Semantics in Practice

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Semantic Advertising
Assuming that the use of semantics is engaging readers on the site longer, the next logical use of the technology is to match the advertisement to the page and the reader. It’s a task for which semantics is particularly well-suited, because it can facilitate a match between an article and an advertisement based on context and concepts within the article.

Amiad Solomon is president and founder of Peer39, which uses semantic analysis technology to match publisher inventory to relevant advertisements. Solomon says, “Advertisers want to buy display ads around relevant content based on an understanding of the true meaning of the content.” Peer39 processes more than a billion articles a day to uncover that meaning and make the matches, either directly with large publishers or through yield optimization firms such as AdMeld.

The technology also provides a measure of brand protection for firms who want to make sure there are places where their ads won’t show up—for example, near stories about pornography, terrorism, or plane crashes.

Streamlining Operations
Amram Shapiro, president and founder of Book of Odds (, believes that without semantic technology in back-office processing, his 3-year-old company wouldn’t be here. “We’re a content site,” explains Shapiro, providing a dictionary of probability via “odds statements” such as, “What are the odds an adult considers football to be his or her favorite sport?” (One in 3.23, if you’re curious.) The key audience comprises companies who use the odds statements to help them assess risk, and it currently has 400,000–500,000 such statements in the database.

Shapiro says, “We needed to organize a complex set of interrelationships about data regarding the odds of everyday life—diseases, accidents, weather, crime, war. To set that up in a relational database would simply have been impossible.” The company turned to the Anzo middleware platform from Cambridge Semantics for help solving the main two obstacles it faced in its early days: organizing data and keeping back office costs low.

“It’s neither sexy nor sizzling,” says Shapiro, “but using semantic technology in this instance ensures that we have consistency across data types, flexibility, and efficiency. Our researchers don’t have to rethink things each time, they just refer to the ontology. And if the ontology changes, it’s much easier to address using semantics than it would be with an RDBMS.”

Customer care is another enterprise function finding use for semantics, as the economy is driving companies to do more with fewer resources. Chris Hall, VP of product strategy for InQuira, a provider of enterprise knowledge solutions, says, “Customers are saying, ‘How can I cross-train customer service employees, because I have fewer of them to work with?’“

One answer is to maximize the efficiency of web self-service. Apple’s support site is a good example of a company using semantics to, essentially, create “topic hubs” around products and problems so that customers can find what they need.

Another efficiency-boosting technique is to make it easier to resolve customer phone queries on the first call. The InQuira solution uses semantics to measure the intent of a query for web self-service, contact center support, and sales departments to increase the efficiency of those customer interactions. With InQuira embedded into the desktop of major CRM vendors such as Oracle and SAP, Hall says, “As the agent starts to fill in the case screen, we’re already searching in the background.” By bringing back related articles, discussion forums, and case studies and making it easier for agents to sort and drill through responses, companies can reduce the need for agent training and the time spent on individual calls.

Full (Incremental) Speed Ahead
The opportunities for semantic technology seem boundless for the content industry, not only in the areas above but also in media monitoring, harnessing user-generated content, monitoring copyright, and usage. But don’t let the wide-open, uncharted future scare you off.

“Start with small projects, pilot projects,” counsels Cambridge Semantics’ Kludt. “By making an incremental investment you can get your value and then move on to the next project.” He says that every Cambridge customer who has implemented a semantic solution is working on his or her next project already.

Having followed it himself, Book of Odds’ Shapiro also endorses the incremental approach. But he adds, “The only thing I wish I’d known before we started is that semantics is more powerful than we realized. We could have moved ahead even faster.”


Alta Plana about.html
Book of Odds
Cambridge Semantics
Cognition Technologies
Link TV
The New Republic
Sacramento Connect
Siegel, David, Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business (Portfolio, 2009)
http://thepowerofpull .com/pull/blog
ThomsonReuters OpenCalais
TopQuadrant, Inc.

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