Linked Data – The End of the Document?

The ‘document’ has been the most prominent metaphor to present information as well as being the predominant information carrier for ages. With the rise of the Semantic Web, information has been broken down to tiny pieces, which can be put in various contexts dynamically.

Solving-the-Semantic-Puzzle

This principle can be applied to tackle some of the most important challenges faced by publishers nowadays: the most efficient reuse of media assets and personalisation of information services.

In a workshop, I will moderate at this year’s Publishers’ Forum (Berlin, May 5-6), you will find out, why semantic web principles & linked data technologies are the key for ‘Dynamic Semantic Publishing’. Attendees will learn from best practices and get an overview over state-of-the-art technologies.

I would be happy to meet you in Berlin!

Linked Data 2014: My expectations for the New Year

2014 is only a couple of days old. I have some expectations and visions for the new year with regards to linked data and its next evolution steps.

320px-Fireworks_on_Canada_DAY

  • Smart data will receive a lot of attention: big data is the wave on which this certain topic surfs.
  • Trust and provenance of data has been discussed for a while and has been mentioned frequently to be an important step for linked data to be accepted especially by enterprises. W3C’s PROV ontology was just a first step towards this direction. More specifications and implementations will follow this year.
  • Automatic quality-checks for several types of linked data will become a matter of course (similar to test automation in software testing). One example is qSKOS which is provided as a web service for all people interested in controlled vocabularies like taxonomies or thesauri.
  • The LOD cloud as we know it won’t be updated anymore: the periodical updates of the LOD cloud won’t happen anymore in 2014. The image would be much too big. Instead, several domains will generate their own LOD clouds, each of them with a couple of central hubs in the middle (see also: The LOD cloud is dead, long live the trusted LOD cloud). Those sub-hubs connected will represent the overall LOD cloud in the future. DBpedia will remain in the centre.
  • Traditional database vendors will embrace RDF and SPARQL: MarkLogic Semantics and IBM’s DB2-RDF is just the beginning. It will be hard for them to deliver scalability and performance as good as ‘traditional’ RDF database providers like OpenLink Software or Ontotext can do.
  • Linked Data “Killer applications” will be established: Automatic linking of structured and unstructured information based on RDF could become a killer application for Linked Data technologies. Take a look at two example applications in the areas of medicine and clean energy which make use of this principle: true semantic search will become possible (the two demos wont’t work properly behind the firewall due to some software libraries used by it).
  • The year of semantic web standards: The Open Government Data movement will finally arrive at the point where standards based technologies like linked data become the obvious solution to the more or less chaotic collections of open data which have been accumulated in recent years.
  • Enterprise Linked Data: More and more integrations of linked data technologies like Semantic SP into enterprise platforms like SharePoint will be available as products on the software market.
  • SEMANTICS 2014 will take place in September in Germany and will be a great event. More to come soon.
  • ISWC 2014 will take place in October at beautiful Lake Garda (Italy) and will be a great event, too.
  • I am looking forward to meeting some of you once again, and also to meet some new linked data aficionados!!

Why Linked Open Data needs Trusted LOD-Clouds for a Commercial Uptake

Just recently I brought in a couple of arguments why LOD has to be more specific, traceable and most of all reliable (or trusted) before it will be used by enterprises.

Obviously this is also one of the core elements for a blueprint of a sustainable business model around Open Data.

Recently I talked about this topic together with my colleague Martin Kaltenböck from Semantic Web Company and Florian Bauer of REEEP in a webinar which was about Linked Data for the Environmental Sector. We discussed several use cases in which these principles are at least partly implemented.

Linked Data for tthe Enironmental Sector

Organizations working in the environmental sector most often act as intermediates between politics, economy and citizens. They are growing out of their role as plain content providers. To service the demands of their stakeholders they have to act also as data and tool providers for their respective communities.

This video introduces several good practice examples achieving data governance in using the linked open data paradigms. Together with a basic overview of the possibilities of linked open data you get an appealing picture of the new opportunities which are provided by these principles and technologies, also for your organisation!

You can watch the video ‘Linked Data for the Environmental Sector – Use Cases and Opportunities‘ on YouTube.

Linked Data drives the cultural change of the Enterprise

Just recently, Pascal Hitzler has launched an interesting debate around the question whether there is ‘money in linked data, or not.’

Today I published a blog post in which I tried to point out why there is a lot of money in linked data. For users and for vendors.

In addition to this, here are some thoughts on Linked Data by Michael Gorriz, CIO of Daimler.

On slide #8 Mr. Gorriz states that ‘Linked Data drives the cultural change of the Enterprise’. Sic! Linked Data is more than just a technology. Cultural change is exactly what must happen in our days, otherwise we can shut down our sites pretty soon.

10 Business Solutions based on Linked Data and Semantic Technologies

2013: Linked data technologies have matured, linked data community has grown, interest both from private industry and from the government is considerable.

A key questions that I get asked again and again is: which business solutions can be built based on linked data? Here is ‘our’ list of 10 solutions:

The Power of Linked Data

Just recently European Commission has published a comprehensive case study on how Linked Data is transforming eGovernment. One of the three “Further readings” which are mentioned in this publication is “Linked Open Data: The Essentials” in which I wrote an article about “The Power of Linked Data – Understanding World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) vision of a new web of data”

Imagine that the web is like a giant global database. You want to build a new application that shows the correspondence among economic growth, renewable energy consumption, mortality rates and public spending for education. You also want to improve user experience with mechanisms like faceted browsing. You can already do all of this today, but you probably won’t.

