18 May 2010: Added links to Part 4 of this series in Introduction, Conclusion, and Resources sections.
12 May 2010 - As a followup to reader comments, the author changed one XML schema document in one download file. The error makes the schema invalid.
In Listing 1, added '/niem-core.xsd' to end of line 15 so it now reads:
Also, replaced the download file, niem3schemas.zip, with an updated version.
The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) is large—over 6000 elements—but it most likely does not contain everything you want to include in an XML exchange. It is not intended to cover every possible scenario but rather the most common information building blocks. In most Information Exchange Package Documentations (IEPDs) you create, you will need to write an extension schema that adds types and properties that are unique to your exchange. NIEM provides detailed guidelines for how to extend the model in a way that maximizes interoperability among NIEM IEPDs.
The NIEM model also does not define specific message types or structures for assembling all of the objects in an exchange. It is up to the creator of the IEPD to write an exchange schema to declare the root element and the basic structure of the messages.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I worked through a simple example of a Theft Report
(see Resources for links to the first two articles).
Figure 1 shows the model I created for my exchange. The
properties and types that I was unable to map to the base NIEM model include
CountyCode properties. (View a text-only version of Figure 1.)
Figure 1. IEPD model showing extensions
In this case, NIEM met most of my needs. But I will need to create two new schemas:
- An extension schema to define the
Bicycletype and the
- An exchange schema to define the
TheftReporttype (because that is the root) and provide a structure that allows all of the other types to be included in the message
Writing NIEM schemas
NIEM extension and exchange schemas (as well as the generated subset schemas) are written in XML Schema. This article shows examples of NIEM-conformant schemas but does not provide a complete explanation of the XML Schema language. If you are a newcomer to schemas, I recommend the XML Schema Primer (see Resources) for a friendly introduction.
In addition to the constraints imposed by XML Schema, NIEM adds its own rules that are documented in the NIEM Naming and Design Rules (NDR) document (see Resources for a link). These rules cover, among other things, naming and documentation standards for NIEM components, the kinds of XML Schema constructs that are allowed and disallowed, and approved ways to use and extend NIEM. To be NIEM conformant, the schemas in an IEPD must follow the NDR rules.
Each schema document must have its own target namespace. For my example IEPD,
I choose to use
(with the prefix
trext:) as the namespace for the
extension schema and
(with the prefix
tr:) for the exchange schema.
It is common practice to use a folder structure that reflects the namespace names. Inside the Theft Report IEPD, I will create folders called extension and exchange and within each one a subfolder named 1.0 in which I place the respective schema documents.
The beginning of a typical NIEM schema document—in this case, the extension schema for the Theft Report example—is in Listing 1.
Listing 1. Beginning of a NIEM-conformant schema
<xsd:schema targetNamespace="http://datypic.com/theftreport/extension/1.0" version="1.0" xmlns:xsd="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema" xmlns:trext="http://datypic.com/theftreport/extension/1.0" xmlns:s="http://niem.gov/niem/structures/2.0" xmlns:nc="http://niem.gov/niem/niem-core/2.0" xmlns:niem-xsd="http://niem.gov/niem/proxy/xsd/2.0" xmlns:i="http://niem.gov/niem/appinfo/2.0"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>Theft Report extension schema</xsd:documentation> <xsd:appinfo> <i:ConformantIndicator>true</i:ConformantIndicator> </xsd:appinfo> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:import schemaLocation="../../niem/niem-core/2.0/niem-core.xsd" namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/niem-core/2.0"/> <xsd:import schemaLocation="../../niem/proxy/xsd/2.0/xsd.xsd" namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/proxy/xsd/2.0"/> <xsd:import schemaLocation="../../niem/structures/2.0/structures.xsd" namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/structures/2.0"/> <xsd:import schemaLocation="../../niem/appinfo/2.0/appinfo.xsd" namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/appinfo/2.0"/>
A NIEM schema document must contain an
element that has a description (in
and an indicator that it is NIEM conformant (in
As with any schema, it declares and imports all of the namespaces that it needs to
reference directly. It is also required to import the appinfo schema on the last
line of Listing 1, which declares the elements used inside the
Note: Complete extension and exchange schema documents that include all of the listings in this article are available in Downloads.
Depending on the complexity of your IEPD, you might have one extension schema or many. Some IEPD developers choose to break extension schemas into multiple documents by subject area to allow them to reuse the schemas more granularly in various exchanges. Others choose to put components that might be versioned more frequently—for example, code lists—into a separate schema document.
For the Theft Report example, because it is simple, I choose to create one extension schema. After the beginning of the schema in Listing 1, I need to define types and declare elements for my custom components. There are several ways of extending NIEM, and I use a different method for each of my customizations.
