communication (e.g. for interaction with consumers, or for inter-departmental communication), integration of data from multiple sources - either to create databases of company data or to provide compound documents whose input comes from multiple sources - is expected to become much easier, as well as faster. Because XML enables devises to do processing "on the spot", the requirement for Web server processing is significantly reduced. The wide adoption of XML therefore should result in considerable improvements in network traffic and more efficient communications on a global basis.

XML/EDI can potentially offer a number of major benefits to the EDI communities, including:

Provision of a staged progression path from existing EDI applications to the next generation of integrated electronic systems based on the interchange of XML coded messages, with optimal utilisation of the semantic foundations provided by existing EDI directories

Easier adaptation of how data is presented to end-users, in ways that ensure that the data is displayed in a form that is linguistically and culturally dependent

Easier generation of new message formats using data models created by other applications where appropriate

Introduction of client side validation of entered data into Internet data capture applications; in particular improvements on validation of EDI message components

Standardized mapping facilities between EDI messages and databases.

However, the full benefits of XML/EDI are unlikely to be realised if different communities devise their own conventions on the usage of tags and the tagged elements, and/or make use of incompatible (interpretations of) semantic sets. Agreement on a common set of best practices, therefore, is crucial for advancing XML/EDI.



The ISIS European XML/EDI Pilot Project is co-financed by a number of private and public sector organisations in several European countries and the European Commission under the ISIS Programme. The project started in January 1999 and will conclude in January 2000.

The objective of the project is to promote the application of XML/EDI for electronic commerce in the business environment by:

Validating the use of W3C's XML specification for the electronic interchange of business data in the transport and healthcare sectors

Demonstrating the applicability of the XML/EDI methodologies, tools and systems in user-driven pilot trials in the selected industry and public administration sectors

Investigating the overall requirements for XML/EDI tools from European users of EDI

Recommending best practices for mapping existing EDI applications to XML which can be used by other industrial sectors to facilitate the rapid deployment of XML/EDI.

The project seeks not only to demonstrate that it is possible to use XML to encode EDI messages, but also that the EDI process would benefit from techniques being developed in the XML community. A main aspect of the project work, therefore, is to build on the findings of existing and proposed European initiatives on the use of XML for EDI, including work being carried out by:

CEN TC251 (Technical Committee on Health Informatics) projects undertaken by TNO and the University Hospital of Giessen

XMLEPR project of the UK National Health Service and Royal College of General Practitioners for the validation of electronic patient record transfer between general practitioners (XMLEPR is part of the ISIS XML/EDI project)

TIEKE project on transport-related messaging.

In addition, the project builds on the expertise of recognised European EDI and XML experts, such as the chair of the CEN/ISSS Electronic Commerce Workshop, RivCom, a leading European contributor to the development of the Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), and members of the International XML/EDI Group. Since its launch, the project has been actively seeking to consult with the relevant standardization and user groups that are active in the XML and EDI domains.

The project has already delivered a draft set of XML document type definitions (DTDs):

Electronic Healthcare (EHCR) DTDs

Request EHCR

Provide EHCR

EHCR Notification Message

Container Movement DTDs

UN/EDIFACT Container Pre-Announcement Message (COPARN)

UN/EDIFACT Empty Container Release Order Message (CODECO).

In addition, based on the experiences of the above development work, the project has delivered a draft set of best practice guidelines for the development and implementation of XML/EDI. These guidelines address mapping between the Object Management Group’s (OMG) Unified Modelling Language (UML) and XML, as well as between UN/EDIFACT and XML.

Other development work includes supporting software tools that can be used by future European electronic commerce projects to create messaging systems based on both XML and EDI techniques. An important element is to study how XML tools can interact with reusable intelligent software agents required to validate the structure and contents of EDI messages and pass appropriate parts of each message to other applications. A set of application programming interfaces (APIs) is being developed to allow interaction control information to be shared between applications as easily as the message data is shared. A further major element is to study how the emerging XSL specification could be applied to enable EDI messages to be presented to human operators in a way that takes account of their linguistic and cultural background.

All the main deliverables from this project are to be made available in the public domain. To ensure that the project results are of general applicability to a broad spectrum of user communities and subject to open consultation, the relevant deliverables are to be actively input to the standardization process. These will include, towards the end of the project, a report on the benefits and risks of using XML for EDI, a set of recommendations for the standardization of XML/EDI, and a Draft CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) documenting the main project results and findings. The Draft CWA will be submitted to the CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop for validation. In addition, the project has established formal liaison with CEN TC251 and close contact with The XML/EDI Group. It will be contributing to the revision of the latter’s Guidelines for using XML for electronic data interchange.

Further information, including the available project deliverables, is available from the project Web site at http://www.tieke.fi/isis-xmledi.


