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History of ISO 15926

Status of this document: Working Draft

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  1. Storage and Exchange of Textual Information
    1. Dealing with Proprietary Hardware
    2. Dealing with Proprietary Software - Peronsal Scale
    3. Dealing with Proprietary Software - Industrial Scale
    4. Markup Languages
  2. Knowledge Representation
  3. The Semantic Web
  4. Interoperability Projects
    1. 1991 - ProcessBASE
    2. STEP
    3. EPISTLE
    4. ISO 15926
  5. Interoperability Organizations
    1. Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation (POSC)
    2. POSC Caesar Association

If you are new to ISO 15926 you might think that the question of storing and retrieving plant information so that it can be used for more than the initial purpose is a rather new question. It isn't. It is just that, until fairly recently, there hasn't been a practical method of doing so, beyond the limits of what a person could learn and know in a lifetime.

ISO 15926 is an interesting solution to interoperability of plant information. It has been made possible by the confluence of four areas of interest.

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Fig 1 - History of ISO 15926

Storage and Exchange of Textual Information

Human society has always had to find ways to manage, store, and retrieve information. The Library of Alexandria which burned down in 48 BC (according to one story), is an example of both the best technology for managing information in hard-copy form, and a major limitation of doing so.

With the advent of computer-managed storage in the mid twentieth century, information managers have had to grapple with two problems:

  • Survival of information beyond the lifetime of proprietary hardware.
  • Moving a large amount of information between proprietary systems.

Dealing with Proprietary Hardware

A typical example of this question is a help desk enquiry from the mid 1980's:

I have data I want to keep for decades. Should I invest in a good card reader, or should I transfer my data to these far more efficient but newfangled "floppy disks"?

Unfortunately, the best answer to this kind of question has always been rather labor intensive. That is, the only reliable way to keep digital information for decades is to upgrade your storage media every few years to whatever is the latest and greatest at the time. For personal use, in the 1980s it would have been 5 1/2" floppy disks. By the 1990s you would have had to copy all of your archive to 3 1/2" floppies. Then, sometime around 2000, the best storage medium became CDs, and a bit later, DVDs. At first everyone thought they would last for decades, but sometimes they didn't even last two:

Restored DVD key to conviction in rape case

Now, nearing the end of the first decade in the twenty-first century, flash drives are looking like they will be readable for quite awhile. But ask yourself the likelyhood of personal computers having USB ports in twenty years? Maybe, but whether or not in twenty years or forty years, at some point you will still have to load up your thumb drives and copy them to some new media; perhaps a three-dimensional, holographic memory block.

Dealing with Proprietary Software - Peronsal Scale

Unfortunately, even if you go through the exercise of transferring your archive every few years, how are you going to open the files twenty-five years from now? In the lifetime of your humble author (who is so old he can remember when an entire family had to make do with a single telephone), the word processor of choice has gone from WordStar, to Word Perfect, to Microsoft Word. [GPR: There has to be a good Mac vs PC joke I can use here!]

Working with Word 2002, now, as this is being written, we can see that Uncle Billy will let Word users open the following word processor file formats:

  • Word 2.0
  • Word 5.1 for Mac
  • Word 6.0 (95)
  • Word Perfect 5.0
  • Works 2000

Where is my beloved WordStar?

So now, if I actually want to be able to retrieve my personal archives for decades (perhaps I am thinking that after I become a famous author, a publisher will give me a million dollar advance to write my memoirs), I will have to open each of my archived files every couple years and somehow transfer the contents to whatever the new authoring software is.

This will remove the problem of having to keep old hardware and software around, but will introduce a new set of problems:

First, this solution will create an upper limit on how much information I can keep around. Since it will take a certain amount of time to upgrade my archive each cycle, I will have less and less time each round to create new information. Eventually I will just finish one upgrade when I will have to start over with new technology.

Second, who's to say there will always be a clear and easy upgrade path from one authoring software to the next? For example, what if I had a large number of files authored with obscure CAD software? What if the dominant players did not write the appropriate conversions into their offerings?

Well, there is another option:

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Attachment 'wiki:ISO15926Primer_History: LongtermStorage.jpg' does not exist.

Fig 2 - Long Term Information Storage Using the Internet

(This is taken from a Slashdot discussion on the topic of long-term data storage. Here is the complete article.)

Dealing with Proprietary Software - Industrial Scale

If the problem of moving information between proprietary systems is daunting on a personal level, try to imagine what it is like for organizations that create large bodies of documentation. Every model of aircraft you see today requires several million pages of documentation which has to be revised and published every quarter. (XML Handbook) The combined documentation libraries of the aircraft industry probably rivals the size of the entire world wide web. Yet every few years the dominant hardware changes, and along with it, the software used.

Goverments and law firms are in a similar situation.

Markup Languages

It is precicely these issues, the survival of information beyond the lifetime of proprietary hardware, and moving a large amount of information between proprietary systems, that prompted Charles Goldfarb, with Ed Mosher, and Ray Lorie at IBM to create "Generalized Markup Language" (GML) in the early 1960s.

  • GML
  • SGML
  • HTML
  • XML

More about Markup Languages?

Knowledge Representation

When you go beyond exchanging information between two computer applications that you understand very well, when you try to design a way for any two computer applications to connect to each other automatically without having to know anything at all about each other, you confront the question of how we represent knowledge. This is not just sophistry; if two computer systems are to connect to each other automatically, you must have a way to embed the necessary context within the data that is being exchanged.

