Interoperability: The ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information
Interoperability refers to the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. It’s a hot topic in today’s digitally powered world of infrastructure and seen to be one of the significant barriers to realising true value from digital transformation.
At its broadest level the infrastructure sector has a well-documented productivity problem. For decades low margins, inefficiencies and cost pressures have compromised outcomes to customers and end users, with projects falling short of their potential.
The problem partly lies with the ways we manage and utilise information throughout the asset lifecycle. Historically, accessing useful asset data has been a highly inefficient process. Digital transformation presents a solution, allowing engineers to access information in seconds rather than days.
While digital sets out a path to efficient decision-making we need to catch up on a strategic level. Too often project information strategies don’t reflect ultimate outcomes. Planning teams haven’t engaged enough with the supply chain to understand what data is really needed - and at which stages. There are also technical challenges around data exchange, such as file format compatibility and vendor lock-in.
Part of the problem is also about industry culture. Traditionally, design and contractor teams have worked in silos with the main aim of meeting the needs of their immediate paymasters. While the industry’s broad direction of travel is driving more collaboration and open working we need stronger incentives to encourage information sharing throughout the supply chain.
This article was written by Ben McAlinden and was originally published on the ICE Blog on 8 June 2018.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Articles by ICE on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Construction's interoperability challenge.
- Data portability.
- Industry Foundation Classes IFC.
- Internet of things.
- Open data - how can it aid the development of the construction industry?
- Open Data Institute.
- Open data.
- PAS 1192-2:2013.