Business Interoperability through the Web
Geert Houben, Kris Luyten, Karin Coninx
Hasselt University tUL Expertise Centre for Digital Media
Wetenschapspark, 2, BE-3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Frank Sch
MUL-Services GmbH
Pontdriesch, 10, D-52062 Aachen, Germany
Automotive aftermarket, technical information, SOA, e-procurement, EAI, service provisioning.
The Block Excemption Regulation of the European Commission was enacted in 2002 with the goal to
strengthen competition between dependent and independent repairers in the automotive after-sales market.
The FP6 MYCAREVENT project embraces these goals while triggering new business opportunities by estab-
lishing a mobile accessible infrastructure as single gateway to different kinds of resources. This information
procurement framework allows customers to find specific vehicle repair and diagnostic data from different car
manufacturers and 3
parties in the same way. In order to provide a higher degree of accessibility, extensibil-
ity and adaptivity, our service-oriented infrastructure presented in this paper is web-based and consists of three
main components: Mobile Clients, Service Portal and Remote Services. New communication and multime-
dia technologies are invoked to improve interoperability, usability and maintenance of the underlying Mobile
Service World. In this paper we focus on the architecture of our highly flexible procurement infrastructure.
Standardized elements and methodologies ensure an integrated solution and enable easy expandability with
new content, services and components.
The European automotive market is known as being
very competitive due to the large amount of car man-
ufacturers (OEMs). The after-sales market is just a
branch of this industry but plays a very important
role from a business perspective (¤ 40 billion p.a.
volume), and will become even more important in
the future. In the FP6 MYCAREVENT project, new
services and innovative applications are being devel-
oped to support different types of end-users to cope
with the increasing -electronic- complexity of cars
and their repair procedures. New communication and
multimedia technologies are exploited to improve the
accessibility and usability of the information and ser-
vices, which can be seamlessly and securely accessed
by different types of mobile devices ((Houben et al.,
2005a)). End-users in the sense of MYCAREVENT
are workshop mechanics, roadside technicians, sup-
port call-centre operators and the driver.
Car manufacturers have a comprehensible interest
to protect their IPR and to safeguard market shares.
But internal secrecy of vehicle related repair informa-
tion could cause market restrictions for the after-sales
sector. The Block Exemption Regulation (BER) of
the European Commission ((FIGIEFA, 2002)) targets
this issue to widely open the market to independent
repairers as well as enabling further business oppor-
tunities. By giving all service providers the same right
to access different kinds of repair and diagnosis infor-
mation, training material and tools, the competition
and competitiveness of the after-sales market will be
strengthened. However, there is only limited collab-
oration among the key players in this field and the
traditional business models and processes do not fa-
cilitate interaction among market participants. The
project aims to create a win-win-situation for all key
players by establishing a suitable framework to sup-
port this collaboration. We call the collection of ser-
vices, users and content the MYCAREVENT Mobile
Service World, see Figure 1.
Houben G., Luyten K., Coninx K. and Schönherr F. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - SAIC, pages 45-50
DOI: 10.5220/0002365700450050
Figure 1: The MYCAREVENT Mobile Service World.
The key innovation in the project is the seamless
integration of novel services and different informa-
tion sources via a Service Portal as single point of
access for end-users. To enable this integration and
to harmonize the access of information from a huge
variety of repositories, we present a unified definition
of car-repair service interfaces together with a web-
service oriented middleware. Companies are able to
host their own services and share information regard-
less of the underlying software platforms. Standard-
ized XML messaging, a generic workflow and con-
sistent meta-data structures are required for providing
advanced search and diagnosis mechanisms as well as
unified user interfaces to access this information.
Mobility is an important requirement: the degree
of accessibility of the Internet these days allows the
customer to be connected whenever and wherever.
The MYCAREVENT infrastructure is a network of
several interrelated web entities: web servers that are
connected over the Internet and communicating using
XML web services (Booth et al., 2004). This implies
considerable advantages regarding software updates,
accessibility, modularity and integration of new ser-
vices. Nevertheless such a loosely coupled interor-
ganizational network requires predefined communi-
cation rules and well-defined interfaces.
