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RE: request for info on Semantic Web business applications

From: David Provost <dprovost@sloan.mit.edu>
Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2005 13:28:06 -0500
To: <semantic-web@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000a01c51f55$945be9e0$476d8243@TINK>

Frank -

I think this request of yours has tremendous potential and could lead to
some very interesting and productive discussions. Keeping your FOO, BAR and
BAZ components in mind, here are some initial thoughts:

a. I'd like to begin with examples of reasonably familiar business
applications, structured FOO, BAR, BAZ:

- ScanSoft makes Dragon NaturallySpeaking to convert speech to text.
- Siebel makes Siebel Sales to help companies automate their sales forces.
- Adobe makes Photoshop "...for graphic and Web design, photography, and
video." [1]

I must admit that while I've spoken with a number of SW vendors I don't
actually know the names of their products. So, my next best response is the
admittedly incomplete list of vendors (below) pulled from my bookmarks.
Obviously, many are W3C members and I'd guess there are W3C member vendors
that aren't on my list:

http://www.radarnetworks.com/ http://www.semantxls.com/index.shtml

b. I'm not sure there are many CTO's, CIO's, or other IT managers presently
"...looking for Semantic Web business applications..." And I certainly don't
think business managers are looking for SW applications. However, while I
don't have ready examples I believe the history of IT adoption and
implementation reflects business problems solved by technical applications
and that the underlying technology is secondary (unless there's a need or
desire to comply with specific standards).

Would it be more helpful to define business problems or business situations
that might benefit from SW solutions? I believe that problems and situations
can represent needs, and from an economic (business) perspective, needs
catalyze transactions (purchase decisions).

Defining problems and situations might also serve another fundamental
purpose: In my experience, business managers are often unaware of how
technology can benefit them. Usually, someone with technical knowledge
describes how a business problem can be solved and if the case seems
compelling enough a process of experimentation and hopefully, adoption,
begins. Being able to state clearly and concisely what business problems SW
technology can address might be very helpful in enhancing the ability to
recognize commercial opportunities and effectively communicate the role SW
technology can play.

c. As for what's "not" an SW application, my impression is that your intent
is to exclude bits of SW code deployed in various spots in an enterprise
infrastructure and if so, I agree with this approach. While I think bit of
code are a good thing and will likely lead to further adoption, I'd prefer
to stick with discrete applications designed to perform a specific task(s).

Changing the focus of this section just slightly, I'd like to continue
focusing on what "is" vs. what "is not" an SW application. For instance, the
vendors listed above are presumably producing discrete applications. I'm
only guessing, but I'd suspect that the applications they offer are mostly
based on proprietary or "closed" source. Regardless, these products would
fit into your definition.

Alternatively, there are many open source applications and their number is
growing. It would seem to me that these also fit into your definition. The
open/closed distinction may be unnecessary, but if so, I think an explicit
decision on this issue might be better than a decision that's tacit.

Hope my comments help.


David Provost

[1] http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/overview.html

-----Original Message-----
From: semantic-web-request@w3.org [mailto:semantic-web-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Frank Manola
Sent: Tuesday, March 01, 2005 9:41 AM
To: semantic-web@w3.org
Subject: request for info on Semantic Web business applications

The question "are there any real business applications of Semantic Web 
technology?" comes up all the time.  It's come up before on this list, 
and came up again at the Semantic Web Interest Group meeting now going 
on in Boston. I've (been?) volunteered to gather information on that 
subject, so I'm soliciting input from the list.  I'll try to organize 
this information and post either it or a suitable URL to the list. 
Please reply to the list, rather than just to me, so everyone can see 
the answers, and participate in the discussion.  The information I'm 
looking for falls in one or more of the following categories:

a.  Actual instances of (what you think are) existing business 
applications of Semantic Web technology (and pointers to more 
information, if it's available).  The general outline of what I'm 
looking for here is something like:

FOO (a company, industry sector, etc.) is applying BAR (a Semantic Web 
technology or language) to do BAZ (some kind of work)

Prototypes being developed in conjunction with customers can be 
included, if they're identified as such, but I'm not looking for 
speculation about things that *could* at some point reasonably be 
Semantic Web applications, unless they're considered a potential future 
extension of some more concrete activity.  Also, I'm not using 
"applications" here to mean programs that parse or store or edit RDF, 
OWL, etc., or things of that sort. "Applications" here means things like 
interchange of real estate or scientific data, knowledge collection and 
management, metadata about resources of various kinds, agents and other 
"smart" applications, etc.  Finally, "business" isn't restricted to 
private enterprise;  government applications are fine too.

b.  If you are looking for Semantic Web business applications, what 
criteria do you use for determining what a "business application" is, or 
what sorts of applications do you consider "business applications"? 
(I'm asking this question because apparently just because a Semantic Web 
technology is used in some business activity doesn't necessarily mean it 
counts as a "business application" to everyone).

c. If you think that certain applications given as examples of business 
applications are *not* business applications, please say why you think 
they aren't.

Further background:  There are a number of what some of us consider 
existing business applications of Semantic Web technology identified in 
the RDF Primer and other W3C documents and presentations on the Semantic 
Web and related areas. Nevertheless, the question of whether there are 
any business applications continues to arise.  Part of the problem is 
probably that we're simply not getting the word out well enough.  But 
another part is that we don't necessarily have a thorough understanding 
of what people are looking for when they say "business application". 
Hence this message.

Thanks for your help.

Received on Wednesday, 2 March 2005 18:28:17 UTC

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