What Is Interoperability and Why Is It Important?

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In today’s digital society, businesses and customers depend on having seamless access to all data types, from payments to healthcare. While physical data still has its place, electronic data has become the go-to standard for storing and managing sensitive information. Since data exchange is a necessary function for businesses everywhere, this article will discuss what interoperability is and why it’s essential. 

What Is Interoperability? 

Interoperability refers to the ability of apps, equipment, products, and systems from different companies to seamlessly communicate and process data in a way that does not require any involvement from end-users. This process consists of two primary methods. For the first method, businesses can share data and resources between systems through a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN). Additionally, companies can share data between different systems or machines via software and hardware. Essentially, interoperability allows different information systems to talk and comprehend information passed to each other.  

There are three main types of interoperability, which include syntactic, structural, and semantic.  

  • Syntactic interoperability: two or more systems can communicate and share data, thus allowing different types of software to work together. This happens even if the interface or language is not the same. 
  • Structural interoperability: this defines the data exchange format, which specifies the standards used to format messages sent from one system to another. This is essential for users to be able to understand the information’s purpose clearly. 
  • Semantic interoperability: two or more systems connect and share data that each system understands in a meaningful way. 
How Does Interoperability Work? 

Interoperability involves two or more systems that need to be set up to exchange, access, and understand the shared data from the other system. This process requires the syntactic approach, allowing systems to adopt standard data formats and structure protocols. The next step is to use the semantic method, which uses metadata to connect each data element to a controlled and shared set of vocabulary. Once this vocabulary is established, it will be linked to an ontology. An ontology is a data model consisting of concepts and their relationships within a specific domain. By adhering to these standards, businesses can then successfully send relevant information independent of another information system.  

Why Is Interoperability Important? 

Interoperability plays a key role in facilitating organized and effective data exchange between information systems. As you can imagine, businesses across most industries can benefit from this crucial functionality.  

Top Benefits of Interoperability: 

  • Adaptability: Business systems that receive information can quickly and automatically connect and share the information to the relevant parties. 
  • Better Productivity: Businesses can operate more smoothly, as necessary data is readily available and accessible to all relevant parties and systems. This is a much more efficient process compared to waiting for vital information required to achieve goals. 
  • Data Unity: Interoperability provides data unity, which is essential for helping businesses to manage and access information from external systems and vice versa. 
  • Improved Data Protection: Data protection is a requirement for any business. Fortunately, this process helps protect sensitive data. Companies can access this via shared records offered through interoperability instead of manually and repeatedly entering personal information. 
  • Fewer Errors: Information systems that are connected usually result in better quality data and, thus, fewer errors. Indeed, this is a better option than systems that are not connected and are more likely to contain duplicate and outdated data. 
  • Lower Costs: Synchronized systems can send and receive information automatically. In turn, this takes up fewer resources and costs compared to non-inoperable systems that must request data manually from another system.  

Interoperability By Industry: 

  • Government: Government organizations can benefit from implementing interoperability, as it can help reduce common obstacles like language barriers, non-compatible systems,  and connectivity issues. Indeed, this can help these organizations communicate more effectively. 
  • Health: Healthcare systems can use interoperability to streamline managing, receiving, and sending updated medical records via electronic systems. This includes everything from lab results to billing information. Indeed, this positively impacts healthcare professionals quickly accessing a patient’s medical information even if they are not in the organization’s internal systems (e.g., patients visiting from out-of-state or country). 
  • Telecommunication: Telecommunication providers can utilize interoperability to assist with sending and receiving essential information from different systems. Specifically, providers can communicate equipment updates, frequencies, network scale, and signal availability (e.g., radio signals).   
  • Safety: No matter the location or system, emergency providers can immediately communicate vital information with other parties, such as EMS, fire departments, police departments, and more. This can be the difference between someone surviving or emergency personnel not receiving information in time to help someone in a life-threatening situation.  
  • Software: As with any technology, the software depends on the successful exchange of information and rules to work efficiently. By using interoperability, software companies will find it easier to send and receive data, regardless of the programming language or type of system it’s receiving it from. Indeed, inoperable software will be more likely to operate as intended, which is crucial for software businesses.  
Seamless Data Communication Is a Must for Businesses 

When it comes to data, your business must be equipped with the functionality necessary to meet your goals, scale, and communicate with core systems. We hope this article helped clarify what interoperability is, why it’s beneficial for businesses, and the use cases for major industries.  

Additionally, remember always to implement security measures to safeguard your business from cyberattacks. Contact us today if you are interested in learning how our cloud-based tokenization platform can protect your most sensitive data. Our leading security experts at TokenEx are committed to helping you achieve your organization’s goals, meet compliance standards, and mitigate any risk of a data breach.