Google funds semantic web researcher


16 Dec 2010

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An NUI Galway researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), has won a research award from Google to work on the future of mobile social networking apps to let users own their data again.

The grant will fund Dr Alexandre Passant and a team for a year, letting them combine theoretical research and implementation.

This will make the end product directly usable by end users and it’s hoped that it will make key advancements in social networking applications.

The research also has a strong focus on protecting the privacy of users.

This round of funding saw Google give 112 awards for more than $6m, with 29pc of funding given to universities outside the US, including NUI Galway.

DERI researchers have been working on SMOB, a microblogging framework, as an alternative to move closed social apps, enabling “semantic and distributed social networks.”

The result is that the user will not rely on a third-party provider, but owns their data and can share it with who they wish.

The SMOB framework has distributed hubs communicating with each other to exchange microblog posts and subscriptions in order to follow certain blogs or have others follow an individual blog which belongs to another user.

Each user can install their own hub, spreading the communication from there.

“With this Google Research Award, we will push the boundaries of this research to make such distributed networks as SMOB communicate directly between mobile phones, with a special focus on privacy," said Passant.

"Our goal is to make users really control who they want to share content with, based on dynamic and in-the-cloud identification of people belonging to particular groups, for instance colleagues or family members, without having to subscribe to a service that will own your data.

"We will in particular rely on Google’s PubSubHubbub protocol to do so, combined with our expertise in social networks and semantic web technologies," he said.