Imagine there was a way to ensure that all types of output media could correctly interpret every technical information product out there. Imagine there was some kind of pattern that every technical communicator could follow to ensure that each information unit resembled the next. And imagine if this were possible beyond company and industry boundaries. Well, what if I told you that such a thing already exists? Keep on reading if you are interested in learning more about intelligent information and standardized metadata.
The tekom iiRDS Standard
Have you ever heard about iiRDS? iiRDS stands for Intelligent Information Request and Delivery Standard. It is a standard that provides a common metadata set for technical communication.
As you may know, in technical communication, it is best to break information down into many small information units. Each information unit represents a specific topic, product, product life cycle phase, etc.
To tell users what kind of information an information unit contains, technical communicators enrich information units with metadata. You can think of this metadata as information about information.
Information units equipped with metadata become intelligent information.
To make sure that all technical communicators use the same metadata, the German association for technical communication, tekom, created the iiRDS Standard in cooperation with various companies.
iiRDS – More than Standardized Metadata
As well as specifying vocabulary to describe the content of an information unit, iiRDS also contains a standard package format to deliver the information. This package format is perhaps even more relevant than the metadata.
Existing metadata can be mapped to metadata delivered by iiRDS via a mapping table. This means that companies already creating intelligent information can easily link their metadata to the metadata iiRDS delivers.
Another advantage of iiRDS is that it eases the exchange of information among companies. For example, if a company buys a product (say a light bulb) which they build into their final product (say a lamp) they need to integrate the technical information about the light bulb into the technical information about their lamp. If all the information complies with iiRDS, this is quite easy to achieve.
Intelligent Information for Smart Searching
This is when content delivery comes into play. Information that is intelligent, meaning information enriched with metadata, is quicker and easier to find. Users can enter keywords into a content delivery portal (which you can think of as a search portal) to find relevant results. Only information units with the appropriate metadata will show up. Let us imagine that the lamp manufacturer we mentioned earlier has a website where they offer technical information and technical documentation to their customers. With intelligent information, the customer can search to find only relevant information, rather than having to read the whole operating manual.
Provided that the lamp manufacturer followed iiRDS while creating their information units, many different output media would be able to understand, interpret, process, and finally display the information units. This output media could take the form of websites, tablets, smartphones and so on. One output medium could display information units from different manufacturers about different products at the same time. This is beneficial for huge industrial plants where many industrial products coexist together in a smart factory set-up and require monitoring.
If you are a technical communicator or are interested in becoming one, make sure to stay updated about iiRDS and the creation of intelligent information, because these topics are the future of technical communication.
If you are interested in the technical communication and want to learn more about creating technical information, have you ever considered embarking on a flexible online learning program which you can do from anywhere in the world? Then check out TCLoc, the Master’s in Technical Communication and Localization from the University of Strasbourg.