K. Krasnow Waterman started the New York Semantic Technology & Business Conference off on the right foot Wednesday, highlighting the highly practical virtues of the semantic web and Linked Data for all.
Krasnow Waterman pointed to four big benefits of a semantic web world, including easing the path to:
- Analyzing data from multiple sources;
- Understanding context, from the meaning of a particular term to the context of relationships;
- Linking data; and
- Applying rules in which there’s no limit about what can be said or linked to within program code that can be reasoned over as data flows through systems.
In her life as CEO of LawTechIntersect, which offers data/technology management and policy consulting, she noted that she’s now “talking to people about forestalling their platform upgrades, to go back instead and embed the tagging needed for semantic processing,” she told attendees at SemTech. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Do it and you can compute forevermore with that data.”
Acknowledging that businesses become interested in technologies when they understand how they can help them make money or save it, Krasnow Waterman painted a picture of how various industries can leverage semantics to share their data and achieve those ends. “Think of metrics for any industry you service,” she noted. An online furnishings merchant, for instance, knows that its “rugs have knots per inch and dye types. There’s a bunch of information in your industry that can ‘ride under the covers’ that people can use to do comparisons without being experts, that can help them know what [you’re selling] that is like something else [they already bought and like].” That’s a much needed benefit for satisfied buyers and solid sales, especially when you consider that “with so much of what is offered for sale on the web, you don’t have a sense of how it is like something you already know. It’s the reason for people to hold back, and why the web has a higher rate of returns than physical stores.”
Businesses may not be comfortable with the concept of sharing more information, but “giving data away is good for business,” she said. Just look at books, as one real-world example – there’s a reason they don’t hit the bookstore shelves in shrink-wrap, so that they can be picked up and perused to pique potential buyers’ interest. Not only that, but shy away from sharing now and chances are that others will step in to do it without your input. Said Krasnow Waterman, “It’s going to happen anyway, so help your clients to do it on their own terms.”
In an example of how having more semantically-enhanced information available for use helps all, Krasnow Waterman discussed how journalists can aid their outlets by speedily ferreting out stories thanks to being able to quickly make connections among data — a task that might have taken a ton of research to find using traditional methods, but could potentially be resolved with a single SPARQL query. Given the amount of open data from government and other sources there for consumption (21 countries are providing data in some semantic form that’s open to the public and on the web, she noted), the “level of opportunity for the creation of research is amazing.”
“Maybe,” Krasnow Waterman said, “Linked Data offers some opportunities to help your businesses – for you to think of what business you are in and what kinds of things could you do, or [that you could] do differently.” Consider the compliance obligations of financial and other institutions in that list: “Compliance activities interfere with opportunities to produce revenue,” she said. Companies “want it to be a back-burner activity, instead of driving lots of expenses,” she noted. And it can be, when steps are taken to semanticize and link the data such that “humans can see it and machines can read it and make judgments. It’s a great space.”