Several months ago, moving into a new home I discovered the central heating system is controlled by ‘smart devices’. To make it work I had to invest in a ‘home hub’, initialise and pair the boiler controller and the smart thermostat to the hub, and install an app on my smart phone to control it. It’s quite good really. I can sit in my comfy chair and if I start feeling a bit chilly I just reach for the phone and crank up the temperature a bit. And when I’ve been out for the day and I’m on the way home I can reach for the phone and turn the heating on so that it’s toasty warm when I arrive.
In a companion article, “What is interoperability? (Part 1)” I began explaining what is meant by interoperability between systems; a concept that reveals itself to be more complex and more faceted than one might first imagine. My interest in exploring this is to develop thinking for my work in the GLOBIS-B project fostering global cooperation between providers of biodiversity research infrastructures to advance implementation support for Essential Biodiversity Variables. During the first half of this year, we’re aiming to develop a manifesto to steer global co-operation on informatics interoperability and I’m looking for ways to express this in concrete form that’s easy to work towards.
In this article, I go more in-depth looking at the way interoperability is understood today in several communities having relevance to the work. Let’s start with the ENVRI Community view of interoperability.
Used as an adjective, when two things are described as ‘interoperable’ it means they can work together. In the specific case of two computer systems, the characteristic of being interoperable relates to the ability to transmit and receive data between them i.e., to communicate. But is it that simple?