Scientific American had a great article in the December issue on the Semantic Web (see: The Semantic Web in Action for a preview of this article – or perhaps you can find a copy at a library). This article describes a number of real life exemplars of the semantic web in action.
Of particular interest, the article points to real life examples of the semantic web technology already in use by corporations and consumers. Two case studies are presented:
- work being done in the area of drug discovery at organizations such as Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, ELi Lily, and Pfizer; and,
- health care applications such as: the initiative at the University of Texas Health Science Center “called SAPPHIRE (for situational awareness and preparedness for public health incidences using reasoning engines)” … which … “integrates a wide range of data from local health care providers, hospitals, environmental protection agencies and scientific literature.”
Consumer services are also emerging built with Semantic Web components. They point to the British firm Garlik that “uses Semantic Web software to compare previously incompatible databases to alert subscribers that they might be the target of an identity thief. Garlik culls disparate personal identity information from across the Web, integrates it using common vocabularies and rules, and presents subscribers with a clear (and sometimes surprising) view of their online identity.”
Another exemplar referenced in this article is The Friend of a Friend (FOAF) project which crosses social networking sites and other web pages to “find common interests amongst friends and acquaintances.” More recently “FOAF enthusiasts are also now developing semantic trust networks–white lists of trusted senders–as a way to fight e-mail spam.”
Other exemplars from this article include:
- Science Commons — “which helps researchers openly post data on the Web. The nonprofit organization provides Semantic Web tools for attaching legally binding copyright and licensing information to those data. This capability allows a scientist, for example, to instruct a software applet to go find information about a particular gene–but only information that comes with a free license.” … and,
- DBpedia — “… an effort to smartly link information within Wikipedia’s seven million articles. This project will allow Web surfers to perform detailed searches of Wikipedia’s content that are impossible today, such as, “Find me all the films nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award before 1990 that ran longer than three hours.” …”
- A demonstration Semantic Web site by Oracle Technology Network “that can analyze blogs, podcasts and discussion groups to find related commentary about specific topics.”
Finally, the authors of this article remind us that most of the Semantic Web will be transparent and we won’t realize how companies are providing improved information and services. They do illustrate the effect of this technology with this illustration:
“… soon enough the Semantic Web will give more direct power to us, too, allowing us to go on eBay and not just say “find me the Toyota Priuses for sale” but “find me only used, red Priuses for sale for less than $14,000 by people who are within 80 miles of my house and make them an offer.” …”
I particularly like this illustration as it points to future potential for serch technologies that can be enabled by Semantic Web technologies and frameworks.
It is through practical applications like those illustrated in these cases and exemplars that the “grand vision” of the Semantic Web will be realized.