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OKKAM Project Q&A

by stoermer last modified Sep 29, 2008 01:22 PM

Questions and Answers about OKKAM

This document compiles questions and answers that have come up in communications with the press. They are meant as support and guideline when interacting with communities external to the consortium.

Jan 01, 2008

How would you summarise OKKAM Project's activity?

For a technical audience

In 1 sentence

The OKKAM project is going to provide the necessary infrastructure and example applications for a new, more efficient and precise way to publish, link and find information on the Web.

In 3 sentences

The OKKAM project is going to provide the necessary infrastructure and example applications for a new way to manage information on the Web. The main objects are no longer documents that happen to contain certain keywords, but precisely identified entities, such as people, locations, organizations or events. This will lead to a faster, more efficient and more precise way to deal with the flood of information available on the Web today.


In 200 words

The idea of shifting the web from a huge graph of documents to a huge graph of data has become more and more popular since when Tim Berners-Lee proposed the idea of the Semantic Web. Scientists and practitioners have invested a lot of effort to realize this vision, often trying to adapt and reuse models and techniques originated from more troaditiojnal areas like databases and AI. However, there is however a very important difference between traditional knowledge-based systems, and the current work aiming at reaching semantic computing at web scale: the notion of global interlinking of distributed pieces of knowledge.

At the base of such interlinking - and the resulting semantic interoperability of fragments of data - is the notion of identity of and reference to entities. Systems that manage information about entities (objects/individuals/instances...) commonly issue identifiers for these entities, just in the way relational databases issue primary keys for records. If these identifiers are generated by the information system itself, several issues arise that hinder interoperability and integration considerably: (i) a proliferation of identifiers is taking place, because the same object is potentially issued with a new identifier in several information systems; (ii) injectivity of identifiers cannot be achieved, i.e. one identifier can denote different entities in different information systems; (iii) reference to entities across information systems is very complicated or impossible, because there are no means to know how an entity is identified in another system.

To overcome this lack of data-level integration, OKKAM proposes a global, public infrastructure, called Entity Name System (ENS), which fosters the systematic creation and reuse of identifiers for entities in the global space of information and knowledge. This a-priory approach enables systems to reference the entities which they describe with a globally unique identifier, and thus create pieces of information that are semantically pre-aligned around those entities. Semantic search
engines or integration systems are then able to aggregate information from distributed systems around entities in a precise and correct way. We call this the "entity-centric approach" to semantic interoperability, and the reuslting information/knowledge space the Web of Entities.

The advantages if this approach will be demonstrated in domain loke web search, news, scientific publishing and corporate knowledge management.

For non-technical readers

In 1 sentence

The OKKAM project will allow web users and professionals to share with whoever they want what they know about anything in very much the same way the Web allows the same people today to share their documents and get them in a click.

In 3 sentences

To appear soon.

In 200 words

To appear soon.


How is your 'entity approach' going to impact the internet/working practices/ICT results?

The entity-centric approach provides a crucial foundation to the efforts made in the field of the Semantic Web, and beyond. The Internet will no longer consist of mere documents, but of more structured information and knowledge which has to be managed in a different way than what the "Web of Documents" does today. We are going to weave the "Web of Entities", which steps beyond document- and keyword-centric information access.


How is your 'entity approach' going to impact the readers/you and me?

The entity-centric approach will change the way people publish and access information. Today, Internet users have to compile search terms which they hope might appear in the documents that contain the information they are searching for. But most information relates to real-world entities, such as locations, persons, events, products, etc. We will provide a way how to find these entities, and then to navigate information or answer queries about them, in a precise and efficient way.


And what is the value-added of EU-funding for work at this stage?

OKKAM is a prototypical Large-scale Integrating Project, in that it addresses a problem that requires expertise from many different fields and that requires a substantial amount of investment for creating a critical mass in terms of infrastructure as well as application and content enabling. A project of this kind needs to be realized in a strong, timely push at the right moment in order to create a real benefit for society, all of which would be almost impossible without EU funding.


And what is your prognosis for the 'future network'?

The future network is going to move away from a situation where people sit at home in front of personal computers trying to find information in billions of unstructured pages with the help of keyword guessing. The situation will be that precision and integration will be required: information, integrated and clustered from a large number different, heterogeneous data sources all over the Internet, provided by software agents, responding to the users' informational needs in whatever situational context they might be. This requires very different new approaches than what we know today, and we believe that OKKAM represents a substantial move in this direction.


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