Using substitution groups
Perhaps the easiest way to extend NIEM is through the use of substitution groups,
which allow you to declare your own element and specify that it is
substitutable for a NIEM element. This means that it can appear anywhere the
NIEM element is allowed. You can use this method when there is a semantically
equivalent element in the NIEM model, but it does not quite meet your needs.
For example, in my model, I have a
property that is semantically equivalent to the NIEM abstract element
nc:LocationCounty that appears inside an address.
There are already two elements in the substitution group that are part of the
NIEM core model, but they don't meet my needs:
nc:LocationCountyCode uses a different code list,
nc:LocationCountyName is intended for a
spelled-out name rather than a code. Instead, I declare a new element,
trext:LocationCountyCode, that uses my own code
Listing 2 shows the element declaration for
trext:LocationCountyCode. To indicate that it is
nc:LocationCounty, I use a
Listing 2. Declaration of the trext:LocationCountyCode element and related types
<xsd:element name="LocationCountyCode" type="trext:CountyCodeType" substitutionGroup="nc:LocationCounty"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A county code.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element> <xsd:simpleType name="CountyCodeSimpleType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A data type for a county code.</xsd:documentation> <xsd:appinfo> <i:Base i:namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/structures/2.0" i:name="Object"/> </xsd:appinfo> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:restriction base="xsd:token"> <xsd:enumeration value="A"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>Ascot County</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:enumeration> <xsd:enumeration value="B"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>Burke County</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:enumeration> <xsd:enumeration value="C"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>Cross County</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:enumeration> </xsd:restriction> </xsd:simpleType> <xsd:complexType name="CountyCodeType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A data type for a county code.</xsd:documentation> <xsd:appinfo> <i:Base i:namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/structures/2.0" i:name="Object"/> </xsd:appinfo> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:simpleContent> <xsd:extension base="trext:CountyCodeSimpleType"> <xsd:attributeGroup ref="s:SimpleObjectAttributeGroup"/> </xsd:extension> </xsd:simpleContent> </xsd:complexType>
Listing 2 also shows the two type definitions that support
trext:LocationCountyCode element. First,
a simple type is defined that has
elements for each of the code values. Then, a complex type is defined based
on the simple type. The complex type adds universal attributes like
s:id that are allowed on all NIEM objects through
a reference to
Creating entirely new types
Another method of NIEM extension is to create a whole new type. In my model,
Bicycle doesn't have an equivalent at all in the
NIEM model, so I need to create a new element and a new corresponding complex
type. Whenever you add a new type, you should consider whether it is a
specialization of an existing NIEM type—for example,
I decide that it should be based on
because it represents a means of transportation, which is appropriate for a
nc:ConveyanceType already has
most of the properties I need, such as serial number and description.
As with the previous method of extension, I have to define both a new
trext:BicycleType. Listing 3
shows these definitions.
Listing 3. Declaration of the trext:Bicycle element and related type
<xsd:element name="Bicycle" type="trext:BicycleType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A bicycle.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element> <xsd:complexType name="BicycleType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A data type for a bicycle.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:complexContent> <xsd:extension base="nc:ConveyanceType"> <xsd:sequence> <xsd:element ref="trext:BicycleRegisteredIndicator" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="1"/> </xsd:sequence> </xsd:extension> </xsd:complexContent> </xsd:complexType>
The type definition for
that it extends
nc:ConveyanceType. Note that if
you are creating a type that is truly new—that is, not based on any
concept already in NIEM—you must base your type on
s:ComplexObjectType, which is the root of all
complex types in NIEM.
