The Semantic Technology Conference begins today in San Francisco and for the next three days, it will focus on the leading providers and the companies who have chosen to implement semantic technology to solve the problems of knowledge management, customer service and monitoring the views expressed on social media (sentiment analysis).

That semantic technologies are no longer purely niche is proven not only by the increasing number of diverse companies present, and by the rich number of case studies that crowd the agenda (pharmaceutical and financial markets for now are the leadeers) but also by the fact that the San Francisco event is just one of three editions of the conference this year. The first European edition will be held in London in September, followed by the Washington D.C. event in October, focusing on applications devoted to government organizations.  In particular, I believe that the London event will be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that, at least in this sector, European software companies are also cutting edge!

Apart from the multiple global events, the rosy future of semantic technology was also confirmed by rumblings of a series of rumors, one of which could become news today.  The recent news announced by three giants of the search world confirmed the rumors: The definition of a common standard that outlines the guidelines for adding structured information to web pages (the famous metadata) in an effort to improve user experience by improving search results and reducing the presence of spam and low quality links at the top of results.

The inclusion of metadata should enable search engines to automatically include the contents of a page and, therefore, to obtain useful information to best position a site in the results. Obviously, for now Yahoo, Google and Bing have limited themselves only to the definition of these standards, leaving the webmaster to the task of manually tagging information in HTML pages.

With this announcement, they have thus indirectly confirmed what all the ‘little people’ already knew, namely that the quality of search results has seriously declined in recent years, and that it was therefore necessary to do something to improve user experience. This announcement also comes at a time of enormous opportunity for companies with technologies such as automatic language comprehension, particularly for those who can offer meaning comprehension, because it is essential to automate the encoding of information.

Semantic software automatically understands the semantic meaning of content and can replace manual labor. Obviously, those who are able to offer webmasters a tool with high quality results that is at the same time scalable and easy to use, will have access to a potential gold mine. Instead, the rumors that may become news today here in San Francisco are about bringing voice recognition to the center of the new operating  system iOS5 for iPhone and iPad. This feature may allow users to interact with their smartphone or tablet in ways that are even more natural and better suited to the conditions in which these tools are used. If not announced by Steve Jobs today, it’s likely that this news will only be delayed a few months, at the most. If you consider the potential adoption of a tool like this and the absolute importance of semantic technologies in transforming good speech to text in a real search engine, you can understand why the focus on semantics has grown so significantly over the last twelve months.

Turning back to the conference, I wanted to highlight three very different presentations that I think clearly identify why, regardless of the sector in which you operate, it’s important to pay attention to what will be happening in San Francisco over the next few days.

  • Realizing Efficiency & Interoperability: SOA & Semantic Technology in the Business Mission Area. Dennis Wisnoski from the U.S. DoD will give high visibility to the efforts in place within U.S. defence operations to increase interoperability between the different systems used across the organization. This is a vision that will not only help to better share intelligence activities among analysts, but also improve the efficiency: the objective in times of significant budget cuts.
  • Dynamic Semantic Publishing, The BBC’s Jem Rayfield is  part of a series of presentations on the future of media, which is always a topic of great interest. Jem, who has experienced the effectiveness first hand, will focus on creating value for publishers in mechanisms that create dynamic connections between diverse and constantly updated content, allowing to better engage users by providing more usable content (with invariable production costs) and therefore increase the number of pages read per user and therefore, advertising sales.
  • The Next Generation Consumer Business: Semantically Enabled for Real-Time Intelligence, Bill Guinn. Finally, I look forward to this presentation, because the real point of no return for semantic technologies will be a successful consumer application. I expect to have a clear understanding of how the automatic and real-time context in which a user operates, made possible through an integration of semantic technologies with other technologies—such as cell phones and geographical positioning—may assist in revolutionizing interactions with customers by improving not only their level of satisfaction but also by reducing the operating costs.

Over the next few days, I’ll let you know, in real-time updates via Twitter @scagliarini, if the event is meeting expectations, and whether it will also offer even more surprises with the launch of new products. Stay tuned!


Author: Luca Scagliarini

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