That is the vision of Bart van Leeuwen, Amsterdam Firefighter and founder of software company, Netage. We’ve covered Bart’s work before here at SemanticWeb.com and at the Semantic Technology & Business Conference, and today, there is news that the work is advancing to a new stage.
In the Netherlands, there exist 25 “Safety Regions” (pictured on the left). These organizations coordinate disaster management, fire services, and emergency medical teams. The regions are designed to enable various first responders to work together to deal with complex and severe crises and disasters.
Additionally, the Dutch Police acts as a primary partner organization in these efforts. The police is a national organization, separate from the safety regions and divided into its own ten regions.
As part of an ongoing effort to coordinate between various entities, in July of this year, a new project to stimulate innovation on an information management level called iNowIt gathered a group of CIOs, Operational Information Managers, and preferred innovators to discuss the future of innovation in their field. This event was organized by an expert team who decided that two major subjects need to be tackled:
1) Unified geo spatial information management
2) Terminology and semantic interoperability
The iNowit expert group has also started a discussion about the necessity and opportunities of business intelligence for the safety regions by writing a position paper (in Dutch) on this matter. To support these innovations the iNowit project has a new budget available for the safety regions; a budget with which they can select a preferred innovator to assist in realizing the ideas they have.
It’s important to notice that Semantic Web technologies are now being looked at as key to addressing the challenges of interoperability. This is largely due to the influence of van Leeuwen, who has long been a proponent of Semantic Web technologies and has already leveraged them within the Amsterdam Fire Department to help fire response teams get to incidents faster (for more background, be sure to watch the video at the end of this post). At the iNowIt summit, van Leeuwen presented the work he has done within the Fire Department and shared his vision for a broader system of municipal linked data for first responder use. This “fired off a lot of discussions and got people interested in the whole linked data subject,” he told SemanticWeb.com. One of the groundings of the two subject areas (geo spatial data and semantic interoperability) is something called “VERA,” which van Leeuwen describes as “our safety region reference architecture, in which data interoperability and semantics is specifically mentioned.”
At the summit, van Leeuwen was chosen to be a member of the ‘baseplate’ building team which constructs a testing environment for both geo spatial systems and semantics. “We will host a version of vocbench to finally start building the Firebrary as well as neologism to do some very simple model development,” he said. Firebrary is designed to provide an authoritative source for operationally critical vocabulary terms used by first responders. The very nature of expressing terminology and vocabularies with semantic technologies like SKOS and SKOS-XL is the multilingual capabilities. In Europe, cross border incident management — and thus cross border terminology — is an important topic. The Firebrary is intended to be a international platform for terminology exchange and alignment.
Netage.nl and another preferred innovator, AG5, were chosen by three safety regions to build a proof of concept which will implement one of the building blocks from Vera: ‘Base registration for employees.’ The POC will address two important needs:
1) to model employee information in a way that it is transferable between various IT systems within fire departments and their partner organizations.
2) to create a solid technical interface to transport this information.
For both these issues netage.nl designated already existing linked data vocabularies and standards. The modeling will be done on top of the Core Person Vocabulary and the W3C Organization ontology. The transport will use the principles implemented by the group, Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC).
Although OSLC is mainly used in software development life cycle collaboration, it is the lifecycle collaboration that is actually interesting for this POC.
On June 5, 2012, Bart van Leeuwen delivered a keynote at the Semantic Technology & Business Conference in San Francisco. You can watch that keynote in its entirety here:
For more of the latest on Semantic Technology applications, save the date for the next Semantic Technology & Business Conference, June 2-5, 2014 in San Jose, California!