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SemTech: where the Semantic Web meets the World Cup

The idol (and surprise) of the first day of the Semantic Technology Conference in San Francisco has a very different profile than what you may expect, at least at an event that brings together some of the most brilliant minds from one of the more innovative sectors in the world of software. His name is Landon Donovan, a professional soccer player, and he was the only one who has been able to successfully unite all of the participants, after just 90 minutes, by making the goal that qualified the United States for the next stage of the World Cup. This unforeseen fortune has thus transformed the hundreds of geeks that fill the hall of the Hilton before the start of the conference, into a crowd of excited fans in a stadium.

Apart from Donovan, the first day of SemTech was surely in line with expectations. As the organizers promised, the presentations  have been concentrated on the business rather than the purely technological aspects. Compared to last year’s conference, the topics have been more about case studies, ROI and the real needs of customers.

Among the presentations of this full program, I found of particular interest the series dedicated to the application of semantic technology to marketing. In a market of consumers who are increasingly  influenced by opinions expressed online (websites, blogs or forums), by now it has become strategic for all businesses to institute mechanisms for real-time monitoring. By analyzing these sources, it is possible to precisely identify opinions, sentiment and new trends that can shift the competitive landscape.

Considering the immense quantities of available data and information to analyze daily, an effective solution requires a system that can process content automatically and reliably. Semantic technology can help, thanks to its capacity to understand the significance of words and their relation to expressed concepts.

The panel, including some of the main vendors in this very crowded sector, has rightly discussed the problems of complexity in fully realizing a semantic system and the often exaggerated expectations by companies new to the sector. The discussion of the necessity to integrate raw data (for example, that it measures sentiment regarding product features, extracted automatically), as well as analysis made by specialized consultants, has been particularly enlightening. Right now, the match is tied on this particular topic and we will probably still see some adjustments before these listening systems will be fully implemented in the marketplace.

A second very interesting presentation was that of SalesForce ( The company presented a semantic system that, through analysis of content added by employees, can create maps that summarize in real time those employees’ abilities and interests. This knowledge map is used to allow everyone who is looking for a particular set of skills to be able to query the system and easily retrieve the profiles of employees best suited to manage a particular data problem. This type of instrument can be very useful for companies with employees in diverse geographical locations, but also in particular situations that require fast access to unique or less common skills, as well as other diverse skills and interests that are not directly related to an employee’s current responsibilities.

The final note for the day is dedicated to an interesting online application ( that provides a very useful tool for travellers—one that allows you to easily create a travel itinerary with all the useful information you need, as well as an electronic copy for your trip. For a simpler, more transparent user experience, Tripit uses semantic technology to personalize relevant information inside an email to confirm a travel reservation (for example, dates, location, name of hotel, etc.). The details automatically load into the email, including logistical information like the weather forecast, maps of the area, etc. And finally, the itineraries are available via the web or mobile (which is especially useful when travelling), allowing the traveller to avoid having to keep track of paper copies of reservations or confirmation numbers.


Author: Luca Scagliarini

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