The European Semantic Technology Conference 2009 will take place in Vienna at the beginning of December 2009. Andreas Blumauer (Semantic Web Company) talked with Lyndon Nixon who is the program advisor of this conference:
SWC: In its own saying the European Semantic Technology Conference brings together the smartest minds in Semantic Technologies. What will be the highlights of this year’s conference?
There are many highlights this year! We have a full program of presentations, workshops, panels and a keynote by Susie Stephens from Johnson&Johnson. On top of this, the first day will see the first ever ESTC Innovation Seed Camp, where enterpreneurs and young start ups are invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists and there will be cash prizes! Besides the main program, an open demo space will continually offer new showcases of semantic technologies and products, while a networking zone gives attendees a relaxed space to make business away from the conference hectic. We will also be holding matchmaking sessions, where attendees can schedule one-to-one meetings with other attendees organized by a handy online tool. Finally, in line with ESTC’s focus on semantics and innovation – during the two days we will give participants the chance to check out two innovative conference tools: an electronic vCard exchange and the “Web Comparator”. So, too much to explain, but you can get full information on every aspect of the conference at its webpage www.estc2009.com.
SWC: How would you describe the state of the art in semantic technology business especially in Europe?
We are at a very exciting period in the enterprise uptake of semantic technologies, which can be seen in the growth in attendance at events such as ESTC. Semantic technologies are finally maturing and can be used away from toy examples in real, critical business processes. Technologies are being standardized and tools aligned to those standards, while progress in being made in supporting the sorts of extensions that businesses need (see OWL 2, or SPARQL 1.1). This year, the case studies and the business applications that will be presented are going to reflect that. We are still inside the early adopter phase in semantic uptake, with the critical mass of companies still checking out semantics at a research and prototyping level. However, the balance is shifting and enabling the technology transfer to real business projects is key; ESTC’s focus on direct contact between the technology vendors and the business clients – the networking zone, the open demo space, or the matchmaking sessions – is a reflection of the importance of an event such as ESTC to bring these two groups together.
SWC: One of the big issues at the moment is Linking Open Data. How do you perceive this development and how can you start?
Yes, Linked Open Data is an interesting development, making a significant amount of semantic data about a broad subject range available to everyone. I think it has real value in the research community where large data sources have been needed. For industry, I would say its value is less straight-forward: the data is not always so clean and care needs to be taken before building business applications on top of it. Clear guidelines on how to best make use of Linked Open Data by enterprises is needed. ESTC picks up on this in its program this year: we will have an expert panel precisely on this subject! Of course, leveraging the Linked Data Cloud in the enterprise is already a topic for many organisations – one of our paper sessions is on Linked Data and I am sure there will be plenty mentions of it elsewhere during the conference!
SWC: In recent years large IT-companies and system integrators have rather been playing around with semantic web technologies than identifying the semantic web
as a market opportunity. Do you think that this situation has changed already?
I think a lot of these companies are being cautious – the Semantic Web was so hyped to industry in its first years that a certain level of cynicism grew. Now, that we have in my opinion very real and valuable tools and technologies built on semantics, the companies are being careful in how to present this to the market. There are already many very encouraging examples of semantics making inroads in key markets where data heterogeneity, integration, and management have become key issues: I think Health Care and Life Sciences is simply the market which is being most open about it (the ESTC keynote speaker Susie Stephens will also report on semantic technologies in this market). There are further examples we just don’t know about, because companies don’t want to let their competitors know, or mention that it is semantics which is being used.
SWC: Please add another statement which is important for you!
ESTC 2009 will be *the* meeting place in Europe this year for semantic technology vendors and users – don’t miss it!