Context Interchange as a Scalable Solution to Interoperating Amongst Heterogeneous Dynamic Services

14 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2004

See all articles by Hongwei (Harry) Zhu

Hongwei (Harry) Zhu

University of Massachusetts Lowell; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Old Dominion University

Stuart Madnick

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: October 2004


Many online services access a large number of autonomous data sources and at the same time need to meet different user requirements. It is essential for these services to achieve semantic interoperability among these information exchange entities. In the presence of an increasing number of proprietary business processes, heterogeneous data standards, and diverse user requirements, it is critical that the services are implemented using adaptable, extensible, and scalable technology. The Context Interchange (COIN) approach, inspired by similar goals of the Semantic Web, provides a robust solution. In this paper, we describe how COIN can be used to implement dynamic online services where semantic differences are reconciled on the fly. We show that COIN is flexible and scalable by comparing it with several conventional approaches. With a given ontology, the number of conversions in COIN is quadratic to the semantic aspect that has the largest number of distinctions. These semantic aspects are modeled as modifiers in a conceptual ontology; in most cases the number of conversions is linear with the number of modifiers, which is significantly smaller than traditional hard-wiring middleware approach where the number of conversion programs is quadratic to the number of sources and data receivers. In the example scenario in the paper, the COIN approach needs only 5 conversions to be defined while traditional approaches require 20,000 to 100 million. COIN achieves this scalability by automatically composing all the comprehensive conversions from a small number of declaratively defined sub-conversions.

Keywords: ontology, semantics, scalability, data integration, heterogeneous sources

Suggested Citation

Zhu, Hongwei and Madnick, Stuart E., Context Interchange as a Scalable Solution to Interoperating Amongst Heterogeneous Dynamic Services (October 2004). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4514-04; CISL Working Paper No. 2004-16. Available at SSRN: or

Hongwei Zhu

University of Massachusetts Lowell ( email )

One University Avenue
Lowell, MA 01854
United States

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02139
United States


Old Dominion University ( email )

Norfolk, VA 23529
United States
757-683-5175 (Phone)


Stuart E. Madnick (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6671 (Phone)
617-253-3321 (Fax)

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