A detailed project requirement analyzes phase
mainly revealed four important aspects, not only rele-
vant within MYCAREVENT:
Flexibility in the supported business models to
cover existing market situations and to increase
acceptance on user and on provider side
Integration of various and inhomogeneous kinds
of information structures and repositories
Providing a unified/homogeneous user interface
and search functionality to facilitate easy access
to repair information
Expandability towards future services and (meta)
data requirements which could arise e.g. from
follow-up regulations of the current BER
In this paper we focus on the architecture of the
information procurement infrastructure and the nec-
essary elements that contribute to the smooth integra-
tion and cooperation of isolated services or informa-
tion repositories. During the last two years of MY-
CAREVENT a prototype with a short time-to-market
is developed and will be refined, amended and fi-
nalised in the upcoming year. Business and operator
models are defined for the exploitation phase of the
product, but are out of the scope of this paper ((Garg
et al., 2004)). In the following section we describe
in more detail the scope, the goal, the challenges, the
benefits and the target user groups our architecture has
to deal with.
The Block Exemption Regulation (BER) provides the
legal framework for regulations regarding the dis-
tribution and maintenance of motor vehicles. MY-
CAREVENT offers a uniform and generic solution
which not only covers the BER regulation but also
allows the user to compare information and offers ac-
cess to advanced services (examples are provided fur-
ther in the text). We call this framework the ‘repair in-
formation procurement infrastructure’ as it is directed
form the information supplier to the customer.
When having a closer look on the automotive af-
termarket, a huge collection of technical information
exists within car companies, independent roadside as-
sistance services and driver organisations. Bringing
this content together, linking it with diagnostic infor-
mation and offering unified access to it via a single
mobile accessible platform will allow manufacturer-
dependent as well as independent mechanics and also
to speed up information retrieval and con-
sequently repair procedures. Market analysis ((MY-
CAREVENT, 2005)) have shown huge benefits for
the different user groups. This paper will mainly fo-
cus on the architecture and technological challenges.
A major challenge is the remarkable diversity
in the structuring, naming and composition of data
It is not intended by MYCAREVENT to provide the
driver with the same kind of repair information than profes-
sional mechanics
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
within different car companies and other content
providers. This heterogeneity requires a well-defined,
standardized MYCAREVENT data model that is flex-
ible, adaptable and implemented across the differ-
ent content providers. The data model, developed
within the project, is a meta model; it describes the
data and extends it with uniform properties to make
it accessible and analysable by a wide variety of ad-
vanced search mechanisms, like Ontologies ((Bryan
and Wright, 2005)) or Expert systems. This approach
permits leaving the original content provider/OEM
data largely untouched, having in mind that forcing a
change of existing data provider structures easily can
incur unpredictable costs as it targets related author-
ing systems and processes.
The data model concept described in the previ-
ous paragraph forms the basis for the message for-
mat that is defined to enable standardized communi-
cation between the various components and services.
The flow of information and the order of interaction
between the end-user and the system are laid down
by the generic workflow steps. Communication links
are established over the standard Internet protocol:
SOAP envelopes are used to circulate generic XML
messages over HTTP. Identical web service interfaces
are implemented on top of every component. Using
the Internet for communicating offers advantages re-
garding mobility, adaptivity, ubiquity and extensibil-
ity. Nevertheless the use of an open media requires
a secure and authenticated communication channel,
e.g. via VPN-routers as a cost-efficient and well-
established industrial standard.
The web service interfaces, the standardized mes-
saging and the generic workflow are the three basic
elements for communication between previously iso-
lated entities. Due to these elements, it is clear and
well defined respectively how to communicate, what
to communicate and in which order to communicate.