trext:BicycleType, I reference a
trext:BicycleRegisteredIndicator element that I
have to declare separately. All elements, attributes, and types in NIEM schemas
are global, uniquely named, top-level components. Listing 4
shows the declaration of the
Listing 4. Declaration of the trext:BicycleRegisteredIndicator element
<xsd:element name="BicycleRegisteredIndicator" type="niem-xsd:boolean"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>Whether a bicycle is registered.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element>
trext:LocationCountyCode, which had its own
code list type,
a type that corresponds to one of the XML Schema built-in types,
boolean. However, instead of giving it the built-in
xsd:boolean, I use
niem-xsd:boolean. This complex type, defined in
the "proxy" schema
xsd.xsd, specifies that the
element contains an
xsd:boolean value but also
allows the universal NIEM attributes like
Adding properties to existing types
Another extension situation is where you have a complex type that is semantically
equivalent to a NIEM type but you need to alter or add to it in some way. In
my model, the
MotorVehicle class is equivalent to
nc:VehicleType but needs an extra property,
VehicleCategoryCode. When doing the mapping, I
nc:ItemCategoryText as a possible mapping
candidate but decided that it was too general. In fact, the
VehicleCategoryCode property represents a classification
of vehicles used for tax purposes, so I decide to call the element
The required XML Schema definitions are similar to the
extension. Listing 5 shows how I declare a new
new complex type—
Listing 5. Declaration of the trext:Vehicle element and related type
<xsd:element name="Vehicle" type="trext:VehicleType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A motor vehicle.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element> <xsd:complexType name="VehicleType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A data type for a motor vehicle.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:complexContent> <xsd:extension base="nc:VehicleType"> <xsd:sequence> <xsd:element ref="trext:VehicleTaxClassCode" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="1"/> </xsd:sequence> </xsd:extension> </xsd:complexContent> </xsd:complexType>
Adding new objects with existing types
Sometimes, you are happy with the NIEM types, but you want to use names
that are more specific or relevant to your exchange. In my model, I decided
Theft class corresponded to the NIEM
nc:ActivityType. However, I'm not completely
satisfied with calling my element
because it is too general and not descriptive enough. In this case, I choose
to declare a new element, named
but give it the existing type
rather than define a new type. Listing 6 shows the
Listing 6. Declaration of the trext:Theft element
<xsd:element name="Theft" type="nc:ActivityType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A theft incident.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element>
Exchange schemas contain definitions that are unique to a message type or group of message types. This generally includes only the root element and its type and possibly some structural elements that form the basic framework of the message. Typically, an exchange schema is IEPD specific, while an extension schema might be shared across several IEPDs.
You are not required to have separate exchange and extension schemas; you can put all of your extensions in the same schema document. You can also have multiple exchange schemas in order to represent different message types or groups of different message types.
Exchange schemas follow all of the same rules described previously for extension schemas. For example, they must have their own target namespace and must have annotations.
In the Theft Report example, the exchange schema will contain the
tr:TheftReport element, because that is the root, and
its type. It will contain a
TheftReportDate, which is
shown in the model. But more importantly, the
element will be what brings together all of the objects and associations defined in
the exchange. The element and type for
in Listing 7.
Listing 7. Declaration of the tr:TheftReport element and related type
<xsd:element name="TheftReport" type="tr:TheftReportType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A theft report.</xsd:documentation> </xsd:annotation> </xsd:element> <xsd:complexType name="TheftReportType"> <xsd:annotation> <xsd:documentation>A data type for a theft report.</xsd:documentation> <xsd:appinfo> <i:Base i:namespace="http://niem.gov/niem/structures/2.0" i:name="Object"/> </xsd:appinfo> </xsd:annotation> <xsd:complexContent> <xsd:extension base="s:ComplexObjectType"> <xsd:sequence> <xsd:element ref="tr:TheftReportDate" minOccurs="1" maxOccurs="1"/> <xsd:element ref="trext:Theft" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="nc:ActivityConveyanceAssociation" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="trext:Vehicle" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="trext:Bicycle" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="j:ActivityLocationAssociation" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="nc:Location" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="j:ActivityVictimAssociation" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="j:Victim" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="j:ActivityWitnessAssociation" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="j:Witness" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> <xsd:element ref="nc:Person" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/> </xsd:sequence> </xsd:extension> </xsd:complexContent> </xsd:complexType>
Note that the object and association elements are all siblings of each other. This is
typical of a NIEM message, where associations between objects are separate
components that reference the related objects through
A snippet of a message that shows the association between a theft and its location is
in Listing 8. The objects
nc:Location are siblings, and each has an
s:id attribute giving it a unique identifier. The
j:ActivityLocationAssociation, is another
sibling that links the two objects using child elements with
Listing 8. Sample instance showing association
<trext:Theft s:id="T1"> <nc:ActivityDate> <nc:DateTime>2006-05-04T08:15:00</nc:DateTime> </nc:ActivityDate> </trext:Theft> <j:ActivityLocationAssociation> <nc:ActivityReference s:ref="T1"/> <nc:LocationReference s:ref="L1"/> </j:ActivityLocationAssociation> <nc:Location s:id="L1"> <nc:LocationAddress> <nc:StructuredAddress> <nc:LocationStreet> <nc:StreetFullText>123 Main Street</nc:StreetFullText> </nc:LocationStreet> <nc:LocationCityName>Big City</nc:LocationCityName> <trext:LocationCountyCode>A</trext:LocationCountyCode> <nc:LocationStateUSPostalServiceCode>MI</nc:LocationStateUSPostalServiceCode> <nc:LocationPostalCode>49684</nc:LocationPostalCode> </nc:StructuredAddress> </nc:LocationAddress> </nc:Location>
Another option for expressing relationships among objects is containment, where
one object is the parent of another object. For example, it is hypothetically
possible to create a brand new
contains within it a person and a location or a reference to a person or a location.
