Published in Proceedings of the 2005 IEEE Aerospace Conference: Big Sky, MT, March 5, 2005, pages 1-8. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/AERO.2005.1559637.
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An emerging issue in the world of context-centric software-based decision-support is the need for potentially disparate systems to interoperate in meaningful and useful ways. Such interoperability must go beyond the elementary communication of data and endeavor to support a more powerful context-oriented inter-system relationship. A key issue in such functionality is the support, moreover the promotion, of meaningful interoperability while still retaining individual system representations, or perspectives. In other words, the meaningful integration of potentially disparate systems in a manner that allows each collaborating system to retain its potentially unique means of representing, or perceiving, the domain over which it operates.
In the past, several approaches to this problem have been postulated, such as development of a specific translator for each source/target system pair combination, development of a universal ontology to encompass both systems, and so on. Specific, one-off translators are usually tightly coupled with both systems and have limited support for dealing with representational changes. The alternate approach of developing a universal representation is not only highly impractical but also requires an ongoing effort of monumental proportions to achieve even a remotely acceptable solution.
Considering the potential complexity inherent in mapping between possibly disparate perspectives it is the opinion of the authors that a suitable solution will require the employment of reasoning-enabling technologies capable of supporting the high level analysis involved in performing such context-based translation.
Above and beyond the need for complex translation among differing perspectives, the authors see an additional critical ingredient in supporting meaningful interoperability among systems as being the application of a web services-oriented model of inter-system collaboration. In this paradigm, both formalized and more ad hoc system capabilities are essentially defined and exposed as accessible web services. Interoperability in this sense involves systems employing each other's services in an effort to perform their desired tasks. Reliant on support for complex translation to map between perspectives, this notion of remote service invocation offers a simple yet effective metaphor for addressing the increasing need for useful interaction among potentially disparate systems.
The focus of this paper is to provide both a vision and supporting design for a translation-based Web services interoperability bridge capable of supporting Web services-oriented interoperability among systems operating over potentially disparate representations. Capitalizing on offerings from both the artificial intelligence and semantic Web-based worlds the presented design incorporates technologies such as inference engines, rule-based systems, XML, XSLT, Web services and service-oriented architectures to provide the needed infrastructure to support meaningful interoperability among context-based systems in an information age