Semantic applications are the next frontier for information science, but creating them is very difficult. Now, European researchers in the NeOn project are developing tools that will make it easier to create semantic applications, powerful programs that identify data not just by their textual content, but also by the information’s relevance to users.
The tools they created are being tested by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and by Spain’s pharmaceutical industry. The FAO, a project partner, is testing the tools as a means of creating an over-fishing alert system as a means of improving the management of the world’s fisheries. (See part two of this two-part article – ‘Semantic technologies help world’s fisheries’)
In Spain, pharmaceutical companies are testing the NeOn tools as a means of allowing the industry to share data resources and exchange information on diseases, epidemiology, treatments, and other medical issues.Enormous potential
Semantic software promises to revolutionise information science. Semantic applications could be used to turn massive amounts of data into machine-readable, easily identifiable and actionable information.
With semantic applications, searchers can find resources by what data means, its context, relevance and connotations, because the information is machine-readable. Computers can understand the data.
Semantic applications work by using metadata, descriptions of information. The metadata is stored in dictionaries, called ontologies.
An ontology defines the concepts and relationships used to describe and represent a domain of knowledge. An ontology specifies standard conceptual vocabularies with which to exchange data among networked systems, provide services for answering queries, publish reusable knowledge bases, and offer services to allow interoperability across multiple systems and databases.
Ontologies make it possible for machines to find valuable information currently buried in databases and on Web pages, saving time. More importantly, the applications access information that might otherwise be missed, and can find unsuspected connections between different pieces of information.
Such applications can also sort a vast dataset in seconds, a task that could take humans days, weeks or months to do.A quantum leap
Ontologies are difficult to develop and manage. Little support exists for collaboration so individuals or small teams do most of the work. There is no standard way for re-using existing semantic resources.
There are many projects that have, at the cost of great effort, resulted in semantic applications. However, the NeOn team is creating what is called a ‘development environment’ that will make the design of semantic applications much simpler.
While Henry Ford created a paradigm shift in manufacturing by implementing production lines in his factory, NeOn’s researchers intend to create a similar shift in the development of semantic applications.
Their strategy is the difference between making just one car and employing a production line so that lots of people can work together to make more cars quicker.
“NeOn’s goal is to make a quantum leap in the level of support for semantic application development,” explains Enrico Motta, the project’s coordinator. “We want to create an industrial strength development environment that gives software engineers all the tools they need to create semantic applications easily.”
There are three main thrusts to the researcher’s work: a toolkit, a methodology and case studies. All three tasks feed into each other.
As the tools are developed, the methodology becomes more defined. The researchers then test and refine both the tools and the methodology in case studies with the FAO and the Spanish pharmaceutical industry.
The NeOn researchers are tackling every aspect of semantic application development. One team is working on the dynamics of managing and updating ontologies across networks, a major innovation.
Other researchers are working on developing collaborative tools, so distant teams can work together. A third group is studying how ontologies can be adapted to different applications or contexts.
Finally, the researchers are looking at human-ontology interaction.
“Traditionally, semantic applications forgot about the human beings,” says Motta. “NeOn is also looking at the way people interact with these novel technologies, their issues and expectations.”Novel studies
The project just entered the third year of its four-year term, and already the researchers have developed working prototypes. The researchers plan to continue the work after the lifetime of the project, which ends in early 2010.
“The NeOn platform is open source software, which means people can change and adapt it,” says Motta. “We are currently setting up the NeOn Foundation to foster a community around the technology. This will ensure it gets maintained, updated and improved over time.”
A free prototype is already available for download. But by the end of the NeOn project, which received funding from the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research, the team plans to have created a fully-functional, development environment for semantic applications.
This article is part one of a two-part feature on NeOn.
Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Drones learn to navigate autonomously by imitating cars and bicycles
23.01.2018 | Universität Zürich
Cloud technology: Dynamic certificates make cloud service providers more secure
15.01.2018 | Technische Universität München
Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
23.01.2018 | Life Sciences
23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy