Semantic Technologies WG

This working group will:

  • Identify the research and implementation challenges and opportunities in the area of semantic technologies as relevant to NESSI’s strategic research agenda;
  • Develop and publicise a view as to how those challenges and opportunities should be met by the European software industry;
  • Create and maintain a roadmap describing the likely evolution of semantic technologies, and thereby provide a framework within which key research and implementation challenges can be identified and met.
In general, semantic technology makes information more amenable to machine interpretation and processing via the use of semantic annotations (metadata), based on open standards developed by the W3C (e.g. RDF and OWL), along with formalisms based on these languages targeted specifically at a service-oriented environment (e.g. WSMO and OWL-S). Areas will include, but not necessarily be restricted to, the following from the ‘NESSI Strategic Research Agenda’ plus, additionally, Web 2.0 Technologies.
  • Semantic mediation
Semantics for web resources are typically described using ontologies which define basic concepts, relationships and axioms within a specific domain. A basic feature of any ontology is a set of terms (vocabulary) which have an agreed meaning. At least at this level, there is and will continue to be, a large number of independently produced ontologies for different sectors, purposes and objectives. Techniques for interoperability (aka mediation) will therefore be required.
  • Automated reasoning
To support service description, discovery and composition it will be necessary to associate descriptions (metadata) with resources and to advertise appropriate subsets of these descriptions via standard query interfaces. The realisation of the full value of a semantic approach to distributed resources depends on the ability to infer implicit information for automated decision support.
  • Semantic information integration
In terms of content, we need to address not only the existence of a huge amount of information (e.g. web content), but also annotations associated with this information. Crucially, a semantic layer offers the prospect of providing a unified access layer to multiple heterogeneous information sources. This is critical in information-intensive sectors, such as health care, finance, energy and pharmaceuticals. Advanced topics include semantic systems that can evolve with ontologies, infer implicit information from knowledge bases and deal with provenance, trust and proof.
  • Semantic technologies relating to service description, discovery and composition
The objective of this activity is to consider semantic tools and technologies which support the description, discovery and composition of services. These topics themselves lie within the remit of the service engineering working group. The role of this working group is to take requirements from the service engineering working group, to consider how semantic technologies can support service engineering, and to make an appropriate input to the service engineering working group. As an example, one area of interest for this working group will be ontology learning. Ontology learning will facilitate automatic annotations from legacy applications and services which will allow them to exchange information without human intervention. In addition various semantic formalisms such as WSMO and OWL-S have been developed to represent and reason about services, and semantic technologies based on OWL-S and WSMO can thus support service engineering”.
  • Web 2.0 Technologies
In addition to the above areas from the NESSI Strategic Research Agenda, the Semantic Technologies WG will also consider Web 2.0 Technologies. Web 2.0 refers to an emerging second-generation of web-based technologies and systems that let people collaborate and share information online in new ways: examples include as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies. Specific examples are, flickr and Technorati. Web 2.0 technology is strongly related to, and complementary to, semantic technology: although the technologies and services that make up Web 2.0 are less powerful than semantic technology (because they are in general based on informal user-based tagging rather formal ontologies), both approaches are characterised by a use of metadata. One requires more effort to produce and maintain but yields a more formal approach supporting automated reasoning and processing, while the other offers less powerful but useful functionality at lower cost. It is thus appropriate to investigate the two technologies together and to identify appropriate application spaces for each of them. Web 2.0 technologies are being increasingly applied in the corporate space: for example, the use of wikis as tools for collaborative working; the emergence of corporate blogging; and the provision of customer self-help portals which reduce cost and improve customer experience via participatory customer portals.

Web 2.0 technologies can potentially deliver advanced sharing and learning functionality based on (European wide) social networks exploiting user-tagged content and overcoming individual and local limitations for knowledge end experience sharing. Exploiting and modelling of relationships using techniques such as social network analysis enables a new dimension for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Of particular relevance to NESSI, Web 2.0 technologies provide the capability for rapid integration of services (mash-ups) and, through folksonomies, for the informal description of services. These topics themselves are also relevant to the User/Service Interaction working group so that coordination with activities in that working group is foreseen.

An important activity will be to consider the relationship between Web 2.0 and semantic web and how to leverage both to best effect - for example, how can formally annotated content be best combined with user-tagged content to maximise the usage and value of both. Semantic Wikis are an early example of the combination of semantic and Web 2.0 technologies .