NIEM ventures forth

In summer 2007, Version 2.0 of the Extensible Markup Language crime-fighting superhero, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), was released. Now, its creators are working to advance the information-sharing schema even further, with a beta of Version 2.1 that possibly will appear by year's end.

A partnership between the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the NIEM initiative is a program to develop information exchange standards for government agencies, be they state, local or federal. Managed by the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute, NIEM is based on the Global Justice XML Data Model, a highly successful data model for sharing law enforcement information across local, state and federal agencies.

Rather than working on another major update, the NIEM design team decided to tweak NIEM 2.0 with a number of new features, said Paul Wormeli, head of IJIS. One feature is version independence for separate domains. NIEM hosts several domains, each with its own standardized naming conventions ' one for intelligence work, one for law enforcement, one for emergency management. And each domain is managed by a different working group. Soon, each domain group will be able to update its vocabulary without waiting for a full release of NIEM, Wormeli said.

NIEM 2.1 will also include new vocabulary sets. 'We're branching out into other disciplines,' he said. It will be the first version to offer a vocabulary for juvenile justice concerns, which uses slightly different terms than adult cases.

Biometrics is also a new entry. Although some basic biometrics terms, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, were entered in Version 2.0, Version 2.1 will expand the schema for widespread use. Biometrics 'crosses a number of domains, including [the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology] program as well as law enforcement applications,' Wormeli said.

Since its introduction in 2005, NIEM has grown into perhaps the largest XML-based information-sharing vocabulary across government. 'It is good to see the baby crawl out of the cradle. Particularly within DHS, the adoption has been significant,' said Michael Daconta, one of the original NIEM architects and now chief technology officer at Accelerated Information Management.

DHS, and more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, use NIEM for more than 40 programs. New York City just adopted it for all exchanges of tax and health and human services information among agencies. 'We've gone way beyond the original Justice and Homeland Security focus,' Wormeli said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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