Semantic Web tools to make friends

When you attend a trade show or a scientific congress, you want to make the best use of your time and meet as many people of interest as possible. But how do you do this? The EU-funded VIKEF project has developed a software framework to build semantic services to help you.
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

When you attend a trade show or a scientific congress, you want to make the best use of your time and meet as many people of interest as possible. But how do you do this? By reading a brochure and browsing through its index? By visiting a web site? Believe me, it's often inefficient. This is why the EU-funded VIKEF project has developed a software framework to build semantic services and knowledge management applications to help fair and conference organizers and users. And these semantic technologies will also be used for e-learning or for better searches through scientific papers and other articles.

Let's start with a quote from IST Results about the VIKEF project coming from this short article.

"By creating a software environment in which ontologies [the meanings and relationships among terms and concepts in a domain] can be applied semi-automatically to information, searching for and obtaining the information you are looking for becomes easier and more precise," explains VIKEF coordinator Ruben Riestra at INMARK in Spain. "Prior to a trade fair, potential participants would be able to browse the catalogue of exhibitors semantically to find people, organisations and products that are of interest to them without having to trawl through mountains of information."

But what exactly means VIKEF? It stands for "Virtual Information and Knowledge Environment Framework" and below are two illustrations showing some of the early results of the project.

First, here is what is called the VIKEF Smart Content Factory (Credit: VIKEF).

The VIKEF Smart Content Factory

And here is one of the visualization components of the project (Credit: VIKEF).

A VIKEF visualization component

Now, it's time to look at the publications section of the VIKEF project.

Here are some excerpts of the executive summary of a document titled "Semantic Representation and Management Report" (PDF format, 108 pages, 2.68 MB, July 2005).

This document describes the high level infrastructure designed as part of the project VIKEF for creating a Virtual Information and Knowledge Environment (VIKE), namely an environment made up of explicit representation of the information and knowledge implicitly contained in one or more collections of Information-Content-Knowledge (ICK) resources, and of a collection of services operating on this explicit representation of information and knowledge. It is a virtual environment, as the representation and the services for accessing information and knowledge is almost completely independent from the physical properties of the original data, even though the original data can always be accessed and retrieved.
The main goal is to provide a general infrastructure for representing information and knowledge extracted from different ICK resources (or from already existing metadata repositories) in such a way that then it can be exploited to design and implement semantic-based community services in different applications scenarios (e.g. the scientific congress and the trade fair scenarios selected as case studies for the project).

And here are some details coming from the conclusion of another document, "Personalization Report (PDF format, 72 pages, 2.41 MB, July 2005).

The design work has been completed on the advanced user model, the VIKEF Personalization Engine components and their functionality, including the design of the CSCP (Cross System Communication Protocol) for supporting application independent personalization. Development work has also been presented in this report, which includes extensions to the existing 'Profile Extractor' and 'Item Recommender' components. In the 'Profile Extractor' component, strategies that focus on the integration of supervised learning techniques to build personal profiles able to handle different levels of users’ interests have been developed. Additionally, examples of how the learned profiles can be exploited to provide users with personalized recommendations were presented.

But there are still things to be done and they are detailed in the VIKEF 2005 Annual Report (PDF format, 7 pages, 403 KB) from which the above illustrations have been extracted.

Work in the year 2006 will be dedicated to the design and development of advanced methods for the VIKEF knowledge supply chain, their implementation as flexible services, and their integration into the Integration and Demonstration prototype Smart Community Support. The user-friendly customisation support, which enables the adaptation of the knowledge supply chain to different contexts and application domains, will be an additional orthogonal target of the R&D work of the coming year. Finally, a particular stress will be put on increasing project impact, demonstrating project results and consolidating the strategies for future exploitation of VIKEF outputs.

Finally, what is the market for such software tools? IST Results answers.

With between 2,000 and 2,500 trade fairs held each year in Europe -- "double or triple that amount if scientific congresses are included," Riestra says -- the market for the VIKEF's architecture and tools is vast. But it is not the only one. The project partners are carrying out parallel research to use semantic technologies for e-learning and to enhance information exchange between different actors in the automotive sector.

As you can see from this quote and from the above documents, the VIKEF project has more ambitious goals than trade show management.

Sources: IST Results, February 3, 2006; and VIKEF web site

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