Philosophy, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from bullshit. --Greg Berge

Two endevours are the W3C Consortium's Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL).

  • RDF
  • OWL

The Semantic Web

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in [GPR: When?], he invisioned much more than what we see today, essentially, verion 1.0. He invisioned an web environment where people could ask their personal digital assistants questions like "Is there a medical docter near here that specializes in geriatrics who has an open appointment before Friday noon?" and then go for coffee.

Interoperability Projects

1991 - ProcessBASE

Note to me: looks like a program to simulate processes (plant, computer?). it spawned some thought about transferring information. which lead to ProcessBASE, which lead to ISO 10302-AP221, which lead to STEP (or it already existed?) which lead to 15926




  • STEP
  • Industrial automation systems and integration - Product data representation and exchange
  • ISO 10303

ISO 10303 is an ISO standard for the computer-interpretable representation and exchange of industrial product data. Its official title is Industrial automation systems and integration - Product data representation and exchange, and it is also known as STEP or the Standard for the Exchange of Product model data. The standard's objective is to provide a mechanism that is capable of describing product data throughout the life cycle of a product, independent from any particular system. The nature of this description makes it suitable not only for neutral file exchange, but also as a basis for implementing and sharing product databases and archiving.

Typically STEP can be used to exchange data between CAD, Computer-aided manufacturing, Computer-aided engineering, Product Data Management/EDM and other CAx systems. STEP is addressing product data from mechanical and electrical design, Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, analysis and manufacturing, with additional information specific to various industries such as automotive, aerospace, building construction, ship, oil and gas, process plants and others.

STEP is developed and maintained by the ISO technical committee TC 184, Technical Industrial automation systems and integration, sub-committee SC4 Industrial data. Like other ISO and IEC standards STEP is copyright by ISO and is not freely available.



European Process Industries STEP Technical Liaison Executive

EPISTLE is a virtual organization with no employees, no funding, and no legal status.

The membership of EPISTLE is open to those organizations that are consortia of companies working to develop standards for information management and prepared to commit resources with other members to achieve commonly agreed objectives.

Individual companies and other organizations may attend EPISTLE meetings on an observer basis, but are encouraged to join or form a consortium that is a full member of EPISTLE. Observers may only speak on invitation of the chair of the meeting concerned, and may be asked to leave the meeting at the discretion of the chair.

Membership The founding members under this new constitution are:

  • POSC/Caesar


ISO 15926

ISO 15926 is a standard for data integration, sharing, exchange, and hand-over between computer systems.

In the early 2000s, for modeling-technical reasons POSC/Caesar proposed another standard than ISO 10303, called ISO 15926. EPISTLE (and ISO) supported that proposal, and continued the modeling work, thereby writing Part 2 of ISO 15926. This Part 2 has official ISO IS (International Standard) status since 2003.


Interoperability Organizations

Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation (POSC)

POSC started life as a consortium of 100 companies engaged in the production, refinement, and distribution of petrochemical products and of companies that supply hardware for those operations. POSC worked to share information among its members and to promote useful software modeling, data, and application integration standards.

At the 2006 Standards Summit & Reception in Houston on November 8, 2006, POSC Rebranded itself as Energistics

From its new website

Energistics' rebranding supports the new leadership goal of executing a market-focused business strategy. The mission of Energistics is to deliver to the upstream oil and gas industry the means to produce, deploy and maintain common information and data standards.

So it looks like only the name has changed.

POSC Caesar Association

  • Caesar Offshore Project
  • PetroChemical Open Software Corporation

The Caesar Offshore Program started in 1993 as an industry driven research and development project under the name of Caesar Offshore Program. It was sponsored by The Norwegian Research Council, Aker, DNV, Kværner, Norsk Hydro, Saga Petroleum and Statoil. The purpose of the project was to benefit the oil and gas industry by developing a product model for life cycle information. The focus was on standardizing the technical data definitions for facilities and equipment associated with onshore and offshore oil and gas production facilities. In the period 1994-96 Caesar Offshore Program was defined as a project of Petrotechnical Open Software Corporation (POSC), Houston, and changed its name to the POSC Caesar Project.

The technical work of POSC Caesar was more and more related to the ISO STEP standard and influenced by similar work in European standardization organization such as PISTEP in UK and USPI in the Netherlands through the virtual organization EPISTLE.

POSC Caesar Association was founded in 1997, as a global, non-profit, member organization that shall promote the development of openly available specifications to be used as standards for enabling the integration and interoperability of data, software and related matters for e-engineering and e-commerce.

POSC Caesar has a special responsibility for the maintenance and enhancement of ISO 15926 “Integration of life-cycle data for process plants including oil and gas production facilities". However, the organization shall be flexible and at all times align its activities with the needs of its membership.

POSC Caesar works now as a global standardization organization in close collaboration with other standardization organizations in Europe, USA and Japan.

=== Cut Paragraphs ==

During 2008 the interest and commitment to ISO 15926 as the preferred way to interoperate information between companies has been significantly accelerated. Along with all of the progress made by several acceleration projects, a watershed moment occurred during the ISO 15926 Software Vendor Workshop last May 2008 that signaled the “passing of the baton” of leadership to the software vendor community.

But it's taken awhile.

In the early 1990's quite a few organizations started projects to explore the possibility of developing a common language describing plant objects. Over the next decade many of these organizations found out about each other and decided to pool their resources. But the tools that ISO 15926 is being developed with have their roots as far back as the 1970's.


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