Safe Data: Recognising the Issue

September 2011

James Inge (2011), Safety Systems, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 4—7, September 2011.


This article explains that like software, data affects the behaviour of many systems, and has the potential to cause unsafe behaviour without the presence of any failure of the system hardware. However, while software is often designed as an integral part of a system, data may not even be recognised as forming a part of the system. It may also be generated by third parties considerably detached from the main system design effort. While systems can be designed to tolerate problems with the data they use, this requires designers to have recognised the contribution of data to safety. A taxonomy of potential data faults is proposed to aid analysis of how problems with data could contribute to unsafe system-level behaviour.