Sunday, December 4, 2011

Large organisations using Semantic Web

Earlier his week the east version of the Semantic Tech & Biz Conference took place in Washington, DC. And I followed it via the #semtechbiz feed on Twitter. The activity in this feed was lower than at the much larger west version that took place in San Francisco early June. An event I also followed remotely, see my blog post: SemTech2011 report

Below I highlight one of the many case studies presented in the conference in Washington, DC, on the theme "here is what we did", that is what U.S. military (DoD) do in their so called Enterprise Information Web. Further down you find examples of what Chevron and Statoil did in the oil industry. In two side notes I wunder about the use of semantic technologies in Norway, and I am reminded of some explorative work I did ten years ago on Topic Maps and Published Subject Identifiers (PSI:s). 

Enterprise Information Web
One of the many case studies presented in the conference was the U.S. military (DoD Defense Information Systems Agency) Enterprise Information Web. In the recent RFI, Request for Interest, they write "the envisioned EIW is built on semantic web, which will allow better enterprise-wide collection, analysis and reporting of data necessary for managing personnel information and business systems, as well as protecting troops on the ground with crucial intelligence."

A YouTube video with Dennis E. Wisnosky, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Architect at DoD
See also: DoD
Turns to Semantic Web To Improve data Sharing

As being a non-American I do find it a bit hard to relate to DoD and some of the critical comments to the YouTube video. However, as I wrote in one of my tweets: 30+ years ago U.S. military needed Internet - now they use Semantic Web standards and Linked Data principles. And I think this video gives some really nice explanations.

How two large organisations in oil industry use semantic web
This week I also saw another interesting case study, that is how the semantic web standard OWL is used in the oil industry. In an interview with Roger Cutler, published on the W3C blog, he describes the typical situation in most large organisation where information "lives in different forms in number of different systems and is handled separately by different organizations with different data models", and he talks about how this traditionally have beed adressed:
People use point-to-point solutions or big data warehouses, but neither approach scales gracefully. Point-to-point solutions become very complex and hard to maintain. Data warehouses create replication issues and tend to be fragile. So, the possibility of a smarter, more agile, more cost-effective way of dealing with integration would have a great deal of value to us. The Semantic Web is not guaranteed to be the solution, but it looks plausible and we’d like to see if it lives up to its promise in practice.
I also noted that Roger Cutler, Research Consultant at Chevron Information Technology Company, talks about the "expressiveness and reasoning achievable with OWL". I like that because I sometimes hear comments a long the lines that OWL, and OWL2, is too complex and maybe not so useful in an industrial setting. In the interview Roger say:
We have demonstrated a case in which similar objectives were obtained in the context of an ontology with about fifteen lines of readily comprehensible rules and in a relational database context with over 1000 lines of pretty complex code.
I also see that there exists a W3C Oil, Gas and Chemicals Business Group also with an representative from Statoil, Jennifer Sampson. And I now also see an interesting case study presented by Jennifer at the SemTech conference in San Francisco: Semantic Technologies and Statoil's Integration Layer for Plant Information Systems.

Side note: Semantic technologies in Norway
The Statoil presentation looks really interesting and is a trigger for me to catch up with how semantic technologies are used in Norway. Have been thinking about that for some time. I visited Statoil's office in Stavanger a couple of years ago to talked about metadata standards. And I see some interesting signals that semantic technologies have much been more used in Norway than in Sweden.

Side note: Topic Maps and Published Subject Identifiers (PSI:s)
Back in 2002, before the OWL standard existed and Linked Data principles was defined, I supervised a master thesis with an Evaluation of Topic Maps for information navigation in cardiovascular research. Topic Maps is a semantic technology that has a strong presence in Norway. The master students I supervised worked together with Steve Pepper, the Topic Maps guru. A key learning I took away from some really good discussions back in 2002 with Steve, and also Lars Marius Garshol (@larsga), was the idea of Published Subject Identifiers (PSI:s). In a future blog post I will do a recap of PSI:s and try to relate it today's http-based URI:s as a one of the Linked Data principles.

Kudos to Bernadette Hyland (@BernHyland) and Dave Smith (@DruidSmith)
for their #semtechbiz tweets. And also to @semanticweb for the great news service:
"Voice of Semantic Web Technologies and Linked Data Business" and to the @W3C blog.

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