The 1985 established provider of cloud-based software solutions for the air freight and logistics industry has developed a freely accessible data transformation tool called cONEverter. IATA intends to make it a permanent component of the organization’s future ONE Record API. For getting in-depth information on the functionality of cONEverter and its usefulness for the transfer of data we spoke with Martin Skopp, Senior Manager Airline Messaging, Riege Software.
CFG: Martin, according to Riege Software the cONEverter is kind of a digital library that can be integrated into programs to transfer data from “Cargo-XML” to the “new world” of the ONE Record API. To put it simple: is the tool kind of a Wikipedia for the air freight industry?
MS: Thanks for asking Heiner. Well, “digital library” is kind of a technical term. In software development the word “library” stands for something that provides functionality, something where we can put data into and then get some data out or something happens. Like some helper tool, maybe comparable to a toolbox, pocketknife or like a “blackbox” doing something useful or being a part of something bigger. Riege Software released it as open source, which means even the insides of the box are fully transparent to the public – and on top it’s free-to-use license allows everybody to use it as is, open the box, modify it, enhance it… we hope people also collaborate back to it.
It's not really comparable to Wikipedia but probably there is some intersection concerning the attitude.
CFG: Users might be interested to know how data theft or misuse is prevented. What’s your answer to this?
MS: The cONEverter just converts input in “Cargo-XML” format to the ONE Record format – one might compare it like a translation service on the internet where you could drop the text of this interview and it translates from English to German, for instance. The cONEverter does not store any data, it does not even have a database connected to it - so nothing to worry here.
If you are asking for ONE Record in general: Yes, very important aspect! This was already considered when IATA started developing the ONE Record concept. IATA already published 75-page document titled “ONE Record API & Security specification” which covers security, authentication, identification, control of access to data and how this problem has to be addressed and solved within ONE Record. IATA published all specifications as open source and under a free-to-use license. The specs also rely on state-of-the art transport layer security methods that we all use today on the internet e. g. when we do online-banking.
CFG: So open source does not translate into open data, correct?
MS: Absolutely correct and I can’t express that in any better way.
“Open source” means that the mechanisms and algorithms, specifications and even (some) implementations, the APIs are “open”. Point is the data is still protected and some say it’s even better protected than with a “security through obscurity” concept. It’s like the lock in your door – the knowledge about the inside mechanics of the lock is public available knowledge but one still needs the right key (or “password credentials”) so to say, to open the lock.
CFG: What is IATA’s reaction to your cONEverter tool for transferring data – say between a forwarding agent and a freight carrier?
MS: We received a lot of support from IATA and from forwarding agents and carriers in the ONE Record data model working group. Supplying some “mapping” of “Cargo-XML” into the new ONE Record data structures - and adopting it to the latest ONE Record spec endorsed in July - has been on the work list of IATA and others anyhow. Now the industry has a free tool which we can feed with artificial or production “Cargo-XML” messages. It allows us to validate that ONE Record structures work well and that they are able to supersede the current messaging. It allows others to build their bridges to existing systems and ensure smooth migration.
I hope that we as an industry use this tool to fine-tune the ONE Record API and yes, even to detect flaws and take the corrective action. Riege Software plans to enhance and improve the cONEverter. Everybody is welcome to use the tool and provide feedback which we like to incorporate into future versions of the cONEverter – the more the better.
CFG: Martin, thanks for these explanations.
Christian Riege, Managing Director Riege Software adds to this: “Since the industry will continue to use the ‘old’ “Cargo-XML” standard for several years, the data needs to be inevitably translated into the ‘new’ ONE Record world. By developing the tool, we have built the bridge between the two worlds.” The company’s open-source tool for the ONE Record API is also intended to create a basis for future projects and to stem the ongoing discussions about standardizing data in a system once and for all, Riege states in a release.
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