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The Search for the Elixir of Interoperability Reaches IoT Land

by Andrew White  |  May 16, 2018  |  Comments Off on The Search for the Elixir of Interoperability Reaches IoT Land

I saw with some interest an article today: New European consortium to improve IoT security, interoperability.  I have to say up front that I don’t cover Internet of Things, nor do I cover security.  I am in the data and analytics team and in this context I write to data trust, and data and analytics governance, which is mostly a business concern (as opposed to API governance, for example, which is mainly an IT concern).  So my focus is on the trust and consistency in the data that flows through IoT networks, not how well the networks connect to each other.  As such, “interoperability” has a special meaning.

As you may have noticed in past blogs on the topic of interoperability, the idea is quite simple but the practice is much, much harder.  And it turns out to be much, much harder since we don’t all agree what interoperability implies.  We all tend to agree the definition: have things designed by different folks easily connect with each other.  More colorfully we might go as far to compare:

  • Integration infers bolting or hard-coding two things together
  • Interoperability infers more of an assembly or interchangeable-brick like connection

I recently blogged on the challenges of data interoperability in healthcare: HealthIT Continues March toward Interoperability – Perhaps.  I sure hope this new IoT consortium takes heed of 30 years experience and efforts at interoperability.  The challenge to connect technology is quite low; the challenge to have uses of two networks, technically interoperable, does not automatically assure the data flowing across the two or more networks is meaningful or useful to users of either.

In other words, technical interoperability is quite different from semantic or data interoperability.  The former can be handled by IT and technicians on their own.  The latter requires business involvement as well as IT.  And there needs to be a driver, an outcome, to influence the involvement of bushiness users.  And that’s the sticky part of this journey.  Just ask retailers and their suppliers; or now organizations in healthcare.  And all the other plethora of industry standards efforts focused on “interoperability”.

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Category: data-integration  internet-of-things  interoperability  semantics  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio

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