Linked Data

Overview

During the last 20 years, the architecture of the Web has proven to be extremely successful. Its decentralized nature and its widely adopted standards have supplied a highly scalable platform and led to an enormous organic growth. The principle of linking worldwide addressable resources has recently been extended from just syntactically linking Web pages to meaningfully linking data on the Web (aka Web of Data, Linked Data). The idea of the Web of Data originated with the Semantic Web. People tried to solve the problem of the inherent inability of machines to understand web pages.

Linked Data is about using the Web to connect related data that wasn't previously linked, or using the Web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods. More specifically, Wikipedia defines Linked Data as "a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF." Four simple principles, or rules, laid down by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee describe the practicalities of Linked Data, and implementers have been quick to apply these in exposing large collections of data for use and reuse, facilitated by the underlying structure of the web itself:

  • Use URIs to identify things that you expose to the Web as resources.
  • Use HTTP URIs so that people can locate and look up (dereference) these things.
  • Provide useful information about the resource when its URI is dereferenced.
  • Include links to other, related URIs in the exposed data as a means of improving information discovery on the Web.
  • The main enabling technologies and standards for Linked Data are HTTP, URIs, RDF(S) and SPARQL.

Benefits

According to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, "we need data on the Web to work better together" in government, enterprise, and science. With every fact available on the Web of Data, more general and specific knowledge is made accessible to machines that will enable a whole new generation of services to be created. The two main benefits of this approach are:

  • Interoperability: Whether referring to social networking or medical datasets, the need for interoperability becomes more and more pronounced as information providers proliferate. Despite the massive amounts of information available on the web, this remains locked in so-called 'Information Silos', requiring a lot of effort (that is generally not reusable) to integrate information from different silos. By giving each information provider the ability to rely on standards to create or reuse a descriptive semantic specification of the data they provide, as well as the ability to map specifications to each other, an alternative lightweight approach to the data integration problem becomes feasible. In a world in which no single database is comprehensive, the value of being easily able to link related assertions from across diverse data silos is proving compelling.
  • Processing: One important fact about making data available according to the Linked Data paradigm, is that by doing so they become automatically queryable and processable via SPARQL endpoints. This means that 3rd parties may directly access the data level, removing the need to rely on proprietary APIs. Highly sophisticated queries become machine-processable and accessible to search engines. In addition to both Google and Yahoo already making use of semantic markup to enhance their results, a new generation of semantic search engines and data mashups is starting to appear.

What our use of Linked Data technology means for you

Producing a Linked Data module for one of the world's leading open-source platforms, participating in the Linking Open Data Triplification Challenge and evangelising the use of Linked Data clearly show IMC's superior technical skills and active role in the Linked Data movement.

  • Our experience in using Linked Data means we can help you both consume and produce Linked Data, or mix approaches to get the most out of your data or the data your are interested in using.
  • Our commitment to the Linked Data philosophy and visibility in the Linked Data world means we can help you not only jump on the Linked Data bandwagon in a 100% standards-compliant way, but also make sure your effort is properly disseminated in the community.
  • Our thorough understanding of the Linked Data technology means we can identify the approach and the tools that are right for you and use them to deliver the best solution possible.