However, this is not the recommended approach to using NIEM. Separating
associations makes the delineation of objects clearer, reduces problems with
recursion, and is more adapted to many-to-many relationships.
Naming and documenting NIEM components
You might have noticed some consistency in the names used in the examples. NIEM imposes certain rules for names:
- A name has an object term and a property term, and, if it is a simple element, a representation term. For example, in the name BicycleRegisteredIndicator,Bicycle is the object term, Registered is the property term, and Indicator is the representation term. It can also have optional qualifier terms.
- There is a specific set of approved representation terms, among which are Indicator, Code, Date, Text, Value, and Quantity.
- All names use camel case (uppercasing the first letter of each word) rather than separator characters.
- Attribute names start with a lowercase letter, while element and type names start with an uppercase letter.
- All types have the word Type at the end of their name.
There are also rules that govern the documentation of NIEM components. All schemas, elements, attributes, types, and enumerations must have definitions, and they must start with one of an approved set of beginning phrases, such as A name of or A relationship.
This is just a sampling of the rules; you can find a complete listing of the NIEM rules in the NDR.
Modifying the subset
As you build your extension and exchange schemas, you might need additional
components from NIEM that you did not include in your subset. For example,
trext:BicycleRegisteredIndicator is of type
niem-xsd:boolean, a type that was not in my original
Fortunately, it is easy to modify your subset using the Schema Subset Generation Tool (SSGT). From the main page of the SSGT (see Resources for a link), click Options in the upper right corner. This brings up the page in Figure 2. (View a larger version of Figure 2.)
Figure 2. SSGT Options page
In the section called Load Wantlist, fill in (or browse for) your wantlist.xml file name, and then click Load Want List. Doing so brings up your subset in the left pane. You can then click Search and use the right pane to search and add components to your NIEM subset. When you are done, regenerate the subset.
When working with extensions, you sometimes want to use the SSGT to look for types
rather than properties. To find
can't use the default search on properties, because that only finds element and
attribute names, not type names. To specifically look for types, choose Types
from the Search for a drop-down menu on the search page of the SSGT.
Documenting your mapping in the CMT
Be sure to document your extensions in the Component Mapping Template (CMT) that
was described in Part 2 of this article series.
At a minimum, you should fill in the XPath expressions for your extension
elements. Table 1 shows the extensions I filled in for the
Table 1. XPath mapping for extensions
|Source type||Source property||...||Ext?||XPath|
Some NIEM practitioners create more formal CMTs that have separate columns indicating the kind of extension, the base types and elements, and the level of semantic alignment. For my CMT, I chose to take a looser approach to defining the dependencies by including this information in a Comments column. The final Theft Report CMT is available from Downloads.
In this article, I described the process of extending NIEM. I explained the role of extension and exchange schemas and showed the various methods of adding new elements and types based on NIEM components. The majority of the work in creating a NIEM IEPD is now complete. Part 4 will describe the last and final step, assembling the IEPD. I will take you through the various artifacts that make up a IEPD. The result will be a complete, NIEM-conformant Theft Report IEPD.
|Component Mapping Template (CMT)||niem3mapping.zip||26KB|
|NIEM Exchange, Extension and Subset Schemas||niem3schemas.zip||18KB|
- Creating a NIEM IEPD, Part 1: Model your NIEM exchange: Design an XML information exchange between US government entities (Priscilla Walmsley, developerWorks, January 2010): Design an XML information exchange between US government entities. Set up a start-to-finish solution using the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), a U.S. government-sponsored initiative to facilitate information sharing among public and private sector organizations in this series of four articles.
- Creating a NIEM IEPD, Part 2: Map and subset NIEM: Design an XML information exchange between US government entities (Priscilla Walmsley, developerWorks, February 2010): In Part 2 of this four-part article series, take the next step—map the model to NIEM to determine what parts of NIEM the exchange can reuse. Also learn to create a subset of the NIEM model to include in an IEPD.
- Creating a NIEM IEPD, Part 4: Extend NIEM: Design an XML information exchange between US government entities (Priscilla Walmsley, developerWorks, May 2010): In the last of this four-part series by Priscilla Walmsley, cover the final step as you assemble the schemas, documentation, and all the other artifacts of an exchange into a complete NIEM-conformant IEPD. This article also describes the process of validating and publishing your IEPD.
- NIEM: Refer to the NIEM Web site for additional information about the purpose and approach of NIEM.
- NIEM Practical Implementer's Course: Get more detailed guidance in NIEM mapping and subsetting by attending this course, which is available online at no cost.
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- NIEM Naming and Design Rules (NDR) 1.3: Get all of the rules governing NIEM-conformant schemas.
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