The IT Law Wiki



Interoperability is

[t]he capability to communicate, execute programs, or transfer data among various functional units under specified conditions.[1]
the ability of different operating and software systems, applications, and services to communicate and exchange data in an accurate, effective, and consistent manner.[2]
[a]ttributes of software that bear on its ability to interact with specified systems.[3]

Interoperability is "[t]he ability of systems and data to work seamlessly together."[4]


Interoperability is

[t]he ability of independent systems to exchange meaningful information and initiate actions from each other, in order to operate together to mutual benefit. In particular, it envisages the ability for loosely-coupled independent systems to be able to collaborate and communicate; the possibility of use in services outside the direct control of the issuing assigner.[5]
[t]he ability of systems, units, or forces to provide data, information, materiel, and services to and accept the same from other systems, units, or forces and to use the data, information, materiel, and services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together. Information technology (IT) and National Security System (NSS) interoperability includes both the technical exchange of information and the operational effectiveness of that exchanged information as required for mission accomplishment.[6]

Public safety[]

Interoperability is

the ability of public safety emergency responders to work seamlessly with other systems or products without any special effort. Wireless communications interoperability specifically refers to the ability of public safety officials to share information via voice and data signals on demand, in real time, when needed, and as authorized.[7]
an essential communications link within public safety and public service wireless communications systems which permits units from two or more different entities to interact with one another and to exchange information according to a prescribed method in order to achieve predictable results.


Interoperability is:

[t]he capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to exchange and readily use informationsecurely, effectively, and with little or no inconvenience to the user.
[t]he ability of independent implementations of systems, devices, applications, or components to be used interchangeably.[8]

Smart grid[]

Interoperability is

the capability of two or more networks, systems, devices, applications, or components to exchange and readily use informationsecurely, effectively, and with little or no inconvenience to the user.[9]
exchanging meaningful information between two or more systems and achieving an agreed expectation for the response to the information exchange while maintaining reliability, accuracy, and security.[10]


Interoperability is

the ability of telecommunications resources to provide services to and accept services from other telecommunications resources and to use the services so exchanged to enable them to operate effectively together.[11]



In theoretical terms, interoperability functions across four broad layers of complex systems: technological, data, human, institutional. For many people, it is the exchange of data through technological means that comes to mind when they think about interoperability, but the human and institutional aspects of interoperability are just as important.

  • Data: Without the ability to understand and process what is being transmitted, it is insufficient for technological systems to have the capacity to pass bits from one system to another. The data layer is the ability of interconnected systems to understand each other. Anyone who has ever received an e‐mail attachment that their computer could not open understands that simply having the technological capacity to receive data is not the same as interoperability at the data layer.
  • Human: This layer is the ability for humans to understand and act on the data that is exchanged. Although it is more abstract than the technological and data layers, it can be just as crucial for interoperability.
  • Institutional: The institutional layer is the ability of societal systems to engage effectively. The legal system is one example of an institutional layer of interoperability. Interoperability at the institutional layer does not require homogeneity of legal systems; it instead requires only enough commonality to protect the interest of both parties.

Successful interoperability relies on interconnections at every layer.

Types of interoperability[]

There are three types of interoperability[12]:

Data mining[]

Interoperability of databases and software is important to enable the search and analysis of multiple databases simultaneously, and to help ensure the compatibility of data mining activities. Data mining projects that are trying to take advantage of existing legacy databases or that are initiating first-time collaborative efforts with other organizations may experience interoperability problems. Similarly, as organizations move forward with the creation of new databases and information sharing efforts, they will need to address interoperability issues during their planning stages to better ensure the effectiveness of their data mining projects.

Smart grid[]

"The Smart Grid will be a system of interoperable systems. That is, different systems will be able to exchange meaningful, actionable information. The systems will share a common meaning of the exchanged information, and this information will elicit agreed-upon types of response. The reliability, fidelity, and security of information exchanges between and among Smart Grid systems must achieve requisite performance levels."[13]


  1. American National Standard Dictionary of Information Technology (ANSDIT).
  2. The Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture, at 47 (Terms and Definitions).
  3. ISO/IEC Standard 9126 (1991), revised by ISO/IEC 25010:2011.
  4. CETIS Reference (Jan. 2, 2004) (full-text).
  5. NSTAC Report to the President on Identity Management Strategy, at C-4.
  6. Defense Acquisition University, Glossary, at B-92 (13th ed. Nov. 2009) (full-text).
  7. Department of Homeland Security, SAFECOM ([1]).
  8. The White House, (Draft) National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace: Creating Options for Enhanced Online Security and Privacy 33 (June 25, 2010).[2]
  9. Recovery Act Financial Assistance, Funding Opportunity Announcement. U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Smart Grid Investment Grant Program Funding Opportunity Number: DE-FOA-0000058.
  10. GridWise Architecture Council, Interoperability Path Forward Whitepaper full-text]).
  11. 41 C.F.R. § 101–35.5.
  12. Enabling Distributed Security in Cyberspace, at 11-12.
  13. GridWise Architecture Council, Interoperability Path Forward Whitepaper (Nov. 30, 2005) (v1.0) (full-text).


  • "Overview: General" section: Urs Gasser, "INTEROPERABILITY IN THE AGE OF IOT" (June 11, 2015) (full-text).
  • "Data mining" section: Data Mining: An Overview, at 12.

See also[]