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homework: Personal Travel "Agent"

From: Mike Dean <mdean@bbn.com>
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2001 01:54:52 -0500
Message-Id: <200111280654.BAA27394@cam-mbx1.bbn.com>
To: www-webont-wg@w3.org
I hope that WebOnt will be used to provide information
that's currently available on the WWW (and not currently
available on the WWW) in such a way that I can write and/or
use programs to automate tasks such as those related to
business travel.  I'll use that domain as a focus for this
use case.

I generally plan my travel before calling my human corporate
travel agent.  For flights, I use a copy of the United
Airlines Electronic Timetable, which gets monthly (weekly
since 9/11) updates in a some sort of compressed binary
format (I've made several unsuccessful attempts to extract
the underlying data).  I like the fact that I can work with
this offline (e.g. on an airplane).  I'd much prefer to get
it in WebOnt format so that I can apply my own preferences,
link to other information about airports, etc.

I have a hotel chain that I prefer.  For destinations that I
frequent often, I know their hotels in the area but often
forget some of the details (e.g. which ones serve good
hamburgers, and which room locations to avoid).  For others,
I look up information on their web sites.  I'd like to get
this information in WebOnt format, and to add my own
properties for items of personal interest.

I normally try to get a hotel room that has high-speed wired
or wireless Internet access.  Hotel web sites are very
inconsistent in reporting this service.  For an unfamiliar
property, I generally look at the directories maintained by
the major ISPs serving hotels (CAIS, STSN, Wayport, and
MobileStar), none of which currently provide the information
in an agent-friendly format (most use maps, page
hierarchies, and/or PDF).  I'd prefer to get it in WebOnt
and merge it myself with my itinerary and other geographic
information.

When I make a reservation, my corporate travel agent emails
my itinerary in a format that I consider a canonical example
of the "un-Semantic Web":  a PDF image of a traditional
FAXed itinerary.  This prints well, but is virtually
impossible for a program to process.  I'd prefer to get this
content using WebOnt, and to have it automatically routed to
a personal travel agent program.  I'd like to automatically
share some of my itinerary information (e.g. travel dates
and arrival times) with my co-workers, but keep some of it
(e.g. credit card numbers) private.

After my airline ticket is booked, I generally have to call
the airline directly to get an upgrade and/or better seat
assignment.  I prefer non-bulkhead (so I can keep my laptop
under the seat in front of me) window seats.  United is
unable to track this preference, so I often have to make
several calls.  An agent would be better (and more
reliable!) at this task.

I now subscribe to United's Flight Paging Service, which
automatically sends an email message to my pager 2 hours
before my flight or whenever a delay or cancellation occurs.
I'd prefer for my agent to get this information in WebOnt
format so that it could automatically begin identifying
alternative flights and routings when a problem arises.

I also subscribe to a free service from fly.faa.gov, which
sends me email messages on ground stops and delays at
specified airports.  Unfortunately, it's not linked to my
itineraries, so I get lots of such messages while I'm not
travelling.  If the information was in WebOnt format, my
agent could easily cross-reference it with my itineraries
and identify relevant problems.

While I travel, I'd like to have fast access to my itinerary
using a utility like PalmDAML [1] on my PDA.

When I have a substantial wait at an airport, I like to look
for high-speed Internet access.  I've generally had better
luck searching concourses than web pages to find such
services; I'd like to get such information (translated to)
my preferred WebOnt ontology.  I sometimes go to the
American Airlines Admirals Clubs to use their high-speed
MobileStar wireless Internet access points.  This is usually
in a different terminal, so I'd like to also get WebOnt
information on gate locations and walking times.

When I go to an unfamiliar city, I often try to rent a Hertz
car with a NeverLost GPS.  Rather than painstakingly
toggling in the street names and numbers for my hotel and
other destinations, I'd like to just beam the information in
WebOnt format from my PDA using IR or Bluetooth.

I'd also like to get additional information that's not
generally now on the web:  service hours for restaurants
(and room service) along my travel route.  For flights that
get in late, for example, my agent could tell me if I need
to grab a bite before leaving the airport.

When I return from a trip, I have to fill-out an Excel
spreadsheet for my expense report.  Most of this information
could come directly from my itinerary, hotel bills, and
credit card receipts if they were provided in WebOnt format.

I already have a DAML application [2] for reconciling my
expense reports with my credit card statements and checking
account.

A few observations:

1) most of this information (flight schedules, travel
   itineraries, hotel addresses, expense reports, etc.) is
   not ontologically sophisticated

2) much of the information is already available in
   human-readable form

3) automation currently exists only in specific stovepipes
   such as United's new Flight Paging Service

4) even a highly-motivated geek finds it impractical to
   merge the existing information

5) with widespread use of WebOnt, we should be able to do
   most of these things pretty easily

	Mike

[1] http://www.daml.org/PalmDAML/

[2] http://www.daml.org/2001/06/expenses/
Received on Wednesday, 28 November 2001 01:56:09 GMT

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