Semantic Interoperability

SAN FRANCISCO 5 December 2011To Meet the Challenge of Semantic Interoperability Illumonus LLC Renews Emphasis on Semantic Analytical Services

Interoperability is one of the most overused words in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) world.

Everyone, from IT architects to IT directors to government policy makers, wants it and constantly talks about it; and it is consistently a favorite subject for every ITC conference. But, because it takes considerable time, resources, and effort to achieve even modest progress, few initiatives are really successful.

International interoperability is even harder—requiring the integration of organizational, legal, technical, and semantic elements—and this is especially so in developing the foundations for free and efficient trade across borders such as in the recently proposed Asia Pacific Free Trade Area, in the European Union, and in other public sector initiatives[1]. In the private sector, eBusiness developments in international trade are growing fast but are mainly sectoral.

Illumonus has found the biggest challenges to interoperability in both the public and private sectors are at the strategic and semantic levels. At the strategic level, where concept models can help, the challenges also include the choice of a set of core business processes, and a scoping decision either to start with a global and cross-sectorial viewpoint, or to try to expand one’s domestic system in a one-size-fits-all approach.

But the really difficult area, requiring global knowledge and quality resources, is at the semantic level. Within any industry or service sector there is probably a well-honed understanding of semantical meaning built on many years of operating EDI systems within the same sector, but between sectors the semantic interoperability issue is acute.

For instance if a citizen of country A wants to purchase land in country B, the purchaser will be asked to submit the proper address data. Address data in both countries includes: full name details, street name and number, city name, as well as a post code. The order of the address details might vary. In the same language it may not be an obstacle to correctly order the provided address data; but across language barriers this seemingly simple effort becomes more and more difficult.

The critical issue is that if semantic data is interpreted differently, computerized collaboration is extremely limited.

So, beyond the ability of two or more computer systems to exchange information, semantic interoperability is the ability to automatically interpret the information.


[1] Last year the European Commission passed a ministerial communication on interoperability in the public sector  <http://ec.europa.eu/isa/documents/isa_iop_communication_en.pdf >
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