Interface concept

Interfaces provide a way, how to organize or group optional or function-specific services into clearly defined units (well structured code) which can be selectivelly implemented by some classes.

The interface concept can be ilustrated on following simple example. Let's have an error estimator, represented by corresponding class. This estimator requires some special services at the element level. Because typically not all elements provide support for this error estimator, it would be wasting of space to declare required services in general element base class. (This will lead to big and extremly general interface declared by base class, with only some services compulsory and with many optional services. This can lead to confusion and very unclear structure). Suggested remedy is to declare corresponding interface to error estimator. The interface should declare all servics needed by error estimator. Particular elements, which would like to provide support for error estimator, simply derive itself from corresponding interface and implement services from interface. If error estimator wants to access its interface, it asks element for pointer to its corresponding interface (getInterface method). Once interface is returned, error estimator can use its services to compute response.

Some dificulty may arise, when implementing general interface service, reguiring general services from class implementing interface. Then simple "trick" can be made: The interface should declare service giveClass(), which returns the pointer to class which implements interface. After having this pointer, the interface general service can use all (but only public) services of class implementing interface. For example some service utilizing the integration over element volume can be formulated as general, but when interface is defined, there is no connection to element implementing it. This connection can be established by declaring virtual giveElement() service, which returns the pointer to element implementing the interface. Then general implementation at interface class level can be made, using base Elment class public services. Then all element classes implementing the interface should overload only giveElement service, but not the whole service with integration.

To facilitate the interface concept, the abstract class Interface is introduced. Its role is to provide a base class for all interfaces. The interface represent some well defined additional or optional ability or support, which is provided by some class. The services and attributes required are encapsulated in particular derived interface class, which is derived from base Inferface class. The class which wants to implement interface will simply inherits corresponding interface class. Each base class, whose derived classes are assumed to implement some interfaces, will declare the virtual getInterface(InterfaceType) method. This method must be implemented by each derived class implementing some interface and returns pointer to corresponding interface. This service then provides general way, how to access particular interface of given class.

Borek Patzak 2018-01-02