||XML, flexibility and systems integration
||Brien M J O', Al-Biqami N
||"O'Brien (1997) outlined the two primary ways in which data canbe integrated. One invloves the establishment of a centraliseddata store that meets all the needs of a construction project;the other recognises the geographical and functional fragmentationof the industry and views data integration as a conceptualprocess. From a purely technical point of view the first isperhaps the easiest, but it fails to meet the organisationaland economic demands of the construction industry. Thus thesecond approach is more likely to be adopted by the participantsof that industry. The problem then becomes one of mapping themeta-data structures of one participant onto those of another.Various efforts at the development of standards have attemptedto address this issue. However, standards can be both complexand inadequate. The complexity is a demand of the industrywhile the inadequacy stems from the impossibility of copingwith every eventuality - a severe problem given the essentialuniqueness of each building product. This is not to say thatstandards are not required, merely that their limitations arefully realised from the outset and that expectations are notraised to the point where disappointment sets in and they fall into disrepute. EDI is a perfectly good standard but has failed to make a great impact on the construction industry.The volume of application-to-application communications remainssmall.This paper argues that while standards such as EDI can form thebackbone of data communications - and therefore provide a vehicle for data integration in the construction industry - theyare insufficient to cope with the desired flexibility demanded by the industry. The paper then develops this idea by suggesting that somethingmore is required, something flexible. Extensible markup language (XML)is a tool which can help provide the necessary flexibility.XML is a language which provides a common syntax for expressingthe structure of data. While it can be seen as an extensionof the commonly used Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) this failsto recognise that XML has uses beyond the creation of Web pages.In its broadest sense XML allows systems developers to definethe structure of a document. Currently its main uses are fordata interchange between humans and machines, but the abilityto facility machine-machine interactions is the most excitingconcept for construction industry systems.Now EDI is a perfectly good tool for such interactions but in theevent of any new requirements the standards need to be extended.This is such a long process that by the time it is completed itis of no use to the original users. XML however provides a dynamicmechanism which can be adapted as required to meet the needs ofthe users. This is its great strength for the construction industry -an industry that is ""document-rich"". In effect by using XML tospecify meta-data structures one overcomes the differences betweenthe data structures of different trading partners. No longer willwe require all parties to conform to the tramlines of a strictlyenforced standard, but rather those parties will be able toexchange data merely by changing the XML description of theirdocuments. Thus in conclusion this paper shows that the use of XML within the construction industry will facilitate data, and hence systems,integration.O'Brien, M.J. 1997. Integration at the limit:construction systems,International Journal of Construction Information Technology, Vol 5, No 1,pp 89-98."
|Year of publication:
Brien M J O', Al-Biqami N (2000).
XML, flexibility and systems integration. Construction Information Technology 2000. Taking the construction industry into the 21st century.; ISBN 9979-9174-3-1; Reykjavik, Iceland, June 28 - 30, 2000 (ISSN: 2706-6568),