ISIS XML/EDI Project Members

Project Coordinator Finnish Information Technology Development Centre (TIEKE)

Partners RivCom

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (TNO)

University Hospital of Giessen Institute of Medical Informatics

The Clinical Information Consultancy (CIC)

Communications Planning (CPL)

IC Focus

Project Manager Robin La Fontaine, Monsell EDM

Technical Manager Martin Bryan, The SGML Centre



The ISIS EDI/XML Procurement Enabling Real Trade Standards Project is a European Union funded Electronic Commerce demonstration project aiming to implement, demonstrate and validate the new standard and concept of WEB/EDI in existing Electronic Commerce services in the European Health Care Supplier Sector. These findings will be transferred to another sector in order to show their applicability in different sectors.

The main objectives of this project are to:

Integrate, demonstrate and evaluate the new concept of WEB-EDI in existing Electronic Commerce Applications

Co-operate closely with International/European Standardisation Authorities/Initiatives (UN-CEFACT, SIMAC, SIMAP, CEN/ISSS) to jointly demonstrate and evaluate XML/EDI standards

Deploy and validate XML/EDI services with a critical mass of SMEs

Demonstrate the benefits of WEB-EDI based Electronic Commerce Services in Administration to Business (A-B) and Business to Business (B-B) in the Health Care Sector

Demonstrate the transferability and applicability of the tested messages and documents between different sectors

Disseminate and Exploit this "Best Practice Case" of WEB-EDI

The service functions are near completion and will be demonstrated during the dissemination event. Further information is available from the project Web site at http://www.ilc.at/experts.htm.

EXPERTS Project Members

Project Manager Info Consult, Austria

Partners Interned Electronische Communicatie, The Netherlands

University of Sunderland, United Kingdom

Electronic Commerce Platform Nederland (ECP.NL), The Netherlands


Dissemination Event Brussels, 1 December 1999



Co-chair: Ms Man-Sze Li, ISIS XML/EDI Project Consortium

Co-chair: Mr Reinhard Buescher, Head of Unit, European Commission DGIII/B/3


10.00         Opening by Mr Magnus Lemmel, Acting Director-General, European Commission DG Enterprise

10.15         Keynote speeches

XML: a global perspective

Mr Bill Smith, President of the Board, OASIS

Applying XML to EDI: business benefits and issues

Mr Alexander de Lijster, UN/CEFACT Steering Committee

11.15         European standardization projects in XML/EDI

                     ISIS EXPERTS Project and XML/EDI standardization

Mr Eduard Weijgers, ISIS EXPERTS Project

                     ISIS XML/EDI Project

Mr Robin La Fontaine, ISIS XML/EDI Project Manager

11.45           Developments of XML/EDI in application domains

Full service for SMEs

Mr Henk Mors, ISIS EXPERTS Project

                     XML/EDI in the transport industry: meeting the needs of SMEs

                    Mr Pekka Rautiainen, Finnsteve Oy

                    Mr Daniel Rivers-Moore, ISIS XML/EDI Project

12.45         Lunch


14.00         Developments of XML/EDI in application domains (cont.)

                     Statistics: XML/EDI for data collection, exchange and dissemination

EBES EEG6 (Expert Group on Statistics) Representative

Applying XML to healthcare messaging standards

Mr Andrew Hinchley and Mr David Markwell, ISIS XML/EDI Project

15.00         The need for best practices for developing and implementing XML/EDI

Mr Martin Bryan, ISIS XML/EDI Project Technical Manager

15.30         XML, EDI and XML/EDI: charting the future

Mr Tony Stewart, Member, W3C Advisory Committee

16.00         XML/EDI standardization in Europe

                     Mr Dick Raman, CEN/ISSS XML/EDI Workshop Chair

16.30         Audience feedback, questions and answers

17.00         Summary and conclusions

17.15         Close

Demonstration of the prototypes developed under the ISIS EXPERTS and XML/EDI projects will be held throughout the event until 18:00H.


Steering Committee for this event

Antonio Conte, European Commission
Joachim Dudeck, ISIS XML/EDI Project
John Ketchell, CEN/ISSS
Man-Sze Li, ISIS XML/EDI Project (Chair)
Eduard Weijgers, ISIS EXPERTS Project


European Commission and the ISIS Programme


The Information Society, and electronic commerce in particular, is about bringing people and markets together electronically. In order to achieve such interaction, market players must be able to communicate with each other without obstacles For this purpose, a high degree of interconnectivity and interoperability is required to shape new virtual meeting places, which are the domain of the Information Society.

The European Commission has a key role to play in facilitating consensus within industry and, in a limited number of cases, intervening at a regulatory level. As a background player in the market-led standardization process, authorities may facilitate industry discussion where there is difficulty in reaching consensus. In such cases, support could be provided by promoting guidelines, organising sectoral workshops, initiating studies and launching pilot projects.

The new concept of Information Society Standardization goes beyond ICT standardization as it involves, in addition to technical specifications, business practices, services, quality and trust issues, and management standards. It aims to achieve solutions that are both interoperable and trustworthy for the creation of an environment which is favourable to business. One of its underlying principles is the emphasis on users in the marketplace and their requirements.

