Semantic Technology Conference 2009
The Semantic Technology Conference, currently in its fifth edition, has become one of the most important annual events in Silicon Valley. It started as an appointment mainly for techies and researchers, but in just a few years, it has transformed itself into a concrete opportunity for the entrepreneurs of the IT industry to show the market that semantic technologies can generate value.
We are very happy to be a part of SemTech again this year, and are honored to have been chosen as speakers in various work sessions. Upon my arrival at the Fairmount Hotel, I met Mills Davis, most likely the industry’s most expert analyst and author of the annual Semantic Wave Report: a true opera omnia with over 700 pages of analysis of trends and markets related to semantic technology. Mills is enthusiastic about SemTech’s success and is very optimistic about the industry. He believes that it is quite evident that the World Wide Web is becoming semantic, namely an advanced version of the current Web, where the information contained in a page is much more than: a URL address, a title, an author, a date or some keywords used by traditional search engines in order to find a page. Things are abuzz in the business world as well. In fact, just as last year, the first day of the Semantic Technology Conference (http://www.semantic-conference.com/) was dedicated to single-topic technical sessions. The sessions are aimed, on one hand, at educating so-called beginners who are interested in understanding how semantic technology can be useful to their organization, and on the other hand, at presenting a highly-qualified audience with the latest developments from the top university and company research labs.
I believe that the worldwide distribution of semantic technologies can be made possible by illustrating its concrete value for businesses and individuals, therefore I’ve been mostly concentrated on the presentations related to business. The most interesting presentation led me to endure nearly two hours of arctic cold in the conference halls of the Fairmont Hotel (evidently, the economic recession didn’t hit hard enough to make American hotels ease up on the air-conditioning; they are all set on the temperature of the North Sea in February) and it was about how semantic technology is transforming traditional business activities and competitive intelligence.
The outlook presented by a various speakers, in particular, by Daniela Barbosa of Dow Jones, is that the incredible amount of information available today must be seen as a unique opportunity to get better acquainted with the market, thereby reducing the risks that businesses are exposed to. So that this opportunity can be taken advantage of, and not become a problem, it must be handled with the right resources and technologies.
Well-developed semantic technology which processes text allows today’s user to efficiently extract and order data available outside of the organization (the well-known open informational sources) and to create very advanced intelligence models to manage different business activities. For example, a scenario was presented about an executive search company which was able to develop a model with the help of semantic technology. The model began with the analysis of articles and notices of corporate events and public announcements. It was then able to forecast which top managers were most likely to step down from their posts. The accurate performance of this forecasting model allows the businesses to be one step ahead of its competitors, by enabling them to contact and make offers to the listed managers before the news becomes public dominion. Another, more common scenario, was based on the businesses within the financial sector, where they were able to create prognostic models. By conducting an automatic analysis of news streams, they attempted to anticipate (apparently with good precision) the future buyouts and mergers and subsequently, used that information as a guide for investment strategies. These types of analysis, clearly essential in both sectors, have always been conducted. What is different today is that the quantity of available information and the possibilities offered by semantic technology which comprehend text allow us to reach levels of sophistication and precision which were unthinkable when everything was done manually by employees.
It should also be emphasized that it is too simple to think that semantic technology alone will solve all of our problems. The biggest obstacle for these models is, in fact, is the assumption that because the past has always evolved in a certain manner, the future will continue to evolve in this same manner. Therefore, to make a difference, it is important to have the best technology for automatic text comprehension (to have access to the greatest possible quantity of data), but it is also necessary take into consideration analysts and business experts’ opinions about unexpected occurrences.
We have now entered into the heart of the conference and the growing interest in semantic technology is quite obvious: for the first time, all of the giants from Google to Yahoo to Oracle, etc. will take part in presentations and panels.
Author: Luca Scagliarini