Interoperability is the ability of independent systems to exchange meaningful information and initiate actions from each other in order to operate together for mutual benefit. Interoperability is achieved when software and hardware developed by various vendors communicate on multiple machines.
The IEEE Glossary defines interoperability as:
"The ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged."
Two main types of interoperability are discussed in literature; syntactic and semantic interoperability.
Types of Interoperability
Syntactic interoperability is defined as two or more systems capable of communicating and exchanging data. Specified data formats and communication protocols are fundamental to this type of interoperability. In general, XML or SQL standards provide syntactic interoperability. This is also true for lower-level data formats, such as ensuring that alphabetical characters are stored in ASCII format in both of the communicating systems. Syntactical interoperability is a prerequisite for achieving any further interoperability.
Semantic interoperability is the ability of two or more computer systems to automatically interpret information exchanged between them meaningfully and accurately in order to produce useful results as defined by the end users of both systems. To achieve semantic interoperability, both systems must defer to a common information exchange reference model. The content of the information exchange requests are unambiguously defined: what is sent is the same as what is understood.
Interoperability in GIS
Geographic Information System (GIS) software is increasingly used in large multiuser environments where spatial data is accessed using a variety of platforms and devices from relational database management systems (RDBMS) residing on a wide assortment of servers and operating systems. In order to be open, therefore, a GIS must support platform-independent solutions implemented in heterogeneous environments composed of different server hardware; operating systems; networks; databases; development tools; and desktop, Web, and mobile clients.
- Semantic interoperability.Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. IEEE Standard Computer Dictionary: A Compilation of IEEE Standard Computer Glossaries. New York, NY: 1990.
- C. Jovellanos; Semantic and Syntactic Interoperability in Transactional Systems. Proceedings of the 4th ACM conference on Electronic commerce, 2003.
- C. Jovellanos; ContextMetrics™:Semantic and Syntactic Interoperability in Cross-Border Trading Systems. 20th International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE ’04 -April 2004). pp 808-810
- Interoperability. The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Retrieved July 27, 2010, from Dictionary.com website.
- Spatial Data Standards and GIS Interoperability, An Esri White Paper • January 2003