Electronic Document Interoperability in eBusiness and eGovernment Applications

Article excerpt

Businesses and Government Organizations need to exchange documents to execute transactions with the parties they trade or collaborate with. Providing the interoperability of electronic documents exchanged has been a huge challenge: Several domain specific standards have appeared such as RosettaNet Business Documents (Electronic Components, Telecommunications Industry), ACORD (Insurance Industry), CIDX (Chemical Industry), HL7 (Healthcare Industry), Papinet (Paper and Forest Industry), PIDX (Oil and Gas Industry), and SWIFT (Financial Industry) to name but a few. Although such standards developed so far have proven to be very useful for industry and government applications, cross industry communication still remains to be a challenge. Indeed, data interoperability in cross industry applications is handled by the mapping experts and data consultants who understand the semantic meaning of each entity in a specific interface and define the mappings among different document artifacts.

The leading effort for creating a standard semantic basis for business documents came from the UN/CEFACT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) ebXML Core Components Technical Specification (CCTS) (also known as ISO 15000-5) which provides a methodology to identify a set of reusable building blocks, called Core Components together with their semantic properties. The Core Components represent the common data elements of everyday business documents such as "Address", "Amount", or "Line Item". These reusable building blocks are then assembled into business documents such as "Order" or "Invoice". Core components are defined to be context-independent so that they can later be restricted to different contexts.

OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) 2.0 (Site 1) is one of the first implementations of UN/CEFACT CCTS in XML. UBL has gained wide spread acceptance and is being adopted by several communities around the world, especially in the electronic government applications. For example, the use of UBL Invoice is mandated by law for all public-sector businesses in Denmark. Also in Sweden, the National Financial Management Authority recommended UBL Invoice customized to Sweden, namely, Svefaktura for all government use. Following the success of Danish and Swedish examples, representatives from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, UK, Finland and Iceland have created a Northern European Subset (NES) for UBL to ensure interoperability among these countries. Furthermore, CEN/ISSS Business Information Interoperability Workshop (Site 2) is designed to create interoperability between government eprocurements documents across all of Europe starting with the NES and CODICE customizations of OASIS Universal Business Language 2.0.

Recently, an OASIS initiative has started, namely, Semantic Support for Electronic Business Document Interoperability (SET) TC (Site 3) to exploit the semantics defined through UN/CEFACT CCTS to facilitate cross industry electronic document interoperability. This initiative, realized within the scope of the ICT 213031 iSURF Project (Site 4), aims to provide standard semantic representations of electronic document artifacts based on UN/CEFACT Core Component Technical Specification (CCTS) and hence to facilitate the development of tools to support semantic interoperability. The basic idea is to to use the semantic information explicated from the CCTS based document standards, again in a standard way and to make this information available for automated document interoperability tool support.

This special issue contains articles addressing document interoperability from several different perspectives. The first three articles demonstrate the use of UN/CEFACT CCTS and OASIS UBL specifications.

The first paper, entitled "A Core Component-based Modeling Approach for Achieving e-Business Semantics Interoperability" co-authored by Till Janner, Fenareti Lampathaki, Volker Hoyer, Spiros Mouzakitis, Yannis Charalabidis, and Christoph Schroth proposes a comprehensive core component-based business document modeling approach which builds upon the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) and the UN/CEFACT Core Component Technical Specification (CCTS). …