Patent Issued for Accelerated System and Methods for Synchronizing, Managing, and Publishing Business InformationSAP AGNewsRx.com
By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Information Technology Newsweekly -- From Alexandria, Virginia, VerticalNews journalists report that a patent by the inventors Eugene, Cherny (Los Angeles, CA); Gilat, Fisch (Moshav Saad, IL); Ronen, Cohen (Nahariya, IL); Stanley, Levin (Kfar Vradim, IL), filed on May 25, 2010, was cleared and issued on December 4, 2012.
The patent's assignee for patent number 8325750 is SAP AG (Walldorf, DE).
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Embodiments of the invention described herein pertain to the field of computerized network systems. More particularly, but not by way of limitation, one or more embodiments of the invention enable businesses to perform accelerated synchronization, management and publication of business information across a supply chain.
"Competitive businesses in the global marketplace rely on the efficient exchange and synchronization of business information to improve the performance of the supply chain. For instance, the synchronization of information that uniquely describes a product or service exchanged between trading partners is fundamental to building collaborative commercial relationships among retailers, manufacturers, and other supply chain participants. Various systems exist for synchronizing such business-to-business information between trading partners. These systems, often referred to as Global Data Synchronization (GDS) systems, are important because effective GDS systems lead to consolidation and management of master product data, which greatly increases internal supply chain efficiency. Many also consider GDS to be a fundamental building block for realizing the full potential of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Electronic Product Code (EPC) tags on various product configurations (e.g., pallets and cases of a particular product), GDS and EPC initiatives are designed to work together to improve business performance amongst a set of interrelated trading partners through the sharing of well-formed data that describes information associated with a set of products or services.
"More and more businesses are utilizing entities referred to as data pools that act as an interface point between supply chain entities such as manufacturers and retailers. These data pools provide a message-based framework for synchronizing item, organization and pricing data. For instance, manufactures publish data to the data pool in accordance with a set of specific rules defined by the data pool and other parties such as retailers or other manufactures subscribed to the data pool are kept in sync with information published to the data pool.
"Retailers that desire to order and sell a product made by a manufacturer must first find the product so that it may be ordered. In order to find a product of interest, an entity known as the 'Global Registry' may be employed in order to lookup the basic parameters of a product. The lookup generally includes the location of the data pool where the full product information can be found. The predominant registry in the industry is known as the 'GS1 Global Registry.TM.'. The Global Registry stores unique product identifiers (referred to as GTINs and discussed in further detail below) and location information about each of the respective parties in the supply chain (e.g., Global Location Numbers called GLNs and also discussed in more detail below). Put generally a GTIN describes what an item is and a GLN describes who has and where the item is located. The association of data pools and the Global Registry described herein are known as the GlobalData Synchronization Network (GDSN).
"For businesses in the manufacturing sector (data pool suppliers) and retailing sector (data pool customers) to utilize the Global Registry and synchronize data with one another each party typically performs the following basic steps. First internal supplier data (e.g., source information) is reviewed and if necessary modified to conform to generally accepted standards (see e.g., FIG. 1A, step 100). For instance, each product or unit of sale is given a GTIN. The GTIN provides a basis for identifying when a unit of sale passes through a retail point of sale, is delivered, ordered, invoiced, or is otherwise involved in a transaction. A GTIN comprises up to 14 digits and can be associated with raw materials or completed end user products and may also include services. The number allocated to a product needs to be communicated from the manufacturer through the supply chain in advance of transaction, so that business transactions can be set up.
"In terms of data pool information exchange, the supplier of information may also define information that uniquely identifies itself and other legal entities, trading parties and locations considered part of or needing access to supply chain information. This identifying information, typically referred to as a Global Location Number (GLN), provides a standard means of identification. The GLN is simply a 13-digit number used to uniquely identify any legal, functional or physical entity. Some examples of parties and locations that can be identified with GLNs, include but are not limited to, functional entities such as a purchasing department or customer number within a legal entity, an accounting department, a returns department, a nursing station, or any other group that performs a definable set of functions. GLNs may also act as a mechanism for identifying physical entities such as a particular room or section of a building, a warehouse, or aspects of a physical location such as a loading dock, delivery point, cabinet, or other location specific information. It is also feasible to utilize GLNs to identify buyers, sellers, companies, subsidiaries or divisions such as suppliers, customers, financial services companies, or any other entity or trading partner.
