Can we say that (Product)* Data Templates are interoperable?
In different countries and within different organisations product*-related ‘concepts’ such as characteristics or properties, units, measures do not share the same name and are therefore deemed different by various software. The PDT methodology though takes into account all these differences. In order to help machines understand the intended meaning of information there is a need for a common semantic framework of concepts, grouping of concepts, and the relationships between concepts to be used.
The International Framework for Dictionaries (IFD – EN ISO 12006-3) sets the rules for building a language independent information model that allows all sorts of systems to take advantage of concepts that can be referenced from within a common framework. Data dictionaries built as an implementation of this standard store language-independent identifiers called GUIDS of each concept and each relationship between concepts that allow machines to operate with the same meaning regardless of the difference in semantics.
Why does standardised content need to be placed within a data dictionary?
How is a simple concept used within the construction industry to denote an object such as a ‘door’? The term ‘door’ in some countries, for example Norway, means the ‘door leaf’ together with the ‘door frame’, and in other such as the UK, it only means the ‘door leaf’. A ‘door leaf’ together with a ‘door frame’ in the UK is known as a ‘door set’. In many similar cases, the terminology used for similar concepts such as a ‘door’ can differ (e.g. door and ‘door set’ meaning the same thing) or the same terminology can be used to denote different concepts (e.g. ‘door’ is a door leaf in the UK and it is a leaf and frame in Norway).
While people can easily sort out such issues by referencing a standard that defines what a door is, computers definitely cannot do it on their own. That is why in order to help machines understand the intended meaning of information there is a need for a common semantic framework of concepts, grouping of concepts, and the relationships between concepts to be used.
The International Framework for Dictionaries (IFD – EN ISO 12006-3) sets the rules for building a language independent information model that allows all sorts of systems to take advantage of concepts that can be referenced from within a common framework.
The Global Unique Identifier (GUID) is the most essential element in this common framework. It serves as a unique, language-independent identifier of each concept and each relationship between concepts. This allows for a common understanding of terminology as equivalent concepts are always connected to the same meaning no matter the different context (national standard, national languages, languages used within different software) and similar terms that denote different meaning are always connected to their specific meaning.
In practical terms, a data dictionary is a connection box, that contains all the technical terms actors need, mapped towards translations and other related concepts, so that when one gets something out of the box it contains a unique ID that keeps all the relevant connections and meanings attached regardless of the language you export it to.
GUIDs allow for a concept such as a ‘door’ within a data dictionary to be logically related to GUIDs of other concepts such as property, measures, units etc. Using all these GUIDs and relationships, the subject ‘door’ is related to its property ‘fire rating’. The ‘fire rating’ has a specific assessment method – measure, which is then expressed by a specific value with a specific unit.
This is how product data sets are created in a data dictionary. Ideally, a data dictionary would hold the complete diversity of concepts and relations between them. As it is a dictionary, however, it does not single out all the concepts and relations that are specific to a singular type of product. The content that has been credibly sourced from EU and International standards and has been properly stored and defined for digital use in a data dictionary has to be organised into data structures called (Product) Data Templates. (Product) Data Templates collect the standard-based information for specific product types.
The methodology to create (Product) Data Templates via the data dictionary and a standard process for defining and approving the appropriate data sets is described in the three standards currently developed by CEN TC/442 WG 4.
Based on this standardisation work and a rigorous research on the market Cobuilder has introduced its new tool called Cobuilder Define. Cobuildeer Define is a tool used to author and manage a dictionary of properties, property sets and (Product) Data Templates defining technical entities. Learn more about Cobuilder Define here.
- Technical entities that are relevant for the flow of information about goods on a construction project go beyond the term ‘product’. There are systems, components, elements and materials. To address the whole scope of the data templates for construction works, now the standardisation committees are discussing ‘data templates’ rather than ‘product data templates’.