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A new world of documentation with iiRDS

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Each passing day brings us closer to the 2017 tekom conference in Stuttgart. At SCHEMA we are preparing particularly thoroughly for one topic: iiRDS – Intelligent Information Request and Delivery Standard. This standard is set to become a milestone in the world of documentation, since it enables technical information to be exchanged easily, no matter who the manufacturer or what kind of device you have. 

We will be showing off what the whole thing will look like at a number of presentations and workshops during the tekom conference. One highlight of the conference will be a showcase with our partner doctima, at which you will see the practical application of iiRDS at first hand. Or come along to my presentation with Jochen Marzcinzik on the subject of Intelligent Maintenance Tables.

There are still a few days left to go, so let me give you an overview of the standard.

We’ve got our plane tickets

iiRDS comes in the context of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. Technical documentation needs to keep up with these developments too. Imagine there is a fault on a machine: in the current situation, a service technician will first have to go and search for the correct manual, and then spend time identifying the section in which the solution to the problem is described. This is time-consuming and can be frustrating, and all the time the machine is out of action and costing money. So, what happens when iiRDS is applied in the technical documentation? It goes a bit like this: a fault occurs, the service technician goes to the machine and scans a QR or other code on the machine using their smartphone or tablet. By means of the fault number, the service technician is taken directly to the solution and can begin fixing the problem straightaway. Instead of spending valuable time searching for the solution, all the information you need to fix the problem there and then is on the machine itself.

What do you need to pack?

Documentation running to hundreds pages is becoming a thing of the past – the future lies in self-contained information modules. Most technical writers are already heading down this route, and ST4 is going in this direction too. However, a key point for consideration is information intelligence. Due to its modular nature, the information would have to be able to communicate the type of module and where it should be inserted, so the information needs to be semantically readable. Semantically readable means that the medium reading out the information recognises the way in which the information interacts with other information modules. XML is not adequate for this purpose since XML displays the structure of the information, but not logical connections with other information modules. XML does not offer sufficient clues for machines as to how, where and when a particular piece of information is relevant. It would only recognise the structure, not the connections between the individual information modules: for example, that the maintenance table is always part of the maintenance section and not the spare parts catalogue.

There needs to be an overall language that permits such semantic deductions.

This is precisely what iiRDS brings to the table. The standard defines an ontology for the technical documentation and determines the different information types, such as manuals, maintenance plans, operating instructions etc, as well as their relationship to one other.

A practical example as an illustration: for each component supplied, a plant engineering company is also sent the operating manual, including the maintenance tables, by the supplier. Up until now, that is before iiRDS, these documents would mostly be sent in PDF format to the technical writers at the plant engineers. These PDFs are then printed out, carefully filed in folders and physically stored with the plant component. Or the documentation remains in digital form and can be read on a tablet by the service technician – usually in its full form and without a filter or quick search function.

And, after the implementation of iiRDS: the component supplier creates the documentation as modular information and uses iiRDS to specify precisely what it is (installation instructions, maintenance tables, troubleshooting etc.) and its relationship to other information modules. The information modules are then packaged in a digital, neutral and machine-readable form, so that the plant engineering company can reproduce them in the documentation itself, or as an individual information module on the display for a component. All this without the service technician having to spend valuable time searching through different manuals.

What precisely is behind iiRDS?

Two things: firstly, a set of metadata that can also be machine-read, and secondly a defined exchange or package format, which contains the information and the metadata and allows it to be distributed in a non-manufacturer-specific way. Let’s take a quick look at both of these.

Metadata as an interface

The type of information and its relationship to other information modules is presented as metadata in the RDF modelling language, which you are probably already familiar with this from the Semantic Web. This metadata enables the technical writer to assign the following properties to the topic Every 2000 hours maintenance table:

  1. Only applies to machine A.
  2. A maintenance table with the property every 2000 hours
  3. It belongs in the maintenance section in the operating manual.
  4. The type of information is a maintenance table (so not safety instructions, for example)

The metadata also identifies that: properties three and four apply to maintenance tables from many different manufacturers, and also to the Every 10,000 hours maintenance table of a machine produced by a completely different manufacturer. Properties one and two however are specific to the properties of machine A.

That is the huge potential of the new iiRDS standard:  the iiRDS metadata is non-proprietary and therefore neutral, and you can even add your own metadata to it. This makes sense since a software manufacturer is highly unlikely to hold the same amount and types of information as that used by a plant engineering company.

Standardised exchange format

To enable this information and your metadata to be assigned to one other, iiRDS also defines a suitable package format. This package format is a ZIP file. This contains the information itself, such as a maintenance table for a particular machine as above and, in its own META-INF folder, the associated metadata for this maintenance table.

To be able to merge the package with packages from other manufacturers and reliably output them on different devices, iiRDS also provides the iiRDS/A version. This version not only standardises the metadata, but also the information formats.

Where will this journey take us?

Technical information should no longer be seen as a small piece in the documentation puzzle – instead it should be viewed as individual puzzle pieces with clearly defined edges that can be combined with other pieces of information. It will also have to be possible to output and request it independently of the manufacturer and the application. iiRDS makes allowance for the fact that this cannot happen overnight. For example, existing documents that currently only exist in PDF form can be exchanged with iiRDS. You only need to add the metadata.

The standard should be adopted by the end of the year, but the benefits are already becoming clear:

the simple concept of metadata allows you to work more efficiently and accurately, and to process your documentation systematically. Search and filter functions jump straight to the metadata and so deliver precise search results, allowing information to be easily assigned to the relevant product or situation. This saves time, money and frayed nerves – all of which are key factors in our sector.

Lastly, by applying the standard in practice we can identify areas where it can be improved or added to, and the extent to which it is actually being used on the ground.

What does it mean for us?

At SCHEMA we are all set up for iiRDS and can help you to implement the standard. We are well versed in metadata and providing different types of information in a Content Delivery Service. Alongside other colleagues from the tekom Information 4.0 study group, we would be very happy to tell you more about this new standard at the tekom conference:

 

iiRDS in Practice:

Prototype Implementations of iiRDS – with a doctima and SCHEMA showcase (iiRDS01)
Wednesday, 8:45-10:30, Room Plenum 1

 

SCHEMA BlueBox:

A robot speaks to SCHEMA CDS – enabling the new iiRDS standard

(presentation in conjunction with doctima GmbH)

Tuesday, Thursday: 13:45 – 14:30, on the SCHEMA-Stand (Hall 2, Stand C07)

 

Introduction to iiRDS:

Introduction and Status (iiRDS02)
Wednesday, 11:15, Room Plenum 2

 

Exploring the Age of Content Delivery (JTCA01) (Sebastian Göttel (SCHEMA) and others)
Wednesday, 13:45-14:30, Room C7.1

 

iiRDS in Detail:

iiRDS for Technical Writers – Introduction to the Metadata (iiRDS03)
Wednesday, 13:45, Room C4.2

 

iiRDS Inside Out – Applying the Standard (iiRDS 4) (Sebastian Göttel (SCHEMA) and others)
Wednesday, 16:15, Room C4.2

 

Don’t forget to visit:

Intelligent Maintenance Tables (with Sebastian Göttel and Jochen Marczinzik, SCHEMA)
Thursday, 11:15, Room Plenum 2

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