Researchers win funds for semantic business intelligence

Sheffield Hallam University has secured European Commission funding to work on an SAP-led collaborative semantic technology and business intelligence project

Sheffield Hallam University has been given European Commission funding to help develop a platform that combines features of semantic technologies with business intelligence to give companies visual tools to help them better understand their data.

The university has secured €370,000 (£302,252) of the €4m pot for the collaborative Cubist (Combining and Uniting Business Intelligence with Semantic Technologies) project, which is being led by the German enterprise software company SAP. The funding was announced on Monday.

Semantic technologies are built around concepts driven by the semantic web, which aims to make it easier for computers to extract and process data from objects online. The semantic web project is overseen by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Those involved in Cubist will use a technique called formal concept analysis (FCA) to scrape large amounts of online and offline data then visualise it in a form known as a concept lattice, which portrays object data as a hierarchy of related nodes and groupings.

"Cubist aims to provide visual analytics based on the concept lattice," Dr Simon Andrews, senior lecturer in software engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, told ZDNet UK on Tuesday. "The end user will interact with the lattice and other elements of the graphical user interface to conduct analyses and mine their data for hidden information."

The funding will pay for a new research assistant post for the three-year term of the project, buy 50 percent of a senior lecturer's time, and provide an "80-core 'desk-side supercomputer' to provide one of the Cubist architectures", according to Andrews.

UK semantic web efforts took a hit in May, when the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced it was scrapping its proposed funding for the Institute of Web Science. The institute would have been focused on the development of the semantic web and would have been led by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and professor Nigel Shadbolt.

Regional support network Enterprise Europe Yorkshire helped Sheffield Hallam with its bid for the Commission's funding.

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