Three main parts constitute the infrastructure:
Mobile Clients (accessing the information), the Ser-
vice Portal (core of the infrastructure) and the Remote
Services (providing services or information). The Ser-
vice Portal is the core component that channels the
user demand through a single, comprehensive gate-
way. It covers flexible business rules and basic re-
quirements, such as user management, to enable a
wide variety of functionalities such as multi-language
search and diagnosis, information distribution, host-
ing and authoring of repair information. Eventu-
ally it makes centrally accessible the range of MY-
CAREVENT Remote Services.
Examples of services and content in the MY-
CAREVENT Mobile Service World are: Interactive
Circuit Diagrams to repair electronic components in
the car, Technical Tips about generally operated repa-
rations or fixes on specific car models, Electronic
Driver Manuals with animations and graphical data,
Diagnostic Services to analyse vehicle fault codes, an
Expert System to lead the user through the diagno-
sis of a car breakdown, Value Added Services for the
driver (infotainment, news, traffic information, simple
guided car reparations), an Advanced Query Service
for searching repair information by making use of on-
The MYCAREVENT infrastructure offers multi-
ple benefits to the aftermarket. Services and content
from different companies and organisations are inte-
grated into a single service portal that is ‘always, ev-
erywhere and uniformly’ accessible on different mo-
bile devices. By its interoperability between different
providers, services that were previously stand-alone
entities can now be combined and amended with the
further information available in the infrastructure. It
brings vehicle information handling, gathering, main-
tenance and repair to a higher level of use; for exam-
ple, in the case of a breakdown, linking the fault code
of the car with simple self-repair instructions (movie,
pictures, etc.) ((Houben et al., 2005b)); or answer-
ing iterative hierarchical questions to an Expert Sys-
tem which eventually provides the most probable er-
ror and an advice whether it is safe to continuing driv-
ing or not.
On the repair level, independent workshops or
roadside assistance companies are able to easily ac-
cess OEM information, which allows them to per-
form even complex repairs. Repair and diagnosis pro-
cedures are speeded up, success rates are enhanced
while sharing infrastructure costs, resulting eventu-
ally in higher customer satisfaction. On the level of
information provision via the infrastructure; by pro-
viding different information from different resources,
it can be easily compared, in content and price.
In this section the architecture of the repair informa-
tion procurement framework is described. The basic
flow of information between mobile clients, the por-
tal and the remote services is defined as follows: the
client requests information from the portal, the portal
routes this request to the appropriate service(s), these
service(s) respond to the portal, which forwards the
response to the client. These workflow steps are elab-
orated in Section 3.2. The communication between
the components is supported by XML-based mes-
sages and corresponding web services. Web services
allow us to use the standard HTTP protocol without
Business Interoperability through the Web
Figure 2: Architectural overview of the procurement frame-
incurring firewall restrictions or interoperability prob-
The clients of the Service Portal are the mobile ap-
plication providers offering the user interface for uti-
lizing and querying the portal. In Section 3.1 we will
focus on such a client that has been implemented as
part of the presented infrastructure: the Presentation
Server. The Presentation Server translates the portal
messages into human readable web pages and serves
as the interaction layer between the end-user and the
MYCAREVENT infrastructure.
3.1 System Components
Figure 2 shows the architectural overview of the in-
frastructure. This architecture enables the develop-
ment of different presentation engines (user inter-
faces) or end-user applications, related to the business
model of the respective provider. These applications
can depend on the envisaged target user group, the en-
visaged information provisioning, the envisaged tar-
get device etc. In the prototype we have created, cur-
rently there is one direct consumer of the portal web
service interface: the Presentation Server (PS).
The PS is a web server that consists of two main
parts: a message engine to communicate with the Ser-
vice Portal and a visualization engine that provides
the user interface. The visualization engine trans-
forms the portal messages into user readable and in-
teractive web pages accessible with a standard web
browser. This web-based approach has several bene-
fits: a standard web browser can be used and is avail-
able on nearly all platforms; updates are done on the
server instead of updating all the clients; processing
the data at runtime is done server-side and does not
rely on the client. This last advantage ensures the re-
quired capabilities for client devices to interact with
the PS are limited and a wide range of devices can
be used. There are also some disadvantages or re-
strictions using the web-based approach, e.g. limited
graphical support, browser plug-ins needed for ded-
icated or advanced functionality, but after all it fits
very well the requirements and idea of ‘ubiquity’ of
MYCAREVENT. The client terminals in figure 2 are
connected to the Service Portal/Presentation Server
by using a Intelligent Connection (INCO) which pro-
vides seamless connectivity regardless of the used ra-
dio access system (GSM, UMTS, WLAN, ...), see e.g.
