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INTEROPERABILITY

Technical Standards
TECHNICAL STANDARDS 1  |  TECHNICAL STANDARDS 2  |  TECHNICAL STANDARDS 3

TECHNICAL STANDARDS HEADING 1

Interoperability is defined by the IEEE Standard Computing Dictionary (IEEE, 1990) as "the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.”

Standards and Interoperability

Standards are crucial for interoperability. In practice, there are two kinds. The first are standards that are authored and maintained by organizations such as:

  • The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
  • The International Organiation for Standardization (ISO)
  • The Digital Library Federation (DLF)
  • The IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS)
  • The Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC)
  • The IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (IEEE LTSC)
  • The Advanced Distributed Learning initiative (ADL)
  • And many, many others (AMMO)

All of these organizations are different in composition, process and legal standing but have the common characteristics that:

  1. Groups of individuals, companies and other “stakeholders” work together to produce technical specifications that anyone can obtain and use. (Rules vary: participation can be by invitation only, by members only, or by anyone. Membership can be for individuals, for organizations or for nations. Fees can be non-existent, minimal, or many thousands of dollars per year. Almost all organizations of this type use a consensus process, but definitions of consensus, rights of appeal, due process, etc. can differ.)
  2. The specifications are maintained by the group that produced them and there are mechanisms by which the “marketplace” can participate or give feedback.

Although it is not accurate to call all of these “standards”, it is common to do so and will be done here. (There is a formal distinction between a “specification,” which tells you what to do, a “de facto standard,” which is a specification that a community has agree to use and a “de jure standard,” which is a specification that has been approved as a standard by an accredited standards body such as the IEEE or ISO (the International Organization for Standardization).)

The second type of “standards” arises from the proliferation of a particular product or group of products in the marketplace. Examples include Microsoft Word, Flash, and Portable Document Format (PDF). Although almost anyone can open and use a Word file, and the Acrobat Reader and Flash plug-ins for Web browsers are ubiquitous and freely available, the intellectual property behind these formats is owned and maintained by single companies. It is acceptable to call these “standard file formats” or “standardized formats” but it is best to avoid calling them “standards.”

 

 

 

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