Today’s measures for integrating information from different sources, otherwise known as mashing data, are often too time-consuming and too costly. Two driving factors can cause this unpleasant situation: First of all, databases are still seen as „silos”, and people often do not want others to touch the database for which they are responsible. This way of thinking is based on some assumptions from the 1970s: that only a handful of experts are able to deal with databases and that only the IT department’s inner circle is able to understand the schema and the meaning of the data. This is obsolete.

In today’s internet age, millions of developers are able to build valuable applications whenever they get interesting data.

Secondly, data is still locked up in certain applications. The technical problem with today’s most common information architecture is that metadata and schema information are not separated well from application logics. Data cannot be re-used as easily as it should be. If someone designs a database, he or she often knows the certain application to be built on top. If we stop emphasising which applications will use our data and focus instead on a meaningful description of the data itself, we will gain more momentum in the long run. At its core, Open Data means that the data is open to any kind of application and this can be achieved if we use open standards like RDF to describe metadata.

Nowadays, the idea of linking web pages by using hyperlinks is obvious, but this was a groundbreaking concept 20 years ago. We are in a similar situation today since many organizations do not understand the idea of publishing data on the web, let alone why data on the web should be linked. The evolution of the web can be seen as follows:

web evolution

Although the idea of Linked Open Data (LOD) has yet to be recognised as mainstream (like the web we all know today), there are a lot of LOD already available. The so called LOD cloud covers more than an estimated 50 billion facts from many different domains like geography, media, biology, chemistry, economy, energy, etc. The data is of varying quality and most of it can also be re-used for commercial purposes.

All of the different ways to publish information on the web are based on the idea that there is an audience out there that will make use of the published information, even if we are not sure who exactly it is and how they they will use it. Here are some examples:

• Think of a twitter message: not only do you not know all of your followers, but you often don’t even know why they follow you and what they will do with your tweets.
• Think of your blog: it´s like an email to someone you don’t know yet.
• Think of your website: new people can contact you and offer new surprising kinds of information.
• Think of your email-address: you have shared it on the web and receive lots of spam since then.

In some ways, we are all open to the web, but not all of us know how to deal with this rather new way of thinking. Most often the „digital natives“ and „digital immigrants“ who have learned to work and live with the social web have developed the best strategies to make use of this kind of „openness.“ Whereas the idea of Open Data is built on the concept of a social web, the idea of Linked Data is a descendant of the semantic web.

The basic idea of a semantic web is to provide cost-efficient ways to publish information in distributed environments. To reduce costs when it comes to transferring information among systems, standards play the most crucial role. Either the transmitter or the receiver has to convert or map its data into a structure so it can be „understood“ by the receiver. This conversion or mapping must be done on at least three different levels: used syntax, schemas and vocabularies used to deliver meaningful information; it becomes even more time-consuming when information is provided by multiple systems. An ideal scenario would be a fully-harmonised internet where all of those layers are based on exactly one single standard, but the fact is that we face too many standards or „de-facto standards“ today. How can we overcome this chicken-and-egg problem?

There are at least three possible answers:
• Provide valuable, agreed-upon information in a standard, open format.
• Provide mechanisms to link individual schemas and vocabularies in a way so that people can note if their ideas are “similar” and related, even if they are not exactly the same.
• Bring all this information to an environment which can be used by most, if not all of us. For example: don’t let users install proprietary software or lock them in one single social network or web application!

Most systems today deal with huge amounts of information. All information is produced either within the system boundaries (and partly published to other systems) or it is consumed “from outside,” “mashed” and “digested” within the boundaries. Some of the growing complexity has been caused in a natural way due to a higher level of education and the technical improvements made by the ICT sector over the last 30 years.

Simply said, humanity is now able to handle much more information than ever before with probably the lowest
costs ever (think of higher bandwidths and lower costs of data storage). However, most of the complexity we are struggling with is caused above all by structural insufficiencies due to the networked nature of our society.

The specialist nature of many enterprises and experts is not yet mirrored well enough in the way we manage information and communicate. Instead of being findable and linked to other data, much information is still hidden. With its clear focus on high-quality metadata management, Linked Data is key to overcoming this problem. The value of data increases each time it is being re-used and linked to another resource. Re-usage can only be triggered by providing information about the available information. In order to undertake this task in a sustainable manner, information must be recognised as an important resource that should be managed just like any other.

Linked Open Data is already widely available in several industries, including the following three:
Linked Data in libraries: focusing on library data exchange and the potential for creating globally interlinked library data; exchanging and jointly utilising data with non-library institutions; growing trust in the growing semantic web; and maintaining a global cultural graph of information that is both reliable and persistent.
Linked Data in biomedicine: establishing a set of principles for ontology/vocabulary development with the goal of creating a suite of orthogonal interoperable reference ontologies in the biomedical domain; tempering the explosive proliferation of data in the biomedical domain; creating a coordinated family of ontologies that are interoperable and logical; and incorporating accurate representations of biological reality.
Linked government data: re-using public sector information (PSI); improving internal administrative processes by integrating data based on Linked Data; and interlinking government and nongovernment information.

The inherent dynamics of Open Data produced and consumed by the “big three” stakeholder groups – media, industry, and government organizations/NGOs – will move forward the idea, quality and quantity of Linked Data – whether it is open or not:

open data 2 lod

Whereas most of the current momentum can be observed in the government & NGO sectors, more and more media companies are jumping on the bandwagon. Their assumption is that more and more industries will perceive Linked Data as a cost-efficient way to integrate data.

Linking information from different sources is key for further innovation. If data can be placed in a new context, more and more valuable applications – and therefore knowledge – will be generated.