The European Commission-sponsored Information Society Initiative for Standardization - ISIS is centred around the role of standardization in building the global Information Society of the 21st century. This action is supported by the European Commission Directorate General responsible for industrial policy. The ISIS initiative is addressed not only to ICT industry but also, and foremost, to businesses and the user community in Europe. Many of the parties involved in the standardization process already realise the need for solutions that incorporate both interoperability and trust issues. However, building consensus among business parties for open and interoperable solutions is not a simple task. There are many ways to facilitate consensus-building. Therefore, the role of ISIS is to bridge the gap between activities carried out in the areas of market-driven specifications, RTD project results, and formal standardization. ISIS aims to fill the role of 'in-between' and take advantage of market dynamism to promote open and non-discriminatory solutions.

The European Commission fully embraces this broad conceptualisation of the role that new technologies play in society. Accordingly, the objectives of the ISIS 99 Call for Proposals include: the dissemination of best practices, the self-regulation of parties, support for the implementation of Community legislation and due consideration for public interests. Underlying this set of objectives is the ever-present goal to further develop the European Single Market.

For further information about the ISIS initiative:

ISIS Secretariat
SC15 1/161
Rue de la Loi 200
B-1049 Brussels
Tel +32 2 2968285; Fax +32 2 2969500
E-mail isis@dg3.cec.be
URL http://www.ispo.cec.be/isis


CEN/ISSS Information Society Standardization System


CEN established CEN/ISSS "to provide market players with a comprehensive and integrated range of standardization-oriented services and products, in order to contribute to the success of the Information Society in Europe".

Created to meet market demand in Europe for a middle way between formal and informal standardization, CEN/ISSS offers an alternative closer to the workings of the commercial environment. It draws on the best of both worlds, bridging the gap between the rapid process of informal specification and the security offered by the formal open consensus of traditional standardization.

ISSS is a system - it contains all the elements required to facilitate industry requirements for advancement of effective standardization-oriented solutions in the ICT sector, from traditional standardization tasks through to rapid preparation of specifications and other technical work, development of informative material, public presentation of work and market testing of alternative solutions. Activities take place in workshops or in traditional technical committees.

Workshops offer a unique opportunity for any party faced with a challenge to find others in a similar situation, and to develop a result by consensus validated in an open arena. Given the wide range of ICT-related topics, the ISSS Workshop has been conceived in a manner that allows flexibility to ensure the environment in a particular workshop satisfies the aims of the parties involved. 25 Workshops have been started or announced since February 1998 in a number of areas including directories, metadata, banking peripherals, cultural issues and localisation requirements, secure card terminals, etc.

In the electronic commerce area, there are several distinct but co-ordinated activities. There is a generic Workshop taking an overview, EBES (the European Board for EDIFACT Standardization), which acts as the European entry point to the UN/EDIFACT process, and already 5 Workshops aimed at introducing electronic commerce to specific industrial sectors. In summer 1999, a new Workshop on XML/EDI started operations, on which the present event will receive full information.

Workshop outputs are varied, ranging from specifications and guidance documents, through to seminars, information days, public validation and market feedback, and so on. The main product is the CEN Workshop Agreement, listed under the CEN logo and listed in national standards’ catalogues.

Technical committees in ISSS are the medium for traditional CEN ICT standardization activities, an alternative for those seeking, through their national delegations, to produce formal European Standards to meet the requirements of European legislation. There are currently ten such technical committees in CEN/ISSS, concerned with advanced manufacturing technologies, controls for mechanical building services, medical informatics, road transport and traffic telematics, bar coding, character set technology, communication systems for meters and remote reading of meters, geographic information systems, information systems engineering, and machine-readable cards, related device interfaces and operations.

For further information about CEN/ISSS:

CEN/ISSS Information Society Standardization System

Rue de Stassart 36
B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel +32 2 550 0813; Fax +32 2 550 0966
E-mail isss@cenorm.be
URL http://www.cenorm.be/isss


Venue & Logistics Information

The Dissemination Event takes place at:

European Commission Conference Centre A. Borschette
Rue Froissart 36
B-1040 Brussels

The venue is conveniently situated close to the metro station Schumann.

The meeting room number for the Dissemination Event should be checked on the information screens at the front door of the building. The registration desk is located near the entrance of the meeting room. It will be open from 09:00H on 1 December 1999.



Participation in the Dissemination Event, which includes entrance, documentation and refreshments, is free of charge.

For security reasons, all participants must register in advance of the event using the electronic form on this Web site. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

To assist the organisers in their planning, you are kindly requested to inform CEN/ISSS if you have to cancel your participation.

For all registration enquiries, please contact:

Ms Marie-Sophie Rousseaux
Rue de Stassart 36,
B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 550 09 89 – Fax: +32 2 550 09 66


Hotel accommodation

The organisers have arranged block bookings of accommodation at hotels situated close to the Dissemination Event location. Reservations are on a first-come first-served basis; after Monday 8 November, they are subject to open availability.

Reservations should be made directly with the hotel of choice, quoting the appropriate block reservations reference number. Note that a credit card number is required to guarantee the reservation.