"After the supplier's internal data is prepared for a given source data pool, the data is then uploaded to the source data pool that complies with appropriate standards (see e.g., FIG. 1A, step 102). There are various data pools and each data pool has mandatory and optional aspects. For instance, a data pool may collect descriptive data that contains a standardized set of attributes, values, trade item information, trading partner information, product and packaging information (e.g., shipping unit information such as a pallet), consumer unit (e.g., typically a trade item in its retail form). In at least one instance attributes are used as a mechanism to name associated data (e.g., Color) and values identify the data itself associated to the attribute name (e.g., Blue). Both attributes and values can be recursive and thereby identified as a repeatable attribute/value. Any product or service having a need to retrieve pre-defined information that may be priced, ordered or invoiced at any point in any supply chain is typically referred to as a trade item. In this context, the term consumer unit is intended to indicate to the retailer that a particular item should be considered as a potential unit of sale.
"Each data pool autonomously transfers basic information from the uploaded data to the Global Registry that in turn holds the information and stores the location of the supplier's data pool (see e.g., FIG. 1, step 104). Customers may search the Global Registry via their own destination data pool for information about the supplier that the customer may wish to obtain as part of its subscription to the destination data pool (see e.g., FIG. 1, step 106). The Global Registry identifies the source data pool of information that customers may request.
"A synchronization engine enables trading partners to perform the publication and subscription process for sending and receiving information and synchronizes information between each of the respective data pools (see e.g., FIG. 1, step 108). The synchronization engine allows each trading partner to maintain a single point of entry to its chosen data pool, Once implemented, GDS allows for the continuous updating of data attributes related to products for example between a plurality of computing systems in order to ensure that the data is kept identical in all locations that access the data. This synchronization process occurs in order to keep businesses up to date with changes and modifications to products and prices for example. The proper update of product data also enables a more efficient supply chain and eliminates transactions with erroneous prices or discontinued products for example.
"On the manufacturer or supplier side the process of reviewing and publishing items for registration and publication to retail trading partners is in most cases a laborious process that involves development of customized applications that obtain the relevant information from the manufacture side and provide that information to the data pool in a publishable form. Another issue that arises for suppliers is that existing systems for managing and publishing data to the supplier's data pool of choice cannot efficiently handle voluminous amounts of data and have a tendency to fail once the amount of data reaches a certain threshold (e.g., 10,000 records). Hence there is a need for an accelerated and scalable system that can effectively obtain and manage supplier data to ensure that the supplier data properly conforms to appropriate standards and then publish that data to the supplier's data pool of choice for subsequent synchronization."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "Embodiments of the invention provide an accelerated system and methods for gathering business information, augmenting that information to conform to requirements for sharing the information and for synchronizing, managing and publishing the information across the supply chain. Through use of a control module business information is gathered from a variety of enterprise wide systems and stored via an acceleration engine. After augmenting and/or altering the information to conform to the requirements of a desired repository of information known as a data pool, the information is published to the data pool and registered with a registry to allow other entities to lookup the information. One or more embodiments of the invention allow for the rapid publication and modification of publication related data using advanced querying mechanisms of the acceleration engine. The publication features of the system allow for multi-lingual output and support for multiple output types including print and web based publications using the same inherent product data for example data in a product catalog. In addition, subscribing to product information is performed in the inverse direction with respect to a data pool allowing not only manufacturers, but also retailers to gain the benefits of the accelerated system.
"In terms of the user interface of the system, one or more embodiments of the user interface component comprise declaratively defined interfaces that are not hardcoded in a source code program. In terms of the server interface of the system that interfaces to the various data pools, one or more embodiments of the server interface component utilized in communicating with data pool are capable of utilizing declaratively defined interface definitions for data pool specific messages and data attributes that are not hardcoded in a source code program. Declaratively defined `user and server interfaces allow for modification of the respective interface without altering the source code, without recompiling and without reinstalling program components and this methodology of altering interfaces allows lower skilled level employees to install and maintain the system.
"One or more embodiments of the invention provide an interface and methods that enable a user to logon to the system and create users, roles and authorizations for other users; manage trade items according to global trade item number (GTIN); search and display items, edit trade item information, and create new items; view detailed trade item data, including images, attributes, hierarchies and all other data entered for the item; update and augment data for a specific trade item; register trade items and remove items from the source data pool and the Global Registry; establish a list of trade partners by adding and removing the trade partners to/from the system; manage data pool connections, adding, editing and deleting data-pool information; publish single registered GTINs to trade partners; publish a selection of trade items to a single trade partner, and manage the system metadata by editing the data entry screens.
