Standards Reduce Integration Costs
By David Dorf on Nov 05, 2008
The Association for Retail Technology Standards, better known as ARTS, is a subsidiary of the National Retail Federation. Its charter is to reduce a retailer's costs through the use of technology standards. ARTS has hundreds of retailer members, and along with all the major software and hardware vendors, jointly work on defining the standards. I decided to pose a few questions about ARTS to Richard Halter, their enterprise architect.
Richard, how has ARTS evolved over the years?
RH: ARTS started some 15 years ago to create a standard data model for use in a store. We then migrated to create a view of the entire enterprise. Along the way, we realized there was a need to model the interfaces between applications. This decision, and the subsequent XML standards developed, increased the flexibility and enabled retailers to quickly respond to the changing retail landscape. Without realizing it, these standards and their underlying XML format enabled the movement towards a service oriented view.
Along the path a very popular standard interface for POS peripherals was developed. That too has been modified to enable the devices to be considered as services, thus expanding the options and reaction speed retailers need to survive.
Another area of great expense to retailers deals with purchasing new equipment and applications. This process typically begins with a group of individuals sitting around a table trying to come up with a list of features and functions they need in their new application. This first phase can result in significant expense to the retailer and a less-than-complete proposal. To help this effort, ARTS started creating standard templates for these RFP’s. Now instead of starting out with a blank sheet of paper, the retailer starts with a set of standard requirements and can trim down the extensive list of features and functions to those necessary for them to conduct their business.
Why should retailers be interested in ARTS?
ARTS is an organization driven by the needs of the retailer community. With two major sources of input driving our direction, the ARTS Board and the NRF’s CIO council, ARTS is unique in our response to the retail community.
On top of that all of our standards are targeted at helping the retailer/vendor community reduce their cost of operation and increase their flexibility in responding to changes.
But wait there is more! Attending ARTS quarterly meetings provides an excellent opportunity to learn from other industry experts and therefore make one better able to improve their own environment; an enormous value on which it is difficult to put a price.
What are you working on these days?
RH: I am currently wearing many different hats. First and foremost is getting the new data/XML dictionary in place. But in parallel with that effort, I’m helping create a Business Intelligence RFP. I’ve also been working with the Transaction Tax work-team to put the finishing touches on the second version of their schema. The first version allowed the setup and query of a tax engine. The second version interfaces with the POS to provide tax calculations for in-process retail transactions. I am currently working with the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association to integrate their PIES standard with our Product Content Management Schema. We have just completed an updated charter and are ready to begin this work. I am also helping the UnifiedPOS committee with their drive towards remotely enabling their 36 devices through the use of XMLPOS and WS-POS.
What is ARTS planning for 2009?
RH: One of the most significant developments for 2009 is the ARTS standard retail dictionary. This industry is froth with conflicting definitions for the same terms. A standard dictionary will help alleviate this dilemma by providing a single definition.
Another key area may involve the mobile payment initiatives. As this new payment methodology comes into it own, it will need a standard message set for transmitting payment information. ARTS is positioning itself to aid in this effort.
We can also kickoff a second version for Video Analytics to deal with the setup and management of the VA rules. Plus were working on Fresh Item Management standards for the grocery industry.