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Why Migrate to the Semantic Web?

Why should an existing web application, such as CDMS, which currently stores its data in a relational database and presents this information as HTML and PDF documents, migrate to the semantic web?

ost web applications are based on HTML documents. The semantic web is based on RDF, the RDF Schema language (RDFS), and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). Additionally, the SPARQL Query Language for RDF is also a part of the semantic web and allows you to query across the semantic web of data.

The CDMS application supports quality assurance and compliance checking in the building and construction industries of Australia and New Zealand. It deals with real-world objects—things such as buildings, roads, and infrastructure —as well as the people and organizations involved in building them. Additionally, it needs to incorporate more abstract concepts such as the standards, regulations, and legislation that define the criteria used for compliance checking.

Building projects defined in CDMS annotate real world objects with information. RDF is more flexible at annotating objects than a relational database.

Some of these annotations include:

  • References to the criteria (e.g., legislation, standards) that form the basis for compliance checking
  • Linking project participants who may be of the same or different organizations
  • Location based information
A good way to understand RDF files and how they link together is to use an RDF browser such as one of the following: A good preference is the Tabulator Firefox Extension that allows Firefox to navigate RDF in a way similar to browsing HTML. The examples below show RDF as Firefox displays it using the Tabulator Extension.

Benefits of the Semantic Web

Figure 1. Social Networks: Semantic web technologies help integrate social networks.
To show how the semantic web benefits an application like CDMS, an example RDF model of a building project was created at http://3kbo.com/examples/building.rdf to highlight the following features:
  • Social networking
  • Domain modeling
  • Clarifying concepts
  • Augmenting location data
  • Project collaboration
  • Inferences and reasoning

Social Networking
Social networking is supported via the FOAF (Friend of a Friend) Vocabulary. Building projects are about people knowing people and collaboration between different groups and organizations. In Figure 1 the building owner knows the architect who recommends the builder. FOAF is currently exported by a number of popular social network sites, so supporting it means that users do not have to recreate all their contacts again when working with CDMS.

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