11 May UN/CEFACT Data Exchange Standards for Smart Containers
The Smart Container project aims to boost the digital transformation of the transportation and logistics industry, fueling innovation in applications and services.
Supply chain stakeholders need to share significant volumes
of data from many different sources to be able to do their daily business. This
data must be integrated and fed directly into the business processes designed
by the stakeholders. To enhance international trade and to take advantage of
growing volumes of data, automation is needed.
At the same time, application development paradigms are
shifting from a traditional style, where applications are developed standalone
from scratch, to approaches where applications become services used as add-ons to
primary programs. The ability to plug and play different services and data
sources is key to ensure agile, cost-efficient development and continuous
adaptation of composite services.
See also: How Real-Time Data is Automating the Temperature-Controlled Supply Chain
To address these issues, many organizations develop
applications and services based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA), which
promotes sharing and reusing software components. Software applications are
built by composing loosely coupled services—residing in the network and accessible
via standard protocols—into larger composite services, or applications.
The adoption of an SOA often accelerates application
development by an order of magnitude compared to the development time in
present long-established, tightly coupled, monolithic environments. In addition,
the use of an SOA approach enables new business processes to be implemented
quickly from existing services and allows those implementations to be adjusted
rapidly to meet changing requirements.
Underlying Technology Key to SOA’s Benefits
The SOA approach is technology-agnostic. Application designers
can implement SOA using a wide range of technologies, including Representational
State Transfer (REST) and Web Service (WS) standards, which were developed by
the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS)
and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
SOA also can be implemented utilizing Remote Procedure Call (RPC),
Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM), Common Object Request Broker
Architecture (CORBA), Web Services, or Windows Communication Foundation (WCF).
Organizations can also use a file-system mechanism to
communicate data conforming to a defined interface specification between
processes conforming to the SOA concept. The key is having independent services
with defined APIs that can be called to perform their tasks in a standard way.
The service does not need to know the calling application, and the application
does not need to know how the service performs its tasks.
The Role of APIs
SOA services communicate using common application
programming interfaces (APIs). APIs should be architected with SOA support in
Protocol (SOAP), although they can be created in any chosen syntax (such as Web
Services) based on standard data exchange structures (master data exchange
A prime benefit of adopting an SOA is that services can be
shared and reused. Service providers publish descriptions of their services in
registries. Once registries are available, service consumers can then query
these registries to discover the available published services. They can then
choose, invoke, and even compose services to meet their business process needs.
Once invoked, the service will perform its functions and send a response.
To invoke a service or services, consumers need the API description(s).
Neutral service providers may collect, monitor, and manage Smart Container data.
Service providers also have the responsibility to expose Smart Container APIs
that could be used by all stakeholders who have the right to access the data.
In the case of proprietary rather than standardized API development,
consumers are generally restricted to one solution provider. However, if we
agree on API specifications standards, service(s) consumers have the option to
select their desired service provider and to quickly and easily change to
Why Standards are Important
With the ramp-up of new and emerging technologies, standards
are more necessary than ever. The risks of not developing or not following
- Proprietary technologies with significant
- Lack of interoperability among systems and
- Prohibiting international validation of
- Costly and time-consuming integration
- Risk of vendor lock-in
Global multimodal standards for Smart Containers will
accelerate the usage and adoption of smart containers, enabling stakeholders to
integrate their use with risk management analysis of cross-border authorities,
such as customs.
For example, the “Smart
Container Business Requirements Specification” ensures that the ecosystem
shares a common understanding of Smart Container benefits and possible use
cases. Defining the data elements that smart containers can generate will
accelerate the integration and use of Smart Container data on different
platforms. In addition, using standard Smart Container data enables open
communications channels between supply chain actors.
Service APIs are key to ensuring simplification and acceleration
of the integration of digital services from various sources. Data sharing is
particularly important in the logistic supply chain due to the large numbers of
diverse players and the fact that container movements are global. Easy access
to information for all relevant stakeholders enables situational awareness and empowers
data-driven risk analysis and decision-making. Smart Container data and
predictive services enable supply chain efficiency and improve collaboration
between all stakeholders.
In addition to UN/CEFACT, there are other trade-related Standards
Development Organizations (SDOs), including:
- Ship-planning Message Development Group