"Specifically, GTIN management comprises various actions and functions that enable the user to define and control one or more GTINs. For instance via a GTIN management interface users can view the status and hierarchy of trade items existing in the system, create new trade items, edit and augment data for existing trade items, and delete trade items from the system. Once the trade item information is complete, users can validate and register the trade item, for subsequent publication to trade partners. This insures that only clean and validated data is propagated to the trade partners.
"To create a new trade item using the GTIN management functions it is typically necessary to gather a GTIN number and name and also have the name of the source of product information. Users then provides to the system the GTIN, Product Type (industry classification for the item; different industries--such as pharmaceuticals, clothing or meat--may use their own product identity coding scheme), the GTIN name (actual product name), target market (country level or higher geographical definition in which the supplier wants to make the GTIN available to trade partners), and the information provider (the unique identifier of the source data pool that receives the data from the supplier and registers it with the Global Registry). The information provider is the source of data for the trade item for all partners requesting the data. Subsequent to entry the system performs a check to ensure that all information entered is valid. The GTIN management functions also include mechanisms for editing, adding or removing trade items already stored on the system. For instance, users can search for a set of trade items, make changes or appropriate modifications to that item and then save whatever actions are taken into the system.
"Once the trade item information is complete, users can submit validate and register the trade item for subsequent publication to trade partners. This insures that only clean and validated data is prorogated to the trade partners. For instance, upon completion of the GTIN users submit the information to the control module which verifies the data conforms to system wide rules, if so the module enables the user to register the GTIN by posting the GTIN and any associated information to the data pools as defined by the user.
"In addition to implementing the functionality described above the control module provides mechanisms for presenting interface components that utilize multi-valued attributes stored in the database coupled with the acceleration engine. For instance, a single product can be given multiple values that define different characteristics of the product. A product that is packaged in a cardboard container and wrapped in plastic can be associated with both values rather than with a single value. In addition, this allows for validation of the information at entry time in the user interface by presenting the user with a pull down list for example that only allows for these two values to be specified as opposed to a text field entry that allows for text based input that must be validated later.
"One or more embodiments of the invention may interface with data pools such as UUCnet and Transora. The control module may couple to the data pools through a universal adapter framework and message queuing service for example. By declaratively specifying the semantics of a data pool including the message formats and data attributes and formats required, a new data pool or data pool version may be supported without modifying any source code within the system.
"The acceleration engine provides mechanisms for improving system performance and is integrated in one embodiment of the invention to a publication engine. The acceleration engine acts as a mechanism for managing the product and trade-items stored in the system and also includes the functionality required for backup and restore, and metadata management of data utilized by control module. The acceleration engine is an integrated system for content management and publishing that uses a SQL Database Management System (DBMS) that in one or more embodiments of the engine bypasses SQL or optimizes the SQL for its searching, sorting, and retrieval operations. Bypassing or implementing an optimized SQL interpreter allows for increase performance since standard SQL does not support the kinds of advanced structures that allow for high performance product content management.
"The publication engine also serves as an integrated catalog management tool and administration mechanism that is coupled through to a synchronized set of supply chain data. Unlike the control module which interfaces with various data pools, publication engine provides functions for generating business documents such as catalogs, brochures, web pages, user interfaces and other such documents. The publication engine is coupled through to the DBMS and backend systems through a server component contained within the acceleration engine. Hence the publication engine has access to clean data controlled by the control module since the control module is responsible for the processing of the valid input and output of data. The publication engine also allows users to generate draft documents for approval and record the approval of these documents. This enables the approving party to ensure that publication of a document (either hardcopies of electronically) is only triggered when approval is properly received and that all modifications or changes made to a draft document are propagated through to publication of the document (e.g., product catalog, web page, etc.).
"A back-end system is used to retrieve information from enterprise information systems and provides a single point of access for all desired data sources of an enterprise. Information aggregated from the various data sources within an enterprise allows for simplified processing on the Synchronization management interface since the specifics of obtaining data from the various sources is abstracted out by the back-end system."
For additional information on this patent, see: Eugene, Cherny; Gilat, Fisch; Ronen, Cohen; Stanley, Levin. Accelerated System and Methods for Synchronizing, Managing, and Publishing Business Information. U.S. Patent Number 8325750, filed May 25, 2010, and issued December 4, 2012. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=43&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=2129&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20121204.PD.&OS=ISD/20121204&RS=ISD/20121204
Keywords for this news article include: SAP AG, Information Technology, Information and Data Aggregation.
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