Effective knowledge management is key to navigating the sea of information being made available using internet technologies. And participants in the IST project SEKT aim to lay the foundations for that greater effectiveness, by developing three core technologies for the semantic web.
When knowledge management (KM) becomes an effortless part of daily activity, knowledge workers should be able to focus on core roles and creativity. Yet if knowledge is to be truly valuable, it must first be placed within a descriptive framework.
Enter the semantic web. The web we know today is a tool that gives users access to information. The semantic web will extend its capacity by using semantically annotated data to enable the creation and publication of machine-interpretable information. This advance will allow machines, as well as people, to understand, share and reason with data and content files in real time.
Building the semantic web
The SEKT project partners aim to pave the way for the introduction of these semantic web technologies. The project objective is to develop and exploit three core technologies that underpin next-generation knowledge management to build a range of semantic applications.
The three core technologies are: ontology and metadata technology, knowledge discovery and human language technology. The 12 partners in the SEKT project – academic institutions and ICT industry members from eight member states –are seeking to create ‘knowledge workplaces’ where the boundaries between document, content and knowledge management disappear.
The SEKT partners are developing semantic-web software that can, semi-automatically, learn ontology and extract metadata, maintain and evolve the ontology and metadata; and provide knowledge access. SEKT will also provide middleware to integrate all of the SEKT components, and develop a methodology for using semantically-based KM.
SEKT’s three core technologies should be used together for the maximum benefit. "The ontology-learning software – which is based on knowledge discovery techniques – will develop ontologies populated with metadata, by using software employing human-language technology," says project coordinator John Davies of BT (British Telecommunications) in the UK.
Case studies show positive results
The project partners are also investigating how users best interact with knowledge not just at a computer terminal, but also via a PDA or mobile phone. SEKT software components and methodology are being evaluated and refined through three case studies, in training newly appointed judges, sharing information among IT consultants and making more efficient use of digital libraries. So far, Davies says, the feedback has been "very positive".
In Spain, newly appointed judges faced with complex decisions often fall back on a more experienced judge for assistance, which often involves delay. The SEKT solution is providing them with the additional information they need in order to make a judgement. IT consultants in Germany are using SEKT to bridge the gap between their personal knowledge space and that of the organisation, thus making their knowledge available to a wider audience.
In the UK, BT employees employ SEKT to create a more powerful window when accessing the company’s digital library, which contains some five million documents. SEKT allows them to share knowledge within a common framework.
"It is clear that semantic technology can help address the challenges that knowledge workers face in accessing the right information at the right time. Also in providing a format appropriate to the content, that is according to the employee location and the device to which they have access," Davies adds.
The project has developed approximately 30 components, which are available on the SEKT website, for use during ontology design or at run time, and for testing and benchmarking purposes. Though chiefly software modules, these components also include SEKT’s PROTON ontology and an ontology-annotated corpus for research and test purposes.
Both commercial and research exploitation
SEKT concludes at the end of December 2006, and a number of initiatives are under way to exploit the results, notes Davies. At BT, semantic technology is being deployed in a number of market areas, including healthcare and knowledge management.
Another project partner, iSOCO, is considering creating a spin-off company to exploit the system developed in connection with SEKT’s case study in the legal sector. While Empolis in Germany is working with BT to deploy SEKT technology in a bid management system.
The SEKT partners are actively disseminating their results through the project website, journal articles and a recently published book, Semantic Web Technologies: Trends and Research in Ontology-based Systems (John Wiley & Sons 2006).
They are also involved in the IST project NEON, which aims to create the first ever service-oriented open infrastructure (and associated methodology) to support the development lifecycle of a new generation of semantic applications. NEON will be tested in the pharmaceuticals and agriculture/fisheries sectors, where managing ever larger data sets causes great difficulties using today’s technology.
Dr John Davies
British Telecommunications, plc
Adastral Park, Martlesham
Ipswich IP5 3RE
Tel: +44 1473 609583
Fax: +44 1473 609832
Email: john.nj.davies @ bt.com