Fact Sheet

Who is MAITS?

Sybase, Co-ordinator, FR, GB
Alis Technologies, Partner, AT
Business IT Solutions, Sub-contractor, GB
Danish UNIX User's Group, Partner, DK
Everson Gunn Teoranta, Sub-contractor, IE
Infordata, Partner, IT
Institut Jozef Stefan, Partner, SI
National Technical University of Athens, Partner, GR
NEXOR Ltd., Partner, GB
University of Salford, Partner, GB

Keywords: locales, X.400, X.500, WWW, e-mail, multilingual, transliteration, Transparent Language Processing, character set conversion, translation memory, machine translation

What is MAITS: Project Summary

User Needs to be Addressed

The MAITS Project has identified several needs for the user in a global multilingual work environment.

For telematic services, users expect to be able to:

- use the service in a language and script of their choice, both for input and output,
- work in their own national or cultural environment, and
- switch between different languages and scripts.

Anything less than this hampers productive work and effective communication.

To accomplish this, MAITS defines four levels of Transparent Language Processing (TLP):

0. Codeset Conversion
At this level, the accessed data is converted to the character sets usable by the client platform so that they can be visible to the user.

1. Transliteration and Cultural String Formatting
At Level-1, language-sensitive transliteration is added to allow access to data encoded in different scripts (such as accessing Greek or Cyrillic from a French workstation). Correct cultural formatting of date/time, numeric, and currency fields occurs here.

2. Translation Memory
Level-2 TLP adds the ability for an application to query a stored pool of context-sensitive translated words and phrases to build up language specific keywords, attributes fields, and basic error messages.

3. Machine Translation
Level-3 TLP includes parallel machine translation of body text for first-cut approximations of textual content for the end-user. User Community MAITS intends to create a low-level API (Application Programming Interface) to enhance existing standards for globalization.

As such, the user community is expected to be quite large, encompassing virtually all European users of X.400 and internet electronic mail services, X.500 directory services, and WWW (World Wide Web) information access. In addition, the API is expected to be used by independent software vendors (ISVs) for international product offerings.

Sybase and NEXOR, as partners, intend to include MAITS in their product line.

IBM, HP, Software AG, Dunn and Bradstreet Software, The British Library and the European Union Document Publishing Office (OPOCE) have all shown a strong interest in incorporating MAITS in their development efforts.

The following international standards efforts can be considered users of MAITS: CEN/TC304, the European Locales and the European subset of ISO/IEC 10646, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG20 and WG15, POSIX Locales, and ISO/TC46/SC2 working on transliteration and transcription of Cyrillic and Greek.

Market Situation

The market is over ripe in anticipation for an integrated globalization solution such as MAITS. With the increase in cross-national commerce, the growth of EU organizational entities, and the explosion ofthe use of telematic services (such as WWW, e-mail, and commercial services such as EuropeOnline and CompuServe) by non-English speaking users, a very strong demand has been shown for tools and software that enhance a native-speaker's use of the InfoBahn. The key to MAITS is that it takes a unified solution and spreads it across several widely accepted standards to increase the ability of sharing data between heterogeneous multilingual data with users in multiple locales simultaneously. Webcore, INRIA, CEN/TC304, and other groups have already shown a high degree of interest in MAITS. A study will be done to estimate the size of the potential market for MAITS-enabled software.

Project Objectives

The objects of MAITS are to:

- create specifications for Level 0 to Level 3 TLP as an enhancement to the 'C' Programming Language,
- implement an 'C'-language API for Level 0 to Level 2,
- publish a standard set of guidelines for using MAITS in global multilingual distributed applications,
- enhance X.400, X.500, exmh, WWW, and Sybase to use Level 0 to Level 2 TLP,
- do a feasibility study and small demonstration of Level 3 TLP,
- publicly demonstrate and exploit MAITS with a number of interested partners in multiple languages in multiple countries,
- participate on standards bodies to encourage MAITS to be included in the 'C' programming language, X.400, X.500, Internet, SQL, CORBA, and the WWW standards.

