Semantic web breakthrough could make sense of big data faster

17 Apr 2013

Anthony McCauley, head of research at Fujitsu in Ireland, and Pierre-Yves Vandenbussche, Fujitsu lead researcher based at the Digital Enterprise Research Centre in Galway

The first fruits of a research collaboration between the ICT giant Fujitsu and the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway could be about to pave the way for an interface that sits on linked data. This would allow researchers and organisations to unlock billions of open data sets and merge it with their own data to create new insights into everything from financial information to healthcare breakthroughs.

Last August, Fujitsu Laboratories began a three-year research programme with the web science institute DERI to explore the potential for linked data and the semantic web.

This week, Fujitsu is presenting the first results from its research collaboration with DERI at the XBRL26 conference taking place in Dublin.

Speaking this afternoon, Fujitsu Ireland’s head of research Anthony McCauley said the team has been pioneering an interface that sits on linked data.

“We’ve been looking at that not just from a research perspective but also in terms of the real commercial opportunities that linked data can provide,” he said.

Big data challenge

The big challenge at the moment for data miners is that data sets are dispersed in different locations.

“What we are trying to do is provide an application that sits onto linked data and shows how you can navigate those data sets, but also lets you identify where those data sets are so that you have a central location for accessing them,” explained McCauley.

He said the combined DERI and Fujitsu team has developed a prototype to show the potential of this linked data and the ability to join up different data sets. The researchers have also developed a data search function on the application to allow users to quickly sort and access data.

“We have developed an XBRL application that brings in data from different sources, such as the New York Times or Google, where you can also look at the sentiment of the stock. It’s a wealth of information that we are presenting in a single interface,” explained McCauley.

The research team, which involves between 10 and 12 researchers at DERI and Fujitsu, intends to present a road map for the application later this year.

“We will make the underlying application that allows access to all these data sets available. These are publically available data sets but they have not all been in a single location up to now,” he said. This would mean that users, app developers or researchers could then make more sense of data from a single access point.

Another goal for the interface would be to allow people to merge their own private data with the publically owned data to create new insights.

“It’s a means of adding value to your own data through looking at the data that is out there and interconnecting that data,” explained McCauley.

Commercial applications

One area where this technology could potentially help researchers tap into new insights is the healthcare sector.

“From a healthcare perspective, you have a huge amount of data from the likes of clinical trials, genetic testing, longitudinal studies and looking at different conditions,” he explained. “Because of the disparate nature of the data that is there you are not getting the full value out of it.”

By pooling the data together, this could then allow researchers to show up new information and potentially identify new solutions and new treatments for illnesses.

The Fujitsu and DERI research team will continue to work on this linked open data application for the next two years based at the latter’s NUI Galway base.

“This is very unique in that we have Fujitsu employees working side by side with DERI researchers. It has been hugely beneficial to get that exchange of ideas and that richness of research,” added McCauley.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic