iiRDS - Intelligent use of information

iiRDS at a glance

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Since 2017, one hears and reads in the world of technical communication again and again an abbreviation: iiRDS.

But what does iiRDS stand for? What is iiRDS? What isn't it? And how can I use iiRDS with the SMC?

First things first: iiRDS is the abbreviation for intellligent information Request and Delivery Standard and is intended to enable the provision and exchange of intelligent information - independent of industry and manufacturer. iiRDS is the common basis between manufacturer and customer side: manufacturers can provide different customers with the information they need, and customers in turn can integrate information from various manufacturers into their systems without generating additional work.

The basis for this is a standardized and machine-readable package format. All content is literally packaged in uniform packages and can be easily exchanged in this form. This is to be achieved through the underlying metadata, which makes content semantically accessible and enables documentation content to be exchanged and used across manufacturer boundaries.

Back in 2016, the tekom working group Information 4.0 was founded with the goal of changing the provision and retrieval of information for the future. Users want to be able to access the information they need in their specific context, in the right format and on the terminal device available, in line with their knowledge and at the desired time. In short, information should be provided and retrieved intelligently. At the same time, communication between humans and machines should be kept as natural as possible.

In addition, in the context of digitization, interest in printed manuals with several hundred pages is declining from year to year. The economic value of the information they contain is often not recognized. Instead, customers expect a good service that helps them with concrete problems.

Intelligent information should solve this problem for manufacturers and customers and offer both the best possible added value. iiRDS now offers a common platform for this.

What do you have to consider when using iiRDS?

A decisive advantage of iiRDS is that almost nothing has to be considered when creating the content. This is because, compared to other standards, iiRDS does not impose any content specifications. Consequently, it is not a creation standard, which is explicitly emphasized in the specification of the standard. Thus, it is possible to adhere to another standard during the editorial process and still create iiRDS packages from the content.

An iiRDS package is basically a ZIP file with the following mandatory content:

  • MIME-Type (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension), which specifies what kind of files are sent.
  • A metadata file, in XML-based RDF format.
  • An arbitrary folder structure containing the content to be sent, in an arbitrary format.

The generation of the package is usually handled by the source system of the content. Here, the iiRDS package thus represents another output type. In the near future, the SMC will also offer the possibility to generate iiRDS packages. The only requirement is that the content has been tagged with iiRDS metadata.

iiRDS and Metadata

Metadata, as information about information, makes content discoverable by describing what context of use and role it fits into. Standardized, machine-readable metadata delivered directly with content opens up the possibility of intelligently selecting, filtering, and assembling information.

A central component of iiRDS is the metadata model and vocabulary, which was developed specifically by the iiRDS working group. It is based, among other things, on the PI classification developed by Prof. Dr. Ziegler of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and defines various groups of metadata such as information types, functional metadata, product metadata and administrative metadata. In addition, other metadata vocabularies such as Dublin Core, vCard and Schema.org are used to describe information of specific thematic areas.

In contrast to PI classification, the use of the RDF format ensures that metadata is assigned ontologically, i.e. anti-hierarchically. This results in a very comprehensive model that can in principle be extended everywhere. It is possible to extend the iiRDS metadata with custom classes and instances, taking into account fewer technical requirements, and still produce valid iiRDS packages.

The reason for this extensive and extensible metadata set is to be industry-independent and universally applicable. If, when tying up information packages, the contents are marked up with a metadata model that is accepted and understood by all, it is possible to combine supplier documents into an overall documentation without much effort.

With iiRDS, the metadata is stored in a separate XML file using the RDF schema. In the file, the reference to the content is established via references. Thus, the assignment of metadata is flexible and feasible independent of the file format.

iiRDS in SMC

Although iiRDS is explicitly not a creation standard, the metadata can still be used during content creation. In SMC there are the new objects class, instance and relation for the creation of iiRDS compliant content with which ontological metadata models can be implemented.

Once a classification structure has been created, content can be tagged with it and is then ideally suited to be sent to a content delivery portal, for example.

In our solution, the Content Delivery Server (CDS), the classes and properties act directly as search criteria for the faceted search, so that only filters are available that actually belong to existing content.

The standardized package format thus also makes it possible to import iiRDS packages from different SMC instances and also external sources into the CDS or another content delivery portal without having to adapt the content.

Where is iiRDS headed?

Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and digitalization are some of the biggest buzzwords of the last years. What lies behind them will greatly shape and change our lives and the way we work in the coming years. In the future, the actual product - the hardware - will only be as good as the information and services that surround and complement it. Through iiRDS, technical documentation will become an even more essential part of the overall product.

This means several things for technical communication: On the one hand, the classic structure of a document will lose importance. At the same time, independent modules or topics will become increasingly important in order to be able to provide context-related information. At the same time, the importance of knowledge, represented by documented information, continues to grow.

To put it simply, iiRDS no longer wants to structure content, but to systematize it with the help of metadata in such a way that the required information is available:

  • in the most current version,
  • in the appropriate format,
  • at the right time and
  • at the right place

can be retrieved or displayed. Useable knowledge is created from pure information.