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One World, One Alert Messaging Protocol

Standards body OASIS has rallied around a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in a bid to help modernize emergency communications networks around the globe.

The version 1.0 protocol now approved by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) consortium is considered the standards body's highest level of ratification.

At its core, CAP is a data network protocol for the exchange of public and private sector emergency alerts and warning information. CAP is compatible with legacy public warning systems as well as with Web Services and other XML -based applications.

OASIS said CAP would enable the exchange of emergency alert and public warning information over data networks and computer-controlled warning systems.

In addition, protocol limits transport-specific nomenclature so that it is backwards compatible with existing public warning systems, including those designed for multilingual and special-needs populations, as well as with XML-based applications.

The blessing by OASIS signals that over 600 member organizations spanning 100 countries have ratified the CAP 1.0 standard.

The U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as numerous other U.S. national and local agencies including the National Weather Service and the California Office of Emergency Services have already implemented the protocol.

"The importance of CAP is all about the power of open standards, when all the participants in a particular type of conversation agree on how to interact," said Web services analyst Jason Bloomberg of tech consulting firm ZapThink.

"In the case of the emergency alert and warning infrastructure, two requirements are particularly important: speed and accuracy of meaning," Bloomberg added.

"Broadly adopted standards can speed up interactions among multiple parties substantially over the alternative, which is to use a melange of proprietary applications and protocols. Furthermore, a common vocabulary dramatically improves the ability of multiple parties to share the same meaning of the terms they use."

OASIS expects that CAP will reduce the operational complexity of dealing with multiple sources of information and dissemination networks, and in so doing will reduce costs.

"The CAP OASIS Standard has been designed to allow a consistent warning message to be communicated simultaneously over different systems," Allen Wyke, chair of the OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee, said in a statement.

"By standardizing on a format, technology developers and vendors in the emergency, incident, and business continuity fields will be able to take a huge step forward in sharing this critical, and potentially life saving, information."

The approval follows news that OASIS ratified its WS-Security standard, a protocol for securing and managing the identity and integrity of Web services messages in complex networks.

OASIS also recently announced the availability of Universal Business Language Version 1.0, a description language for XML-based purchase orders, invoices and shipping notices.

Other approved OASIS Standards include DocBook, DSML, ebXML, SAML, SPML, UDDI, WSRP, XACML, and XCBF.