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MULTILINGUAL APPLICATION INTERFACE FOR TELEMATIC SERVICES

Objective

The aim of MAITS is to enable users to interact with telematics services in the language, character set and cultural environment of their choice, whether inputting or outputting, and to switch between different languages and character sets as required. An applications programme interface will provide in-line multilingual capability in the form of character set conversion and transliteration, handling of cultural elements, and access to translation memory and machine translation. Project solutions will upgrade professional electronic multilingual communications, and be promoted for purposes of standardisation.
Summary of the Year
The majority of effort during the first nine months of the MAITS project has concentrated on research of the market, production of foundation documents, activating the user group and planning for future activities.
Analysis of Supply
The project has undertaken three studies to analyse the current trends and related products which are relevant to L0-L1, L2 and L3. The studies examined standard specifications and implementations in the form of products (OS, APIs, programs or libraries) or available software packages. The products were classified according to criteria taken from the various requirements documents.
The information gathered assisted in identifying areas of work and possible products which may be used in conjunction with the API's developed by MAITS. All three studies are available on the Web.
The Requirements Specifications
As with the Analysis of Supply, there are three Requirements Specification Documents, one for each API.
For the L0-L1 API the MAITS approach has been to build upon the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) requirements by independently developing requirements for the MAITS demonstrators, and combining the results with those of others to arrive at an overall synthesis. This has been documented in the publicly available 'Requirements Specification for L0-L1'.
The document seeks to address the requirements of both the end user and the intermediate users. This is achieved by the use of a classification scheme where end user requirements are specified as User Requirements (UR) and intermediate user requirements are specified as System Requirements (SR). Priorities have also been assigned to allow for a staged development process.
The 'Requirements Specification for L2' and 'Requirements Specification for L3' which are both public documents, present L2 and L3 requirements in a similar way as the L0-L1 document. The requirements for L2 and L3 were assembled from discussions with various experts and professionals, as well as from the user requirements study of CEN/TC304/PT01.
High Level Design and Functional Specifications
There are three high level design and functional specifications currently available, one each for L0-L1, L2 and the mail handler (EXMH). The L3 version is to be available during early 1997.
The purpose of the high level design and functional specification documents are to provide input into the process of development review. The development review will take into account feedback from a number of sources, including the MAITS consortium members, the MAITS User Group, and the European Commission. Decisions will be taken based on this feedback which may influence the design. Therefore, the documents should not be viewed as the final word which defines the MAITS API's, but rather as a proposal which unites the consortium's deliberations and establishes a direction towards an implementation.
Insofar as the high-level design and functional specifications serve as predictors of what the final implementation will be, implementers will have the opportunity to begin work on prototypes which will serve as proof of concept. This is yet another form of feedback which is of great importance in the scope of the project.
Analysis of Standards and Technology
Standards and Technology are advancing at an ever increasing pace. The 'Analysis of Standards and Technology' publicly available document has been created to help ensure that the MAITS project are aware of the current status of standards and the trends in technology in the area of internationalisation with regard to the World-Wide-Web. This is a 'living' document, updated periodically to take account of new standards and technology as they develop. The study resulted in identifying areas which could benefit from further extension. The document therefore includes proposals for extensions to HTTP, HTML, MIME and other related protocols.
The Way Ahead
The project has successfully completed almost all of its preparation phase. Given changes in the marketing strategies of certain of its members, and given the fast-moving pace of change in this already dynamic area, the project systematically reviewed its work plan in the light of prevailing market conditions.
The original objectives of the project have been found to have either been taken over by market forces or to have become less of an economic priority within the consortium organisations. These problems could not be overcome within the project timescale, so that after consolidating the results achieved, the project will not continue.
The prototype of the L0-L1 API supporting UNICODE, a demonstration of the API in the Apache WWW server and a friendly keyboard mapping utility have been delivered to ELRA for distribution.
For effective and productive multilingual communication, users must be able to interact with telematics services in the language, character set and cultural environment of their choice, and to switch between them. Yet, despite explosive growth world-wide, current telematic services offer no standardised way of representing, manipulating, and displaying multilingual data. The participation of non-native speakers of English in the coming Information Society is particularly impeded by this situation. Consequently there is a wide, pressing, and largely unmet demand for tools and software which can lower the linguistic barrier.

Various solutions for dealing with locales and character sets already exist, notably from the X/Open consortium. MAITS aims to integrate and extend these many disparate technologies in an integrated, unified whole. To this end, MAITS will develop an Application Programming Interface (API), covering four language processing levels - character set conversion between client and server, transliteration and locales, simple translation of stored text strings, and access to machine translation. The MAITS API will then be demonstrated in a number of key Telematics applications, such as X.400, X.500, exmh, WWW, and Sybase, in multiple languages in multiple countries. Consortium members will also participate actively in the relevant standards bodies.

As developers and suppliers of Telematics solutions, MAITS partners represent the first users of the technology. The User Group includes telematics service operators and their clients, software developers, and Telematics content providers. In the long term, MAITS may encompass potentially all users of X.400 and internet electronic mail, X.500 directory services, and the World Wide Web. The MAITS API may also be used by independent software vendors for internationalised products.

A typical MAITS application scenario covers a user working with a PC, accessing information held on a server under a different encoding scheme. In many cases, accented characters would be incorrectly displayed without codeset conversion. At the lowest level, a MAITS enabled application would undertake this conversion transparently. At higher levels, Greek scripts, for example could be transliterated by MAITS into Roman characters, keywords could be translated for directory searches, and machine translation invoked to process results.

Progress and results

The expected result of the MAITS project is a greater degree of communication between users of different languages, and a greater degree of openness to data in different geographic locations, different encodings, different scripts, and different languages.

Exploitation

X.400, X.500, a WWW browser, and application development tools will be created and marketed as a result of MAITS. Sybase and NEXOR will include MAITS in their product line. It is also expected that the standards resulting from MAITS will become widely accepted in the standards and Telematics communities.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

Sybase France
Address
27 Rue Du Colonel Pierre Avia
75508 Paris
France

Participants (7)

ALIS TECHNOLOGIES GMBH
Austria
Address
59,Schottenfeldgasse
1070 Vienna
DANSK UNIX-SYSTEM BRUGER GRUPPE, FORENING
Denmark
Address
3,Fruebjergvej
2100 Kopenhagen
Infordata Srl
Italy
Address
Via Muggia 15
34100 Trieste
NATIONAL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF ATHENS
Greece
Address

15773 Athens
Nexor Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
Rutherford House Highfields Science Park
NG7 2PZ Nottingham
UNIVERSITY OF LJUBLJANA
Slovenia
Address
39,Jamova
61000 Ljubljana
UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
United Kingdom
Address
The Crescent 43
M54WT Salford,manchester