(Gehlen et al., 2006) for more details.
The Service Portal answers the incoming PS re-
quests with downloaded data to the client devices
like repair/diagnosis information or with routing the
request to the appropriate services. Multiple Remote
Services can be simultaneously queried within the
same user inquiry to provide the customer supplemen-
tary and diversified results. The direct querying and
comparison of different providers enables transpar-
ent user decisions. When e.g. an independent road-
side assistance organisation provides technical tips on
reparations for a specific car type, in similar cases
these tips could be more useful than buying the of-
ficial OEM repair manual for twice the price. But
price comparison is not the most important benefit;
the customer gets a better and more specific offer due
to the extensive range of content and information that
is available on the one hand and because of the deliv-
ered data is tailored to the user situation on the other
In Section 2 we already gave some examples for
Remote Services. The next example shows the use
of it. Think of the following scenario: your car has
broken down and the roadside technician accesses the
MYCAREVENT system with a dedicated application
on his PDA. The PDA connects with the car diag-
nosis plug (OBD) over Bluetooth, reads out the fault
code and sends it to the portal over GPRS. The por-
tal forwards the code to the diagnosis services, which
translates it and returns a description of this fault in
MYCAREVENT terms (according to the information
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
Figure 3: The main steps of the information procurement
generic workflow.
model). The portal forwards this fault description
to the Advanced Query Service, which answers with
document search results related to that fault, even if
the fault or document itself is not expressed in MY-
CAREVENT terminology (see the meta model con-
cept above). The list of solutions is sent to the techni-
cian who downloads the document(s) that are required
to fix the problem.
3.2 Generic Workflow
Information procurement with the MYCAREVENT
infrastructure is a stepwise and well-defined process,
divided into six successive steps (Figure 3). This
workflow defines the flow of information and the im-
plicit and explicit user interactions with the system.
The first step in the workflow is the user authen-
tication. Secondly the user has to choose a mis-
sion from the mission menu. Examples of missions
that are included in the implemented prototype are:
searching for repair information, training on using the
infrastructure, vehicle diagnosis, driver self-help etc.
The third step is vehicle identification. Accessing re-
pair or diagnostic information makes in most cases
only sense when the particular vehicle is identified or
at least the make and model are known. Based on
further car properties like sales model, year of manu-
facturing or fuel type, services can decide if they are
able to provide useful information or request via mes-
saging more details. Selecting or deselecting (filter-
ing) particular services for being multi-queried is step
In the fifth step the queried services have the op-
portunity to request further information from the user
in order to provide more appropriate solutions. E.g. in
the ’Repair information’ mission the services can ask
the user via the PS for the car component and subcom-
ponent (e.g. ‘Washer system’, ‘Headlight washer’) or
a symptom description (e.g. ‘Headlight washer does
not function anymore’). The sixth and last step is the
solution retrieval. As the infrastructure is web-based,
the solution is downloaded from the portal or from a
content provider.
Figure 4: Flow of information in the MYCAREVENT in-
Figure 4 illustrates the situation in the current pro-
totype, comparable to the geographical ‘widespread’
of MYCAREVENT users, service and data providers.
For example, a client in Spain uses a laptop to ac-
cess the MYCAREVENT framework over the Inter-
net. The user communicates with the Presentation
Server that translates the HTTP requests into mes-
sages conform with the standardized message struc-
ture. These messages are sent to the portal, which
forwards them to the appropriate services. The portal
bundles the responses from the services and sent the
result to the Presentation Server that generates HTML
pages which can be accessed by the client that initi-
ated the request. This process is repeated for each step
in the workflow.
