Glossary definition of SyncML

Also known as: Synchronized Markup Language

SyncML (Synchronised Markup Language) is an open protocol allowing mobile devices to support sychronized network data, so that users can work whilst away from the network. It was finalised in 2000 by a group of companies (including IBM, Nokia and Psion), after the need was identified to amalgamate the set of disparate and incompatible proprietary standards for synchronisation of that time.

SyncML allows mobile users to store data from a network on their mobile device (e.g. handset or PDA) and continue to work on that data whilst away from the network; later, the device can reconnect to the network and send the changes back for others to use. There is also some provision in case the original data was modified whilst the mobile user was away.

The typical end result of this is that you can take whatever you were doing on your office computer and put a copy on your PDA or mobile phone, and work on this away from the office. When you want to resume work on your office computer, you can tell your mobile device to synchronize, which will update the master copy; then, you can seamlessy continue working on the updated document back on your office computer.

The SyncML protocol has been specifically developed to work over the extreme network conditions that mobile stations often experience, as having an irregular or even no connection is common. SyncML can tolerate very high communication delays, will work over extremely limited bandwidth (using technology originally developed for WAP), and can tolerate the loss of network data which occurs (for example) when carrier signal strength suddenly drops.

SyncML is also very versatile, allowing users to synchronize over many different transport protocols, including HTTP, OBEX, and WAP; theres also support for SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4. The operation that is carried out in the SyncML application on the mobile device works transparently over all these different transport protocols. Data can be synchronised over most packet switching networks, including GSM and 3G operator networks, and the Internet.

To save on the complexity of the software and the hardware storage requirements needed to support SyncML, it is based on XML, based on the assumption that most handsets supporting SyncML already have an XML parser built in (this will be part of any XHTML browser). Being XML based also makes it easier to develop SyncML extensions (open or proprietary) to suit various different applications.

The authoritative resource on SyncML is the SyncML Initiative website at SyncML is a registered trademark.