Data interchange language 

for Standard Interchange Language

FDRSG's extensions to SQL developed for electronic transfers, eftpos etc

  • Thayer, Warren "Can SIL break the computer language barrier? The Standard Interchange Language - a data exchange standard designed with wholesalers in mind - may give retail systems integration a big boost" Progressive Grocer - January 1991 view details Abstract: If the Standard Interchange Language (SIL) is half as good as some people think, all your systems may one day be using it to exchange data freely. Not only could it ease the exchange between retailer and wholesaler, it could mean your in-store systems will finally be on speaking terms with each other.

    Systems for such things as POS, DSD, scales, time and attendance, pharmacy, video, EFT, payroll and ordering' work well as stand-alones but rarely speak the same language. It's no wonder that systems integrators are also called interpreters.

    Retailers needing to compare and correlate data from more than one source can trip over leased phone lines and computer printouts, but come up short on answers. Working off a single database is still a fantasy for nearly everyone. And keying the same information into different systems over and over again is inefficient and effor-prone.

    In a perfect world, hardware vendors and value-added software developers would all
    Extract: Overview
    Against this backdrop, it's easy to see what happens. Pretty soon, you're trying to program your way through dozens of systems, each with its own multiple versions and permutations. You may even need separate equipment to send data to different stores. All the while, you're spending big money on interfaces instead of new development, with no end in sight.

    It'd be enough to drive you to the brink. So a few years back, some wholesalers got together with key system vendors and value-added software developers and decided to do something about it. They found a forum in FMI's Food Distribution Retail Systems Group (FDRSG).

    FDRSG's mission statement is direct: "To simplify the exchange of data among service providers, point-of-sale equipment manufacturers and value-added software developers." Members try to find ways to ease the support of POS equipment in a multi-vendor environment.

    The first step was to review the data elements used in POS and DSD systems and establish a list of fields. In this context, fields include an item's PLU number, the description of what will be printed on a customer's receipt tape, product location in the store, whether an item is advertised and item cost.

    FDRSG members at press time had come up with 126 fields, including ones for space management, shelf-label printing, price verification and inventory management. That's a lot of data to store in a system, and unfortunately different systems store the information using their own unique fixed record formats (although it is unlikely that any one system would use all 126 fields). It's almost as if every company you did business with had an order form with 126 blanks-but none of their order forms were standardized. So a common language had to be developed to describe a data element's location, size and form within a data record. FDRSG's language committee used a subset of the American National Standard Institute's (ANSI) Structured Query Language (SQL) as a model for its work. The result of all this was SIL. SIL uses a dictionary with standard field names and descriptions. Its language allows data fields to be selected from that dictionary. It also allows users to define the length, format and location of those fields within a data stream. Both the dictionary and language information are embedded in the data being exchanged.