Semantic technology addresses the data-explosion problem by providing more intelligent ways to search, sort, and filter data based on  business and user relevance. So, what is Semantic Technology? Here is what Tim Berners-Lee stated as a vision back in 1999: “I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize.” Semantic Technology is often referred to as “Web 3.0”.  At it’s core, Semantic technology is a new and more innovative way data is created, stored, and exchanged.  Instead of the classic relational approach, where data is used in a software application based on its relative position in a tabular framework, semantic data is created with embedded meaning. This meaning is assured by creating the data using a pair of standards called the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). RDF creates flexible data, free of the tabular constraints of the relational approach. OWL defines ontologies, which are domains of described data relationships. Semantic technology mates RDF’s flexible data with OWL’s intelligent descriptions, which results in “smart data”. With smart data, the user can experience data’s utility within context. With data in a semantic format, a variety of new IT capabilities become possible.  Because the data is self-describing (has meaning) there is much greater flexibility in designing, modifying, and changing semantic applications. This will help address several major challenges facing IT today.

  • Developing applications that support event-based processes
  • Capturing data “in flight” and acting on its content in the context of the current business environment
  • Discovering, adapting, composing, and automating the services scattered both inside and outside of an organization
  • Extending the potential of SOA and driving down the costs of application maintenance
  • Designing and implement solutions without relying on IT

Advanced semantic middleware frameworks are being created by software leaders like Cambridge Semantics (Sean Martin and Lee Feigenbam ) and architected by colleagues at CrossTech Partners including Colin Britton, John Saber, and TJ O’Connor. Cambridge Semantics has also developed a powerful set of solutions to unleash data from the 1,000s of spreadsheets being used across enterprise clients and dramatically enable data collaboration. Best practices and development models are becoming increasingly available, making semantic technologies more accessible to a broader group of developers.  As these technologies move from the “third circle” (bleeding edge) to the “second circle” (today’s innovative technology)  we can fully implement compelling new solutions for advanced search and relevance engines for information access. We can integrate these new applications with social software and deliver compelling new experiences for big brands and their audiences. Lee Feigenbam is a contributing author to this article.