Let’s Get Real
While this sounds good, getting from the realm of the theoretical to real-world application takes a substantial technological leap and we are only at the beginning of the journey. There are, in fact, plenty of companies out there developing technologies to deliver specific webcontent, to help distill it from a vast collection, to help people find the right information (semantic search), or to communicate across disparate data repositories.
Some of these companies, such as Metatomix, use semantic concepts to deal with specific business problems. "What we have done is focus on some specific areas where we could actually leverage semantic technology to solve real-world business problems, as opposed to trying to implement the Semantic Web," Greenblatt says. The Metatomix products, which they call 360° Solutions, integrate a traditional business rules engine with semantic data to enable enterprise users to cross data silos and pull information together in intelligent ways,including the ability to use reason and inference over the data and embed logic in the data model. "The ability to have that gives you the ability to discover things about your information that you wouldn’t normally be able to do and that’s the advantage of using semantic technology," Greenblatt says.
Metatomix has applied this technology to specific vertical solutions in finance and law to help pull information from different data sources.For instance, using the judicial product you can cross many different databases to build a criminal profile about a person that would normally take 20 different log-ons (while still adhering to privacy rules). Using semantics, the tool looks for information in each database that enables it to get the information it needs to access another database until the end result is a complete view of the person’s record pulled from a range of criminal database sources.
Meanwhile, Semanticator LLC is bringing semantic technology to marketing by trying to mimic the live sales experience to deliver content based on the individual visitor’s needs. "It’s all about recognizing the context of an internet visitor and being able to respond relevantly based on that context," says Chris Hewitt, VP of technology at Semanticator. "What we are talking about on an internet scale is really kind of revolutionary, but from a human perspective it’s not." What Hewitt means is that when a person walks into a store and talks to a sales person, the two people involved recognize contextual clues and begin to interact based on that.
Instead of face-to-face human clues, Semanticator uses information available by querying the browser you are using. "When we open a web browser, we inherently share some information about ourselves, totally preserving privacy and keeping everything anonymous, so we’re not intruding on anyone’s personal space, but we can use that information to understand the context of the visit and how to respond more relevantly."
Semanticator focuses on a user’s needs by building one or more personas of a typical visitor. These personas define the characteristics of these visitors and help the Semanticator engine deliver the right content based on that persona along with other contextual clues it finds from querying the browser. In fact, Hewitt says that many clients can reach a majority of their visitors with just a couple of personas.For example, a hotel site might have a meeting planner persona consisting of what types of websites and blogs they might visit, their location, and so forth, and Semanticator uses the underlying semantic technology to pull this and other information together to display the page that makes most sense for a meeting a planner.
In another case, science publisher Elsevier, Inc., a company that has had to find ways to expose vast amounts of content to its audience, has been working with semantic technologies to produce a search tool specifically geared for a research and development audience that includes Elsevier content as well as content from the open web. Its product, Illumin8, provides a way for customers to locate the information they need from mountains of information using natural language queries and an underlying semantic index built using NetBase.
"From our vantage point, we are content provider first and foremost,"says Joe Buzzanga, product manager for Illumin8 at Elsevier, "and we have a lot of content. We are probably the largest scientific and medical publisher in the world. We are always looking for ways to exploit that content for our users’ benefit, to make it more accessible in various ways, and we are actively exploring a number of different technologies," he says.
He points out that his company has been organizing its content for along time using taxonomies and metadata, and taking that structure andapplying semantic technology to the problem is the next logical step."We feed our premium content with the metadata to the NetBase engineand they are able to extract and work with the metadata." The endresult is a page of results organized in logical categories from whichthe user can quickly review the information that makes most sense forthem.