Version 156 (modified by gordonrachar, 13 years ago)


History of ISO 15926


  1. Abstract
  2. Metaphor: Interoperability is Like Heavier-Than-Air Flight
  3. How We Store and Exchange of Textual Information
  4. How We Know and Understand Things
  5. How We Use the Internet to Find Information
  6. How we Store and Exchange Plant Information
  7. Next


Interoperability of digital information became an issue almost as soon as computers made their way into engineering offices. Many organizations from around the world have been working on this topic for many years, from Owner/Operators, Constructors, Consulting Engineers, and Software Developers. Many standards initiatives world wide are involved, some having been created just for this purpose.

Metaphor: Interoperability is Like Heavier-Than-Air Flight

There have been many attempts at interoperability, some fizzling out in a few years, some lasting until today. Different organizations, with different needs, have tried different approaches. All of these attempts have had to deal with how to convey the meaning of the data as it (the data) is being transmitted. Some solutions are based on limiting the scope of the data in order to simplify the task of conveying meaning, others attempt to allow unlimited scope.

At the lowest level, interoperability is extremely complex, just as the mechanics of flying is extremely complex. Fortunately, when it is mature, using ISO 15926 will be about as complicated as using flight is today. For instance, your humble author, sitting in the middle of Western Canada in the coldest winter since Al Gore started on the rubber chicken circuit, is right now thinking about using heavier-than-air flight. But if I do, I will not have to concern myself with things like power-to-weight ratios, or the exact curve of the wing to maximize the difference in air pressure between the upper and lower surfaces. I will simply phone my travel agent and book a flight to Mexico. Similarly, when ISO 15926 is mature, all most users will need to know is which button to push to connect to a business partner.

ISO 15926 is a solution to interoperability of plant information made possible by the convergence of four areas of interest:

  • How we store and exchange textual information
  • How we know and understand things
  • How we use the Internet to find things
  • How we store and exchange plant information

We may well end up with more than one tool for interoperability, just as there is more than one way to do heavier-than-air flight. (For example, glider, propeller airplane, jet airplane, and helicopter.) But just as in flight, where the common element to all modes of flight is a particular shape of whatever is doing the lifting (wing, rotor, aircraft body), we are starting to see that the dictionary of terms (Part 4) is becoming a common element. In Figure 1, below, this is shown as the common use of ISO 15926 Part 4, the reference data library.

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Fig 1 - History of ISO 15926

How We Store and Exchange of Textual Information

One of the first uses of computers was to manage large bodies of written information. But as we have all personally experienced, hardware and software changes every few years. Every time an organization changes its technology, its entire collection has to be moved to the new system. Because of the immense size of some of these collections, rekeying is impossible.

From this need we now have well-developed technology for moving text in a way that preserves any embedded context, or meaning. One example is XML, which is used by many systems as a transport language. It is a marriage of the lowest common denominator, ASCII text files which virtually every computer system worldwide can read, with the sophistication of being able to embed complex definitions and relationships.

ISO 15926 uses XML to transport information.

How We Know and Understand Things

Exchanging information between two well-known applications is relatively simple. When we know exactly what all the data values mean on both sides of the transaction, it is easy to map them together. But when we move toward vision of ISO 15926, where anything-can-talk-to-anything, we can no longer count on knowing anything at all about the information on the other side of the transaction.

In order to transmit information reliably to a random receiver, we must have a common method of classifying things. This is the study of Taxonomy and Ontology.

ISO 15926 classifies plant objects using an open, extensible Ontology.

How We Use the Internet to Find Information

The amount of information that is available on the Internet is truly staggering. Unfortunately, most of it is junk. Worse, much of what isn't junk is not stored in locations, or in forms, that are intuitive to all Internet users. And because the information is not presented in a uniform manner, understanding whether a given piece of information is worthwhile or not usually requires a human being to sift through it page-by-page.

The vision of the Semantic Web is that human users will be able to launch an intelligent agent that will sift through this huge mass of data on its own and report back when it finds something. But to enable this we need a way of describing information in a manner that embeds into the the information, some of the context humans use to understand things.

ISO 15926 leverages the tools developed for the Semantic Web.

How we Store and Exchange Plant Information

Most plant engineers are familiar with the issue of transferring the contents of a CAD drawing from one authoring system to another. (In North America the two dominant CAD systems are AutoCAD and MicroStation.) But this is not a new issue at all. It goes back several decades to when we first used computers in engineering, and affects every industry that requires engineering, which is to say, pretty much everything we can see and touch.

The huge demand for free and easy exchange of plant, and other, information has spawned a great many initiatives.

ISO 15926 is a direct result of many prior initiatives.


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