by April 4, 2000 0 comments

The future belongs to mobile
devices that can access any kind of data from anywhere–other mobile
devices, desktops, LANs, or the Internet. That’s something almost every
industry expert and leader will tell you. And that’s where data
synchronization protocols come in.

When
you access data on your network through your mobile device–such as a
palmtop–you make changes to your local copy. Now, the data on your device
becomes different from that on the network. Moreover, in the meantime, some
changes may have been made to the same data on your network. So, what needs
to be done now is synchronize the two sets of data–that is, incorporate
both sets of changes to update the data. As you can imagine, this is a
somewhat complicated operation. So, the data synchronization protocol comes
into the picture. It defines the workflow for communication during a data
synchronization session when the mobile device is connected to the network.
The protocol has to support naming and identification of records, common
protocol commands to synchronize local and networked data, and should be
able to identify and resolve synchronization conflicts.

There are lots of data
synchronization products available today, but most connect a few types of
data to a few devices, and use different communication protocols over the
network. This plethora of protocols complicates matters for all concerned–users,
device manufacturers, service providers, and application developers. So, a
new initiative called SyncML has been launched, which aims to provide an
open data synchronization protocol.

The initiative’s been
launched by a set of industry heavyweights–IBM, Lotus, Motorola, Nokia,
Palm, Psion, and Starfish Software–and is open for membership. The aim is
to deliver a protocol that would synchronize networked data with any mobile
device, and a mobile device with any networked data. So, the protocol would
work over wireless and wireline networks, support a range of transport
protocols such as HTTP, WSP (Wireless Session Protocol which is part of the
WAP–Wireless Application Protocol– suite), OBEX, SMTP, POP3, IMAP,
TCP/IP, etc, enable data access from various applications, and support
various kinds of networked data, such as news, e-mail, calendars, relational
data, XML and HTML documents, etc. The protocol would enable any
information, no matter where it’s stored, to be consistent, accessible,
and updated. For example, any change you make to your calendar on your
mobile device would be available in the network calendar to your secretary.

The protocol development will
keep in mind the constraints of wireless networks, namely limited
bandwidths, low reliability of connections, and high network latency. It’ll
be based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language). More information is available
at: www.syncML.org.

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