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Standards body sets out plan to educate retailers about IT

Daniel Thomas
A widely-backed non-profit organisation which provides standards to link systems within retail organisations will launch a series of education workshops to help retail IT managers to cope with integration headaches next week.

Integration has consistently been near the top of the priority list for IT directors in surveys over the past two or three years but, said the Association of Retail Technology Standards (Arts), it is often too onerous for individual IT teams to do quickly and easily.

Arts, which is supported by firms such as Marks & Spencer, Gap, BP and McDonald's, provides standard XML schemas and messages to help to integrate the multitude of systems within a typical retail organisation.

Arts said the workshops - the first is in London on 4 October - are intended to answer common questions such as, "What are the Arts standards?"; "How can they benefit my business?"; and "How do I get involved with Arts committees?"

Ian Nayler, a retail systems consultant who works with Arts, said the organisation, which has been largely focused on the US, wants to get its standards accepted at a faster rate across Europe.

"Arts is now determined to get a European consortium working, with two aims," he said. "First, to ensure that standards are truly globally acceptable" and share expertise. Second, to see that standards which are used in one market can be adopted in another."

The association's three main retail technology standards
The standard relational Data Model for retail applications

This is a proven data model, comprising 3,500 entities covering all sectors of retailing (including department and convenience stores, fast food, hospitality, e-commerce, petrol etc).

It is regularly maintained. Some conformance testing tools are now becoming available.

Unified Point Of Sale standard
This is an architectural specification for application interfaces to point-of-service devices that are used in the retail environment (barcode scanners, grocery scales and so on). This standard is both operating system-independent and language-neutral.

IXRetail XML
The Association of Retail Technology Standards created the International XML initiative to identify key retail business processes, their supporting systems and the messages that pass between - and then to establish as XML schemas based on the Arts data model.

For details of IT manager workshops go to www.nrf-arts.org/europe

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