SemTechBiz 2013

I attended SemTechBiz 2013 in San Francisco last week to give a lighting talk on semLayer - our mobile enabled spatially aware semantic knowledge management platform built on open source components. semLayer integrates and extends the Semantic MediaWiki, PostGIS spatial database, and Open Data Kit (ODK) platforms to create a semantic knowledge management application that enables users to collect, organize, tag, search, browse, visualize, and share structured knowledge. semLayer is also available with the ROGUE-JCTD (Rapid Open Geospatial User-Driven Enterprise - Joint Capability Technology Demonstration) OpenGeo Suite for military applications. 

In semLayer, form definitions provide a rich set of semantic annotations for mobile data collection. Forms are defined in the semantic store and pushed automatically to mobile devices. When the mobile form submissions are pushed, the app automatically syncs with the semantic store and is annotated with the knowledge base ontology. PostGIS spatial objects and functions are represented as categories and properties in the semantic store, thus providing the capability of  including spatial constructs in semantic searches. 

There were a number of interesting keynote presentations. Walmart Labs CTO Abhishek Gattani discussed the integration of semantic technology to Walmart's online store search engine Polaris. Walmart is making a push for semantics integration having acquired a number of startups: Kosmix categorization engine, Grabble mobile POS receipt technology, OneRiot mobile social ad network, Social Calendar app, and others. Walmart's semantic platform is built around the semantic categories consisting of people, topics, events, places, products. Mapping a consumer's keyword search onto the right category means millions of additional sales for Walmart, which uses contextual knowledge from Wikipedia, Twitter, and the like to accomplish this task. 

Semantics of keyword search is essential for eCommerce.  For instance, if a user is shopping for a green lantern, does your search engine display lanterns with green color, or DVDs, comic books, action figures about the superhero Green Lantern? If the user is searching for a Kindle that your store doesn't carry, does your search engine infer that Kindle is an instance of the product category eReader, and display competing products (e.g. Nook) from other vendors that your store carries?  

There were several prototype technology presentations as well. Eric Freese of codeMantra gave a proof of concept semantically enabled eReading demo - CloudShelf. The prototype is browser based where the knowledge is encoded in the text, and scripting extracts RDFa to create internal knowledge. Readers can view the internal knowledge base using the knowledge base navigation panel that contains known and inferred semantic facts about the entities in the document. In addition, users can ask questions of the knowledge base using natural language and get answers with an NLP pattern matching process that transforms the query into SPARQL. Very cool.