Semantic Web & Linked Open Data Gaining Ground at the 2009 Semantic Technology Conference!

Submitted by CoryCasanave

In these troubled economic times it is encouraging to see an emerging technology really emerging and the  2009 Semantic Technology Conference demonstrated just such an emergence.  Consider that this is a long 4 day conference and attendance was up - topping out over 1100 - factoring in the number of travel budgets that have been cut this is significant.  There was also a meetup of local community meetups representing thousands of highly interested participants, the semantic web community is substantial and growing.

The culture at the conference has also shifted, while there is still a share of interesting experimental technologies the bulk of the attendees and exhibitors were focused on providing,  demonstrating and leveraging real solutions.  Questions about how to monetize the semantic web were more prevalent than how many triples could be processed (triples are the basic unit of data in the semantic web).  The impression we leave this conference with is that the semantic web is, again, on the rise to become a mainstream technology solving important problems for business, government and individuals - frankly, we were not so sure a year ago.

The growing interest in the semantic web is further leveraged by President Obama's Initiatives. The noble but challenging goal of re-engineering the government to be more transparent, collaborative and participatory will be one of the most significant enterprise transformations ever attempted.  The semantic web and linked open data seem to be the top contenders as the platform behind the federal Data Cloud to support this vision.  Our understanding is that the move has already started to semantically eenable Data.gov - this will be  an  enormous boost for the semantic web both in terms of populating it with billions of bits of of information and by providing the leadership and momentum  for interconnected semantic data.  The semantic community really needs to come together to support improving government. Of course this is a goal of the GAIN initiative.

Other significant announcements included the announcement of Bob Larson of the of the New York Times that their entire index and content - going back over 100 years, would be moving to the semantic web - what an invaluable resource of knowledge!  Goggle, Bing and Yahoo were well represented and it is clear that these important platforms and indexes to knowledge will be supporting the semantic web.

Of course there were a lot of products, some of the most prevalent categories included:

  • Core infrastructure for publishing and creating applications, such as Cambridge Semantics, TopQuadrent, Oracle, Franz, Ontotext and Metatomix (Just to name a few that are both mature and interesting to us)
  • Entity extraction and unstructured text support from a wide variety of vendors.
    Social networking integration and support, such as from Zepheira, Bing
  • Direct user value, such as an interesting personal assistant from Siri
  • There were a lot more - my apologies for  not including everyone!

Of course the sessions were also very interesting.  The maturation of semantic web technologies such as RDFa, SPARQL were evident.  Linked Open Data was certainly a star of the conference as this simple yet powerful paradigm is directly addressing data publication, fusion and integration challenges.  Several sessions provided insight on the new OWL-2 standards - increasing the semantic capability of the semantic web.

We ended the conference with a wonderfly insightfull presentation from Ken Orr - one of  the practical industry visionaries. His session focused on how to apply a semantic modeling approach to real enterprise problems.

In summary - this was  an excellent conference and renewed my confidence in Linked Open Data and the Semantic Web.  Our challenge now is to leverage the momentum and apply this technology to address the big challenges we, the world, our governments, and our enterprises are faced with.

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