Giovanni Pirrotta

Just a curious person

Semantic Web what?

May 24, 2013

The Semantic Web term was coined by the same founding father of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, with the aim of extending the current Web in a structured environment in which each resource can be semantically processed.

A very famous example used by founder explains his original idea. In a utopian world Lucy is at the doctor’s, and she calls her brother Pete to tell him that the doctor has prescribed some physiotherapy sessions to their mother. Lucy immediately instructs her agent semantics software, through her PDA, to retrieve information about her mother’s treatment such as the list of doctors covered by her mother’s insurance with a high level confidence provided by the confidence ranking service and no more than 20 miles distance from her mother’s house. For each doctor found, the software agent retrieves information from the doctor’s homepage and creates the potential appointments compatible with the Lucy and Pete’s schedules. When Pete sees the plan of appointments provided by Lucy’s agent, he decides to add other constraints, such as less distance and different times, until Lucy and Pete find a compatible solution to the needs of both.

With this example, Tim Berners-Lee explains how the Web should evolve in the future, because currently the Web is not able to process the content of each Web page, extract information and make decisions. Instead, the Semantic Web intends to add meaning to pages, creating an environment where the programs themselves can also perform complex tasks for users in a completely automatic way.

In the Web of the future, every doctor’s homepage should provide the ability to understand and interrogate its content; each software should be able to process the page and, for example, automatically retrieves the doctor’s schedules, and from these responses make decisions autonomously and efficiently.

In the next posts I will explain Semantic Web ingredients able to transform the current Web into a structured environment machine-processable. To do this I will start pointing out the current Web limitations, and next I will show how it is possible to overcome these obstacles applying semantic technologies. Finally I will describe the Linked Data principles which have brought a breath of fresh air to Semantic Web applications.