20 July 2010. In partnership with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid’s Department of Informatics Engineering, researchers from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid’s Ontology Engineering Group, based at the Facultad de Informática, have developed a tool that simplifies the use of the semantic web. The new tool, called Fortunata, can be used by developers, graphic designers and end users without an in-depth knowledge of informatics.
The semantic web, or data web, is based on the idea of adding semantic information to the Internet contents. The goal is to improve the Internet by extending interoperability among software systems. The end result will be intelligent agents, that is, software programs capable of searching and interrelating information without human operators.
A developer untrained in semantic web technologies can use this tool to create web applications that use and generate semantic data. The web applications developed using this infrastructure are no different in appearance or functionality from traditional web applications, and application users are unaware that they are using or generating semantic information.
Early experiments show that users find the applications generated with this infrastructure to be very usable and satisfactory to use, irrespective of their knowledge of informatics.
Advanced knowledge of web technologies and semantic technologies needs to be combined to develop web applications that exploit the semantic web. This calls for highly specialized developers. However, the new infrastructure simplifies the development of semantic web applications by chunking the development task across less demanding professional profiles, allocating specific tasks to each profile and minimizing interdependencies.
The process for applying this new tool is as follows. Firstly, the web designer is responsible for creating semantic templates, capable of rendering semantic data (data presentation templates) or gathering data from the user (data capture templates) that will be converted into semantic data. The experiments show that, with a little training and without any knowledge of semantic technologies, graphic designers can easily create attractive web templates using the tools provided.
Secondly, the developer (web applications creator) uses these templates to create web applications that render and/or create semantic data. They can use these templates with any programming language and without any knowledge of semantic web technologies.
Example of VPOET template use. Users can login into VPOET to find out what a semantic data source (or one particular datum from a source) rendered by an output template created by a graphic designer will look like. Output templates are used to navigate linked semantic data, skipping from one data source to another just like conventional web browsers skip from one web page another.
Even people with no more than a basic knowledge of web technologies can benefit from these semantic templates. A Google gadget has been developed that helps users to insert a template in any web page. This gadget is easy to configure by just specifying the location of the semantic data that are to be rendered and the template to be used.
Adaptation for mobile phones
In the future, semantic agents will be able to select the template best suited to each user and adapt to the user device (e.g. mobile phone, TV, PC), user interactive characteristics (e.g. low vision, colour blindness) or user aesthetic preferences.
The results of this research, developed by Oscar Corcho and Mariano Rico, of the UPM’s Ontology Engineering Group at the Facultad de Informática, and David Camacho, of the UAM’s Department of Informatics Engineering, was published in Intelligent Distributed Information Systems (Volume 180, Issue 10, 15 May 2010, Pages 1850-1864).
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