3.3 Message Definition
The web service communication between the compo-
nents is not method-based, but uses XML-based mes-
sages to interact with the web services. Only a sin-
gle method is therefore required in the web service
layers that takes care of the messages: MCEMessage
In the introduction of this paper we described
the unified access to different sources of informa-
tion from different companies/information providers.
As these sources have no uniform data structures, a
standardized meta-model has to be created to embed
the original information in or to ‘describe’ the infor-
mation. This allows search engines to find the rel-
evant information. The data model, defined in the
project to deal with these issues, is called GIIRM
Business Interoperability through the Web
(Generic Integrated Information Reference Model,
(MYCAREVENT, 2006)). It reflects and recognizes
relationships between faults, vehicle systems, symp-
toms, repair information etc. which enables ‘intelli-
gent’ searching.
The MYCAREVENT message structure is an ag-
gregation of different parts of the data model. Classes
of meta data or bundles of information (IB) are de-
fined to describe the different parts of the GIIRM. In-
formation model categories exist for user profile, mis-
sion description, vehicle identification, problem de-
scription, solution and so on. These parts match the
generic workflow steps and are incrementally added
to the messages during the procurement process. The
messages are stateless; all relevant information is
available at any time in the process.
Listing 1: VehicleTypeIdentification Information Bundle as
part of a MCEMessage.
<V e h i c l e T y p e I d e n t i f i c a t i o n I B >
<s t a t u s v a l u e = i d e n t i f i e d >
<r e c ei v e d Va lu e>
<v a lue>Volks wagen </v a l u e>
</ r e c e iv e d V a lu e>
</ s t a t u s >
<s t a t u s v a l u e = i d e n t i f i e d >
<r e c ei v e d Va lu e>
<v a lue>P a ss a t </v a l u e>
</ r e c e iv e d V a lu e>
</ s t a t u s >
<Year >... </ Year>
</ V e h i c l e T y p e I d e n t i f i c a t i o n I B >
To draw an example: the user is already logged
in on the portal, the next step is choosing the mission.
The PS sends a message to the portal including a Mis-
sionDescription IB. The portal responds with the mis-
sions that are available for the current user profile and
user role. For every other workflow step a new infor-
mation bundle is added to the message or user/system
selected values inside IBs are changed. After the iden-
tification of the vehicle, the VehicleTypeIdentification
IB could look like the one in Listing 1.
The introduction of new mobile services and appli-
cations into the automotive aftersales market will en-
able new ways of collaboration and business oppor-
tunities among car manufacturers, roadside assistance
services, workshops and e.g. the car owners who will
all get benefits from it. When integrating complex
and various services into a single commercial service-
driven solution, a generic infrastructure and architec-
ture is required. Mobile clients, the core Service Por-
tal and various Remote Services enable the procure-
ment framework. They provide a market mechanism
consisting of a combination of transparent service and
information retrieval with concrete content and price
comparisons as well as e.g. cost reduction by shar-
ing the same infrastructure. To enable this interoper-
ability and collaboration between independent com-
panies, interface, communication and workflow defi-
nitions have to be specified. The Internet is used as the
underlying connection means and offers high bene-
fits regarding integration, adaptation and ubiquity. All
this contributes to MYCAREVENT meeting its main
objectives to strengthen competition and competitive-
ness among service providers in the automotive after-
sales sector.
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pion, M., Ferris, C., and Orchard, D. (2004). W3C
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Regulation 1400/2002/EC. FIGIEFA (International
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Economy: Issues, Applications, Case Studies.
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Walke, B. (2006). Architecture of a vehicle commu-
nication gateway for media independent handover. In
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(2005a). Interactive Systems on the Road: Devel-
opment of Vehicle User Interfaces for Failure Assis-
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inx, K. (2005b). Interactive Data Units: A Framework
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The research at EDM (UHasselt) is partly funded by
the Flemish government, EFRO, tUL and IBBT. The MY-
CAREVENT project FP6-IST No. 004402 is an Integrated
Project sponsored by the European Commission.
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems