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United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce, and Transport (UN/EDIFACT) is the international EDI standard developed under the United Nations. The work of maintenance and further development of this standard is done through the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) under the UN Economic Commission for Europe, in the Finance Domain working group UN CEFACT TBG5. EDIFACT has been adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as the ISO standard ISO 9735.

The EDIFACT standard provides

  • A set of syntax rules to structure data,
  • An interactive exchange protocol (I-EDI),
  • Standard messages which allow multi-country and multi-industry exchange.


[edit] Example

See below for an example of an EDIFACT message used to answer to a product availability request:

  • ' is a segment terminator
  • + is a data element separator
  •  : is a component data element separator
  •  ? is a release character

Note: The line breaks after each segment in this example have been added for readability. There are typically no line breaks in EDI data.

UNH+1+PAORES:93:1:IA'- This is the header segment which is required at the start of every message. This code specifies that the message name and version is PAORES 93 revision 1 and it was defined by the organisation IA (IATA).

IFT+3+NO MORE FLIGHTS' - This is an "Interactive Free Text" segment containing the text "NO MORE FLIGHTS".

UNT+13+1' - This is the tail segment. It indicated that the message sent contains 13 segments.

[edit] Structure

EDIFACT has a hierarchical structure where the top level is referred to as an interchange, and lower levels contain multiple messages which consist of segments, which in turn consist of composites. The final iteration is an element which is derived from the United Nations Trade Data Element Directory (UNTDED) and are normalised throughout the EDIFACT standard.

A group or segment can be mandatory (M) or conditional (C) and can be specified to repeat. For example, C99 indicates between 0 and 99 repetitions of a segment or group, while M99 signifies between 1 and 99 repetitions.

A group, like a message, is a sequence of segments or groups. The first segment or group beneath a group must be mandatory, and the group should be made conditional if the logic of the situation demands it.

        Service String Advice     UNA  Conditional
 +----- Interchange Header        UNB  Mandatory
 | +--- Functional Group Header   UNG  Conditional
 | | +- Message Header            UNH  Mandatory
 | | |  User Data Segments             As required
 | | +- Message Trailer           UNT  Mandatory
 | +--- Functional Group Trailer  UNE  Conditional
 +----- Interchange Trailer       UNZ  Mandatory

[edit] Current state of EDIFACT

There is an apparent battle between XML and EDIFACT. An equivalent XML message has a larger file size than an EDIFACT message, but it is easier for users to read (although this is not necessary because the contents are created to be read by computers). Another possible explanation is that compatibility is being favored over performance, since more tools exist to work with XML data than with EDIFACT. EDIFACT-messages can be as much as one tenth the size of XML-messages. That makes XML less attractive for very high volume applications.

An advantage of EDIFACT is the availability of agreed message-contents, which XML must leverage to develop its own similar agreed contents. RosettaNet is one of the emerging XML standards and is widely used in semiconductors and high tech industries.

UBL is another currently being adopted by Scandinavian governments as a legally required standard for sending invoices to governments, and was enforced in February 2005 that all invoices to the Danish government must be sent in an electronic format.

ebXML is another XML standard built by UN/CEFACT (along with EDIFACT), and is often seen as a standard best suited for small and medium enterprises.

However, EDIFACT is likely to remain the most widely used in high tech, civil aviation, retail and tourism industries, due to the amount of software that leverages the standard, and the need for integration between new systems and legacy systems.[citation needed]

Europe has a large EDIFACT installed base because it adopted the technology early, while the Asian region adopted B2B in later implementations and is therefore using more XML standards.

EDIFACT will grow further in Europe's energy market where it is a current requirement.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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