Month: August 2010

Semantic Technology: Sharing a Large Market Space

It is always interesting to talk shop with the experts in a new technology arena. My interview with Luca Scagliarini, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Expert System, and Brooke Aker, CEO of Expert System USA was no exception. They had been digesting my research on Semantic Software Technologies and last week we had a discussion about what is in the Gilbane report.

When asked if they were surprised by anything in my coverage of the market, the simple answer was “not really, nothing we did not already know.” The longer answer related to the presentation of our research illustrating the scope and depth of the marketplace. These two veterans of the semantic industry admitted that the number of players, applications and breadth of semantic software categories is impressive when viewed in one report. Mr. Scagliarini commented on the huge amount of potential still to be explored by vendors and users.

Our conversation then focused on where we think the industry is headed and they emphasized that this is still an early stage and evolving area. Both acknowledged the need for simplification of products to ease their adoption. It must be straightforward for buyers to understand what they are licensing, the value they can expect for the price they pay; implementation, packaging and complementary services need to be easily understood.
Along the lines of simplicity, they emphasized the specialized nature of most of the successful semantic software applications, noting that these are not coming from the largest software companies. State-of-the-art tools are being commercialized and deployed for highly refined applications out of companies with a small footprint of experienced experts.

Expert System knows about the need for expertise in such areas as ontologies, search, and computational linguistic applications. For years they have been cultivating a team of people for their development and support operations. It has not always been easy to find these competencies, especially right out of academia. Aker and Scagliarini pointed out the need for a lot of pragmatism, coupled with subject expertise, to apply semantic tools for optimal business outcomes. It was hard in the early years for them to find people who could leverage their academic research experiences for a corporate mission.

Human resource barriers have eased in recent years as younger people who have grown up with a variety of computing technologies seem to grasp and understand the potential for semantic software tools more quickly.
Expert System itself is gaining traction in large enterprises that have segmented groups within IT that are dedicated to “learning” applications, and formalized ways of experimenting with, testing and evaluating new technologies. When they become experts in tool use, they are much better at proving value and making the right decisions about how and when to apply the software.

Having made good strides in energy, life sciences, manufacturing and homeland security vertical markets, Expert System is expanding its presence with the Cogito product line in other government agencies and publishing. The executives reminded me that they have semantic nets built out in Italian, Arabic and German, as well as English. This is unique among the community of semantic search companies and will position them for some interesting opportunities where other companies cannot perform.

I enjoyed listening and exchanging commentary about the semantic software technology field. However, Expert System and Gilbane both know that the semantic space is complex and they are sharing a varied landscape with a lot of companies competing for a strong position in a young industry. They have a significant share already.
For more about Expert System and the release of this sponsored research you can view their recent Press Release.

Data Mining for Energy Independence

Mining content for facts and information relationships is a focal point of many semantic technologies. Among the text analytics tools are those for mining content in order to process it for further analysis and understanding, and indexing for semantic search. This will move enterprise search to a new level of research possibilities.

Research for a forthcoming Gilbane report on semantic software technologies turned up numerous applications used in the life sciences and publishing. Neither semantic technologies nor text mining are mentioned in this recent article Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s in the New York Times but I am pretty certain that these technologies had some role in enabling scientists to discover new data relationships and synthesize new ideas about Alzheimer’s biomarkers. The sheer volume of data from all the referenced data sources demands computational methods to distill and analyze.

One vertical industry poised for potential growth of semantic technologies is the energy field. It is a special interest of mine because it is a topical area in which I worked as a subject indexer and searcher early in my career. Beginning with the 1st energy crisis, oil embargo of the mid-1970s, I worked in research organizations that involved both fossil fuel exploration and production, and alternative energy development.

A hallmark of technical exploratory and discovery work is the time gaps between breakthroughs; there are often significant plateaus between major developments. This happens if research reaches a point that an enabling technology is not available or commercially viable to move to the next milestone of development. I observed that the starting point in the quest for innovative energy technologies often began with decades-old research that stopped before commercialization.

Building on what we have already discovered, invented or learned is one key to success for many “new” breakthroughs. Looking at old research from a new perspective to lower costs or improve efficiency for such things as photovoltaic materials or electrochemical cells (batteries) is what excellent companies do.
How does this relate to semantic software technologies and data mining? We need to begin with content that was generated by research in the last century; much of this is just now being made electronic. Even so, most of the conversion from paper, or micro formats like fîche, is to image formats. In order to make the full transition to enable data mining, content must be further enhanced through optical character recognition (OCR). This will put it into a form that can be semantically parsed, analyzed and explored for facts and new relationships among data elements.

Processing of old materials is neither easy nor inexpensive. There are government agencies, consortia, associations, and partnerships of various types of institutions that often serve as a springboard for making legacy knowledge assets electronically available. A great first step would be having DOE and some energy industry leaders collaborating on this activity.

A future of potential man-made disasters, even when knowledge exists to prevent them, is not a foregone conclusion. Intellectually, we know that energy independence is prudent, economically and socially mandatory for all types of stability. We have decades of information and knowledge assets in energy related fields (e.g. chemistry, materials science, geology, and engineering) that semantic technologies can leverage to move us toward a future of energy independence. Finding nuggets of old information in unexpected relationships to content from previously disconnected sources is a role for semantic search that can stimulate new ideas and technical research.

A beginning is a serious program of content conversion capped off with use of semantic search tools to aid the process of discovery and development. It is high time to put our knowledge to work with state-of-the-art semantic software tools and by committing human and collaborative resources to the effort. Coupling our knowledge assets of the past with the ingenuity of the present we can achieve energy advances using semantic technologies already embraced by the life sciences.

© 2018 Bluebill Advisors

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