Why are information models and semantic interoperability important in IIoT?

Kym WatsonKym Watson Fraunhofer

The Industrial Internet of Things aims to create new applications and business models across systems from multiple equipment suppliers and software integrators. This is a challenging volatile ecosystem where applications have to adapt to exploit new sources of information and meet new requirements. In traditional IT systems, the understanding of information was often context, domain and language dependent with tacit assumptions on its meaning (semantics). IIoT, on the other hand, requires a flexible adaptation of applications, automatic recognition and integration of software interfaces with very little hand-crafting. This mandates semantic interoperability, i.e. the exchange of information with an unambiguous meaning. Semantic interoperability, in turn, is only possible with standardized information models, generic enough to allow for extensions and adaptations. Furthermore, an IIoT ecosystem must build on collaboration between engineers sharing multidisciplinary knowledge about system applications expressed in agreed information models.


  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    Agree. Of course this is harder to achieve in brown-field environments than it is in green-field environments. Not sure data integration/transformation layers can universally solve that problem due to latency issues associated with the layers. Any thoughts on how model and semantic interoperability can be addressed in brown-field applications?

  • Kym WatsonKym Watson Fraunhofer

    Brown field devices normally have their own information models, often with hidden semantics for device variables etc. It generally takes real effort from IT and OT engineers to implement an adapter to equip the device with a standardized interface using known semantics. One example called the Plug and Work Cube is described here:

    It gives the device an interface according to the OPC UA standard by using the standard AutomationML to define the information model.

    In addition, the Asset Administration Shell of Platform Industrie 4.0 represents a framework approach towards this goal.

    This topic is also related to edge computing: take a look at the IIC ideas in the whitepaper


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