Technology Base

The existing core technology exists, but in different, non-standardized forms. The 'C' programming language has the concept of "locales", with X/Open recommendations for further changes for distributed processing. Transliteration is a design feature of the "C3" conversion engine. Codeset conversion is already an integral part of Alis Technologies and Sybase products. And machine translation packages exists for many language pairs and many platform environments. MAITS aims to integrate these many disparate technologies in an integrated, unified whole, to enable the standards bodies that influence the ultimate content and format of telematic services for global multilingual distributed environments.

Application Scenarios

The following are typical scenarios where MAITS can be used as a solution.

0. Level 0 TLP - Codeset Conversion. The classic example here is a user working with a PC under PC-DOS, with a default code page of cp850, accessing information which is encoded in ISO/IEC 8859-1 (Latin 1). All accented characters would be incorrectly displayed and/or input unless codeset conversion took place. With MAITS, the application (X.400, X.500, Internet e-mail, WWW, and Sybase) will query the client environment and the server (or source data) formats and then utilize the correct codeset conversion engine accordingly. The low-level MAITS API will be used to do the conversions.

1. Level 1 TLP - Transliteration and Localized Cultural String Formats. In this scenario, a user using WWW follows a link from their home machine in Paris to a university in Athens. The user does not know how to read Greek, but she does know what reference works she is looking for. In this case, with Level 1 TLP enabled, the Greek script would be automatically transliterated into Latin characters, in a manner sensitive to the French language. This scenario can be repeated for e-mail (X.400, internet), directory services (X.500), and vendor applications (Sybase). The low-level MAITS API will be used to do the transliteration.

2. Level 2 TLP - Translation Memory. Now, the user switches over to use directory services, using X.500 to find experts in Greek philosophy throughout Europe. The trouble is, the data in the X.500 directories is entered in the local language at each site (German in Germany, Italian in Italy, etc.). Using Level 2 TLP, the X.500 service translates the keywords and attributes of the query into each appropriate target language after first submitting the query in the source language and English to maximize the number of valid search "hits". If, for instance, the target language is encoded in Cyrillic or Greek, and the user has no ability to display the script, the Level 1 transliteration can pop into effect to make the results usable to the end-user.

3. Level 3 TLP - Machine Translation. Once an expert is found, a WWW reference is found in the directory, so the end-user attempts to access the information they need. The user finds that the Web page is written in Russian, so they request a machine-translated copy to be sent to them via e-mail (or some other means as is deemed feasible during the design phase of MAITS). The machine translated copy is then read to glean enough information out of the text to decide if further research is needed along those lines or not.

Progress and results: Exploitation

It can be seen how this simple scenario can be extrapolated and expanded upon many times for useful exchange of information between social agencies, corporate entities, academic users, and home recreational users. The expected result of the MAITS project is a greater degree of communication between users of different languages, and a greater degree of openness to data in different geographic locations, different encodings, different scripts, and different languages.

The MAITS project deliverables are:
- Extensions to the 'C' Programming Language to support Transparent Language Processing
- Standard Guidelines for use of the MAITS API and protocol enhancements needed to communicate globalized information from application to application in order to effectively maintain a transparent language environment.
-X.400 with MAITS enhancements
-X.500 with MAITS enhancements
-exmh internet mail tool with MAITS enhancements
-WWW Web Server and Browser with MAITS enhancements
-Level 3 TLP feasibility study and demonstration

Commercial X.400, X.500, a WWW Web browser, and client/server application development tools will be created and marketed as a result of the MAITS research and development. It is expected that the standards resulting from MAITS will become widely accepted in the standards and TS communities.

Two users groups will be established: one from the service operators and the other from the end users. In the service operator group the following bodies will take part: DKnet, Denmark; UNINET, Norway; DFN, Germany; ARNES, Slovenia;, GARR, Italy; and EUnet, covering several European countries. This service providers group is expected to provide input in the validation phase and testing. The end user group which is expected to be set up after the validation and testing will take part in the demonstration stage. Here, the following organizations will take part: University of Klagenfurt, Austria; Elletra, Trieste, Italy; INRIA, France; National Technical University of Athens, Greece; Institut Jozef Stefan, Slovenia; University of Salford, United Kingdom; as well as customers and employees of NEXOR, Sybase, and Alis Technologies. The MAITS project is expected to enter into coordinated efforts with other LE-Sector projects, but the degree of integration has not yet been determined.

Go to the MAITS homepage.