Thu 14 Feb 2013
What better way is there to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to focus on relationships? Forget about the fact that we’re talking about relationships among data. I’m sure that’s what Eric Franzon of semanticweb.com was thinking about when he posted Chris Moran’s White Paper: The Business Value of Semantic Technology. You’ll find his post here, with a link to the white paper itself.
If your true passion is in philosophizing about data, you can dive in and enjoy. If it isn’t, then just imagine this is dark chocolate or cake and let your imagination go. This focuses on the form in which data is stored, and not the infrastructure nor NLP (including natural language understanding. One key aspect of business value derives from a point made almost too subtly: “if we want to improve upon our understanding of [data], we can simply add more information. It isn’t necessary to redesign a data model.” In other words, it is possible to improve your data by making additions without the need to re-architect the database. Not having to re-architect saves time and money, and not being bound by coming up with structures at the outset also plays to iterating, and unshackles the development process in that regard.
Ignore for the moment any existential interpretation of Chris’ point “[t]here is, in fact, no information until the data is consumed by the application.” The point is that data, on its own, doesn’t mean anything without definition and context – and including that right in with the data itself frees the data up from what has been preconceived as a need (and written into an application) and lets the questions be asked of it directly, with the relationships among the data being found within the data itself.
By integrating the meaning of the data within the data itself, and reducing the need for that to be handled by the application, the point is made that semantic structure reduces costs and “removes the need to maintain a staff whose purpose is simply to “keep the silo operating”.” Still, there is great need for curation and consideration of what is meant within different silos, and management of vocabularies such that the names and terms used are the correct ones. For business purposes, it is still important that there be consistency (within intent) in order to be useful/valuable information.
His bottom line: “The value of semantics is in… a reduction in complexity, a reduction in operating cost, a reduction in the sheer amount of storage and computing capacity, a better use of talent, and a leap forward in our ability to further automate what we do.”