UK, 21 September 2006 – Exploring the potential for data integration was the focus of the Terra future research and innovation conference at Ordnance Survey this week. The event looked at the impact of future trends on information businesses and invited more than 130 thought leaders from business, government and academia to express their views on new and evolving technologies, societal change and consumer demands.
Keynote speaker Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, opened the event exploring how the semantic web – an automated extension of the web using machine-readable information to share and reuse data – has the potential to boost its reach and functionality: “Everything can be given a uniform resource identifier (URI), which describes concepts as well as objects. Translating your data into Resource Description Framework (RDF) language means you can explain what it does, make it
available and connect to other people.”
The semantic web won’t necessarily require a change in how data is collected or used. It is more a question of making it available in a reusable, machine-understandable format. Berners-Lee also talked about the unexpected, “serendipitous” reuse of data online: “The web allows information to be reused in ways you didn’t imagine when you first put it up”. The semantic web allows the same effect for data, allowing data from diverse sources to be joined. He added, “Location is an important way by which people correlate data, as are also time and personal identity, for example”.
Mike Liebhold, senior researcher at the Institute for the Future in California, added that the evolution of present-day technology is working to build a sustainable geospatial web. “Beyond a growing commercial interest in mobile GIS and location services, there’s a deep technical fascination with web mapping and location hacking. A growing international cadre of open-source, digital geographers and frontier semantic hackers have been building first-generation working versions of powerful new open-source web-mapping service tools based on open standards.”
He continued: “Out of this teeming ecosystem we can see the beginning shapes of a true geospatial web, inhabited by spatially tagged hypermedia as well as digital map geodata. We are now experiencing invisible cartographic attributes and user annotations on every centimetre of a place and attached to every physical thing, visible and useful, in context, on low-cost, easy-to-use mobile devices.”
Ease of use was an integral consideration in a series of themed workshops exploring the future of transport, information integration in a knowledge-based economy and the impact of an ageing population. Terra future’s interactive exhibition showcased leading-edge technologies and ideas from business, research and academia, from practical solutions being shaped today to those still in the research lab.
For more information, visit www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/terrafuture