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EDI Standards

Understanding the Basics of EDI


What are EDI standards?

EDI standards began to emerge in the mid 1980s, and were purposely designed to be entirely separate (not dependent upon) changes in communication and software technologies. Because EDI communication can be done via an extremely wide array of methods, standards for individual methods are also being developed. These are much more specific than EDI standards as a whole, as they pertain to the details and attributes of the chosen EDI standard method

Since EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is an important and frequent communication among non-human parties (i.e. computer-based systems), it is important that EDI standards are created, revised, and followed throughout the practice of EDI communication. EDI is considered a business conversation that is documented in a technical fashion. It is completely logical that EDI standards should then be maintained rigorously.


EDI Standards for Internet Transmissions

In addition, EDI standards specifically for Internet-based transmissions are being created as well. For email based EDI data, the EDI standard is known as RFC 3335 in 2002, which outlines various data security features that ultimately standardize email based transmission (data privacy, authenticity, non-duplication, etc.). Similarly, the EDI standard RFC4130 was developed for AS2 transfers (also known as MIME-based HTTP EDIINT) which offer the same type of guidelines, the only difference being they are done over HTTP, and another EDI standard is in development for FTP based transfers (AS3).


The Four Sets of EDI Standards

The four sets of official EDI standards, although internationally accepted, are usually used according to location. The EDI standards UN/EDIFACT is the international EDI standard, but is mainly used outside of the US/Canada. One of the reasons that Europe is prone to using the EDIFACT EDI standards is because they adopted the system earlier than other regions. The UN/EDIFACT (United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange For Administration, Commerce, and Transport) is an EDI standard that was created under the work of the United Nations. The EDIFACT EDI standard outlines rules by which to structure data, offers a standardized procedure for interactive exchange, and provides a “standard message” so that information can be shared between industries and countries.  The industries who use EDIFACT EDI standards most predominantly are the high-tech, civil aviation, retail and tourism industries.


EDI Standards The UN’s EDIFACT

The UK retail industry is an exception to the use of UN/EDIFACT, as this industry uses the TRADACOMS EDI standard. TRADACOMS (developed by Article Numbering Association, GS1 UK) was one of the earliest EDI standards developed. This EDI standard was initiated in 1982, and shares many attributes with EDIFACT, minus a few key difference. Although the EDI standard lost many of its followers in 1995, although the retail industry has held on to the standard and probably will for some time. Because TRADACOMS is only set up for UK currency, it can only be used within the UK.


The North American ANSI ASC X12 Standard of EDI Standards

In the US and Canada, the ANSI ASC X12 (American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee X12) standard is used almost exclusively for EDI standards. This EDI standard was created in 1979 by ANSI (American National Standards Institute), although the “X12” section of the standard term is arbitrary, simply a way to distinguish the EDI standard from other developments. Industries using this type of EDI standard include healthcare, insurance, government, transportation, and finance, among others.
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