Use of Semantic Mediation in Manufacturing Supply Chains

Use of Semantic Mediation in Manufacturing Supply Chains

Peter Denno (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA), Edward J. Barkmeyer (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA) and Fabian Neuhaus (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-894-9.ch003


This chapter discusses lessons learned about enabling interoperability using semantic methods in three automotive industry projects spanning 8 years. In these projects the authors attempt to automate systems integration tasks typically performed manually. The essential form of the solution is to define ontologies of (1) the joint action of the required business process, (2) business domain objects from the viewpoints of the components playing roles in the process, and (3) the engineered interfaces through which the interaction occurs. The authors then use these ontologies, in semi-automated processes, to generate mediators that translate message content to the form required by message recipients. They discuss briefly how these methods suggest the need for a more methodical and rigorous systems engineering practice and semantically richer, computationally accessible exchange and interface standards.
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System components interoperate when they act jointly for the purpose of achieving a shared goal. Their joint work is coordinated through their communication with each other. This is as true for wholly mechanical systems as it is for information systems and agencies with human components. With respect to information systems particularly, the communication is a message, which is the bearer of information that is necessary for the component to fulfill its role in the system.

The requirements conceived for a component are not necessarily a subset of the system requirements. The component may have been designed for use with another system, or without foreknowledge of the systems with which it might interact. What is necessary is only that when provided with an appropriate message, the component must respond with a behavior that serves the intended system requirement. Whereas system interoperability is the ability to do the joint work generally, semantic interoperability concerns what is meant by “intended” and “appropriate” here. (See Figure 1.) Semantic interoperability concerns the relationship between the intended immediate goal of the sender and its understanding of how it might elicit the response it requires from the component. The message is tailored by the sender based on its immediate goal and its understanding of this relationship.

Figure 1.

A message prompts a behavior, but the relationship between the message and behavior is hidden from the sender

Semantic interoperability then, is not a form of interoperability, but rather a term that brings attention to a failure mode of interoperability – one in which intended consequences are not achieved due to a misinterpretation of a message/behavior relationship.

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