Amsterdam Conference Highlights Semantics

In September, I attended the SEMANTiCS conference in Amsterdam. For me, this was something of a double homecoming. I had spent four years living in the Netherlands before moving back to the UK — and I was a regular on the Semantics conference circuit when I was a researcher in Semantic Technologies at the University of Aberdeen.

SEMANTiCS is a fascinating conference with the goal of bridging the worlds of research and industry. It offers a unique mix of cutting-edge academic papers, along with some of the best examples of semantic technology in use in the industry.

The conference attracted people with a broad range of experience in Semantics, from experienced academics and professionals who had been working in the field for over a decade, to relative novices who were starting out on a research program, or trying to understand how Semantic Technologies could be deployed in their businesses.

This year, we were thrilled to see presentations by three MarkLogic customers featured on the schedule: Wolters Kluwer, Electronic Arts, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But more on that later.

The conference was held in the Meervaart Theatre in the Niew-West district of Amsterdam.

We arrived bright and early on Tuesday morning to set up the MarkLogic booth, and were happy to find ourselves in a prime spot next to long-term MarkLogic partner, Poolparty.


Deploying Intelligent Applications Backed By Semantics

Wolters Kluwer CIO, Sandeep Sancheti, kicked off the conference with a keynote speech offering a quick run-through of some of the ways they are deploying intelligent applications backed by semantic technology to better serve their customers in critical healthcare and legal applications. Wolters Kluwer is a great use case for Semantic Technologies because they are a company that has grown through acquisition as well as organic business growth, so it has a particular need to integrate different data.

One example that stood out from his presentation was the Health Language product. This is a brilliant study in how semantics can be used by organizations for their healthcare data to improve regulatory compliance, operational efficiency, and most importantly, to improve patient outcomes. It is a great validation of the power of this technology and the potential it has to transform industries.


Meeting Our Peers

We spent most of the breaks working the booth and talking to conference attendees. The “Semantics for Dummies” and “Building on Multi-Model Database” books were a big hit, and our supply flew out of the booth by lunchtime on day one. (Thanks to Tom DeWit who resupplied us with fresh stock from our Utrecht office for day two.)


MarkLogic Partners Share Their Success

Following lunch, Aaron Bradley and Eamonn Glass from Electronic Arts gave a fascinating presentation about their journey harmonizing and integrating their publishing data across their many brands and game titles. More than anything else at the conference, their address validated the power that semantic technologies can bring to large organizations. Of course, the entire MarkLogic team felt the warm fuzzy glow from seeing our technology work so well.


Semantic Success in Law Enforcement

We had little time to enjoy the feeling before Jen Shorten and I were due up on stage ourselves to talk about the groundbreaking work that MarkLogic is doing with law enforcement in the UK. We used MarkLogic to integrate data from eleven different police databases, providing a single 360 degree view of people, places, objects, and events that had been recorded in any of the databases. By building on top of this single source of data, we were able to quickly develop prototype applications for safeguarding, crime pattern analysis, and identifying and preventing child sexual exploitation through social media. We had a great response to our presentation, and if you are interested you can watch the same presentation given by Jen and Jon Williams at MarkLogic World London here.

Finally, Mary-Ann Grosset, Thierry Vebr, and Jan-Anno Schuur from the OECD showed off the O.N.E Sight platform. This is a fully semantic reading assistant and research.


Closing Thoughts

I would also like to give a shout out to our hosts from The Semantic Web Company, InfAI, TNO and VU Amsterdam for hosting such an excellent conference.

After many years away from such conferences, I was very pleased to see that cutting edge research in this field continues to break new ground. In the industry, track Semantics is being increasingly adopted as another weapon in the enterprise arsenal – and I got the feeling that the technology has now crossed the chasm. It was inspiring for me as a MarkLogic consultant to see the leading role that our organization is taking in the industry. This, more than anything else, was the message I took home from the conference.