Semantic Tech and Business Conference 2011 - highlighting the benefits of semantic technology

TSO was a gold sponsor at the first London Semantic Tech and Business Conference on Monday and Tuesday this week (26 and 27 September 2011). TSO's Richard Goodwin spoke on sustainable semantic publishing. Here Richard gives his thoughts on the conference.

What has become clear to us is that the semantic web community is still at a very early stage in terms of getting its message across to those within large organisations who have the influence and budget to have a major impact on how business is done. Exhibitors and visitors to Semtech were roughly segmented into major publishing organisations such as Pearson, the Press Association, the BBC and TSO, who are adopting semantic principles and seeing benefits. Then there are defence related organisations (non-UK) who are making initial investigations into what the semantic web can do for them (“other than anti-terrorism” as one representative told me). Finally there are academics and startups which are targeting the provision of very niche semantic services with potentially disruptive technologies.

There was a smattering of Chief Knowledge Officers (from smaller firms) but it is very clear that the semantic web has yet to escape from the IT department into the consciousness of senior management, or the C-Suite as it is known across the Atlantic. We believe that this is because semantics is an industry still run by tech enthusiasts and therefore focused on technological progress at the expense of finding ways to get the message about benefits of adopting semantic technologies across to those among us who are non-tech.

What was great was that, perhaps for the first time, concrete business benefits started to come to the fore in the presentations by the publishers.

Madi Weland-Solomon of Pearson highlighted their new Open Sesame product enables buyers to build their own text book from snippets and chapters of existing texts, video media and external resources. 

John O’Donovan of the Press Association talked about the reduction in the editorial resource needed for content shuffling within content management systems by BBC Sport due to implementation of concept based publishing.

Steve Harris of Garlik extolled the flexibility of RDF - the constant changes being made to the data sources and types would break any conventional schema-based data solution - and the ability of Garlik's 5Store to cope with an average upload of about 700,000,000 data elements/day (and sometimes up to one billion).

We all look forward to the day when semantic web technologies take their rightful place in the list of strategic business tools but need to recognise that this will only happen when the gains from their adoption can easily be described by management level, non-technical staff in terms of cost down, sales up or problem resolution.

September 29, 2011, 4:39 pm