The Semantic Technology and Business Conference – UK took place in London last week at the Millennium Goucester Hotel, and a number of themes emerged from the two-day event. A few of the sessions are highlighted below, but first, let us turn to some of the attendees to share some of their favorite insights and takeaways:

Public Sector Semantics

Professor Nigel ShadboltThere was a lot of interest in the Public Sector work. One of the presentations that highlighted the Open Data movement was Nigel Shadbolt‘s Keynote presentation about the recently launched Open Data Institute. We have covered the ODI here, and Professor Shadbolt shared some exciting insights and perspectives on the Open Data economy. In his presentation, he referred to a report on which he collaborated that was published by Deloitte Analytics. This free white paper is available for download.

Other public sector sessions that garnered a lot of attendee interest were:

Bart van Leeuwen‘s “Under the Hood: Fighting Fires with Real-Time Semantic Web Technology.” For those who have seen Bart van Leeuwen chats with SemTechBiz Conference attendeesBart present before about how he is using Semantic Technologies to help save lives through the Amsterdam Fire Department, this was a more technical discussion than he has given before, delving into the architecture and technological strategies he chose, and challenges he faced along the way.

 

image of Porthpean Beach, St. Austell, CornwallThe audience was treated to a bit of disambiguation when Alex Coley, Environment Agency / Defra and Stuart Williams, Epimorphics Ltd., presented Linked Environmental Data and discussed the tracking of “bathing water” quality (for my fellow yanks, this isn’t what we put in our tubs — it’s water along the public beaches in the UK).

This proved to be a fascinating study into how linking environmental data could allow the general public as well as scientists derive insights from real-time information gathering. See the data in action at the Environment Agency website.

Photo of Richard Goodwin holding the very large TSO print catalogue.Richard Goodwin, from The Stationery Office gave the audience an update on the “Organagrams” work introduced at last year’s SemTechBiz – UK event, sharing how semantics has saved the TSO quite a bit of money and effort. He used the very visible example of the paper book the TSO used to print vs. the significantly lower cost of delivering the same information today electronically, using Linked Data.

Private Sector Semantics

The discussions of how Semantic Technologies was used to help companies make money, save money, and solveĀ  business problems in the private sector was also covered, and once again, it was good to see new case studies explored.

Nick Holzherr, Craig Edmunds, and David Brooks of WhiskThe team at Whisk, a UK start-up made famous when co-founder Nick Holzherr competed on the BBC program The Apprentice, treated the SemTechBiz audience to a pair of presentations in which they talked about the business case, the architecture, and the “nitty gritty” of the technologies involved (see our previous coverage here). Whisk is a recipe application that integrates with grocery store data to provide users with “smart” grocery lists based on the recipes they chose and other preferences. It will become available in the UK in early 2013.

Photo of David PriceDavid Price, Managing Partner of TopQuadrant, presented a case study from the Oil & Gas Industry that involved creating a solution for a consortium in Norway. The scale of the solution was particularly impressive. From one of David’s slides, the solution promises:

  • 300 million triples in the next 4 years
  • 40+ concurrent users
  • Phase 1 XML Schemas have 2000-ish elements
  • Delivered on an SaaS basis with high availability Service Level Agreement

Photo of Steve Harris, Garlik (Experian)The audience heard an update from last year’s keynote speaker, Steve Harris. Steve is CTO of Garlik, the UK Financial Services Company that was founded in 2005 and acquired by Experian late last year. Harris discussed why the Garlik team built their systems on semantic standards, what challenges they faced in doing so, and lessons learned along the way. Outlining a very practical approach, they use semantics to address business needs (citing flexible data and standards-based work) and operational needs (taking advantage of benefits such as scalability and flexibility in the face of changing requirements). Equally interesting, however, was hearing Harris talk about the Semantic Technologies they don’t use: complex ontologies, reasoning, NLP, or Co-reference resolution. Harris also noted the challenges they have faced along the way, including finding people with experience in Semantic Technologies. He said that they finally gave up on that, opting instead to “train up skilled software engineers.”

There were several other sessions at the conference with outstanding takeaways and stories told. If you attended and feel that we missed a particular message that you found useful, please post it below! As always with SemTechBiz, the rich content outweighed the time and energy of a single person to see it all.

The next Semantic Technology & Business Conference takes place in New York City on October 15-17. The full program is available here, and registration details are here. Be sure to register early for discounted rates.