Localizing measurements, "automagically"

Meters, feet or yards – there are still no common global measurement units, and perhaps there never will be. Using DITA, we can achieve automated localization for figures and their units.

Text by Jang F.M. Graat


Image: © trigga/istockphoto.com

In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft crashed into the surface of the red planet. This put a very premature end to a highly technical product that had taken US$125 million and many years to develop. It also set back another project that was going to use the orbiter as a communications relay station. The reason for the crash was a simple human error: Engineers had assumed that acceleration data was given in metric units, when the engine supplier had used inches. Obviously, the data was not marked up in XML (although the standard did exist as a release candidate back then).

This is a perfect example of the added value that semantic markup can bring. With markup that identifies a measurement as a specific unit, any mismatch in the data could have easily been detected and corrected before the spacecraft was launched.

Without a doubt, in the space industry, the effects of such a ...