Retailers call on software firms to sign up to EBXML standard

Retailers and manufacturers have urged software firms to sign up to a major XML (Extensible Markup Language) messaging initiative...

Retailers and manufacturers have urged software firms to sign up to a major XML (Extensible Markup Language) messaging initiative which aims to create a common XML standard for the industry.

XML, the language used to describe data, is designed to allow organisations to share information across the Web quickly and easily. However, the lack of XML standards has held back widespread adoption.

The EBXML (Electronic Business XML) project, which is being overseen by UK supply chain standards body e.centre, is designed to allow software firms to demonstrate that their XML implementations are interoperable.

The interoperability tests, based on specifications from the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Systems, will promote EBXML as a practical standard for users within the UK and beyond, according to e.centre.

Companies such as Tesco, Nestle and Kraft Foods have already signed up to the EBXML project, and the aim now is to get the software suppliers on board.

Creating a common XML standard is vital, according to Peter Jordan, director of IS strategic projects at Kraft Foods. "XML use is minimal at the moment so we are looking to get a single standard out," he said. "EBXML is going to be an important element in bringing the advantages of the electronic supply chain to users."

Jordan believes the project will also benefit smaller companies that have not been able to take advantage of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), the traditional messaging standard. "It will open the door for smaller companies, helping them improve communication," he said. "EDI is a trusted technology and we want to get to a stage where XML is in the same position.

"Hopefully, six to 12 months down the line, the technical standards will be robust enough for people to use them for day-to-day work."

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