Common Data Dictionary helps drive business forwards

The IEC CDD facilitates the exchange of technical data between companies

By Morand Fachot

As business processes in electrical/electronic industries are increasingly being conducted electronically for both internal processes and interaction with external partners, the use of common concepts is essential to support the required exchange of information. To achieve this, the IEC has developed a Common Data Dictionary (CDD).

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A page from the IEC Common Data Dictionary (CDD)

Extensive scope

The IEC CDD is a common repository of concepts for all electrotechnical domains. It is based on the methodology and the information model of the IEC 61360 series of International Standards for data element types with an associated classification scheme for electrical items and components.

The database, IEC 61360-4:2005, IEC reference collection of standard data element types and component classes, is freely accessible from the IEC Webstore.

IEC Subcommittee (SC) 3D: Product properties and classes and their identification, developed the CDD and other publications that support its scope. It provides:

  • unambiguous identification of classes and properties, and their relationship
  • commonly accepted terminology and definitions based on accepted sources such as IEC International Standards, other International Standards, industry standards or those from public authorities
  • hierarchies of concepts enabling users to characterize their products and services appropriately
  • conditions and constraints providing background information and side-conditions on values of characteristics
  • technical representation of concepts including units and data types and their identification

Error-free information sharing and other benefits

The CDD covers concepts specified on a global basis, which support error-free information sharing. In addition, its "dictionaries of concepts may be used as reference collections for setting up master data repositories for product data that serve as company internal information backbones. Thus, costly interpretation and conversion errors may be minimized".

A significant benefit of the CDD is that it offers language variants (it currently has templates for English, French, German and Japanese). Another benefit lies in its data exchange format and export facilities that use spreadsheet format.

Business processes require increased sharing and exchange of product data among organizations. Technical master data, the reference data set dedicated primarily to technical purposes, but excluding data used in business administration, is central to technical information sharing. To be effective it requires a common worldwide interpretation of master data; i.e. a common syntax, common semantics, and common processes and procedures for standardization.

Errors caused by master data problems can be very costly for companies, requiring correction efforts and resulting in delays and unnecessary extra costs.

Seamless integration

Business processes call for increased sharing and exchange of product data among organizations so that products integrate seamlessly into inventory and administrative software tools. Therefore, customers request products plus ready-to-use data sheets.

The CDD makes this exchange possible. Export facilities of IEC CDD data in a spreadsheet form are explained in the IEC 62656 series for the standardized product ontology register and transfer by spreadsheets.

The software of IEC CDD is maintained and improved by the IEC Central Office IT Department, with IEC Technical Committees (TCs) and SCs continuously expanding its content. The current version of the CDD supports the following features:

  • version control, maintained for each entity (class, property, enumeration, document), with the possibility of saving current, new and revised versions, and of consulting version history
  • language variants, with language-sensitive fields for preferred, synonymous and short names, definition, notes, remarks and value meaning
  • export facilities (Excel)
  • bulk upload of proposed items
  • automated quality checks on proposals

The data exchange format provided in IEC 62656 does not require specialist software for access to classes, properties, value lists and terminology but can use tools such as MS Internet Explorer and Excel.

Eliminating limits of dialects or language variants

The database was developed by IEC SC 3D. Its Secretary, Reinhard Nerke, outlined some of its characteristics for e-tech. Among other things, he says, the CDD:

  • provides semantics for machine-to-machine communication
  • avoids misunderstandings and non-conformance costs resulting from voids in common understanding
  • complements the work of Electropedia, the IEC online electrical and electronic terminology database, in the field of machine-to-machine communication
  • sets up the basis for successful communication between applications internally and externally
  • introduces new types of standards, namely database-centric standards that primarily address machines (i.e. software applications that control the machines or help humans managing machines)

Nerke notes that "for machine to machine communication, the IEC CDD has the same potential as the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ had for the English language. By providing an accepted reference the door is open for efforts such as the Industrie 4.0 suite of standards and other applications where cooperation is a key issue".

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 cdd screenshot A page from the IEC Common Data Dictionary (CDD)