Toward data-centric solutions with Knowledge graphs

In the last blog posts [1, 2] in this series by Fredric Landqvist and Peter Voisey we have outlined for you, at a high level, about the benefits of making data smarter and F.A.I.R., ideally made findable through a shareable, but controlled, type of Information Commons. In this post, we introduce you to Knowledge Graphs (based on Semantic Web Technologies), the source for the magic of smart and FAIR data automation. Data that is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. They can help tackle a range of problems, from the data tsunami to the scarcity of (quality) data for that next AI project.

What is a Knowledge Graph?

There are several different types of graph and certainly many have been many attempted definitions of a Knowledge Graph. Here’s ours:

A Knowledge Graph is the structural representation of explicit knowledge for a domain, encoded in such a way that both humans and machines can read (process) it.

Ultimately, we are wanting to exploit data and their connections or relationships within the graph format in order to surface important and relevant data and information. Without these relationships, the understandings, the stories and the searches around our data tend to dry up fairly quickly. Our world is increasingly connected. So we hope, from an organisational perspective, you are asking: Why isn’t our data connected?!

Where does the term “Knowledge Graph” come from?

The term Knowledge Graph was coined by Google on the release of its own Knowledge Graph in 2012. More recently, organisations have been cottoning on to the collective benefits of employing a Knowledge Graph, so much so, that many refer to the Enterprise Knowledge Graph today.

What are the technologies behind the Enterprise Knowledge Graph?

The Enterprise Knowledge Graph is based on a stack of W3C-ratified Semantic Web Technologies. As their name alludes to, they form the basis of the Semantic Web. Their formulation began in 2001 with Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Sir Tim, not content with giving us the World Wide Web for free, pictured a web of connected data and concepts, besides the web of linked documents, so that machines would be able to understand our requests by virtue of known connections and relationships.

Why Enterprise Knowledge Graphs now?

These technologies are complex to the layperson and some of them are nearly 20 years old. What’s changed to make Enterprises take note of them now? Well worsening internal data management problems, the need for some knowledge input for most sustainable AI projects and the fact that Knowledge Graph building tools have improved to become collaborative and more user-friendly for the knowledge engineer, domain expert and business executive. The underlying technologies in new tools are more hidden from the end user’s perspective, allowing them to concentrate on encoding their knowledge so that it can be used across enterprise systems and applications. In essence, linking enterprise data.

Thanks to Google’s success in using their Knowledge Graph with their search, Enterprise Knowledge Graphs are becoming recognised as the difference between “googling” and using the sometimes-less-than-satisfying enterprise consumer-facing or intranet search.

The key takeaway here though is that real power of any knowledge graph is in its relationships/connections between concepts. We’ll look into this in more detail next.

RDF, at the heart of the Enterprise Knowledge Graphs (EKGs)

EKGs use the simple RDF graph data model at their base. RDF stands for Resource Description Framework – a framework for the way resources or things are described so that we can recognise more easily plus understand more about them.

An aside: We’re talking RDF (namespace) Knowledge Graphs here, rather than their sister graph type, Property Graphs, which we will cover in a future post. It is important to note that there are advantages with both types of graph and indeed new technologies are being developed, so processes can straddle both types.

The RDF graph data model describes a thing or a resource in terms of “triples”: Subject – predicate – Object. The diagram below illustrates this more clearly with an example.


Figure 1. What does a Knowledge Graph look like? The RDF elements of a Knowledge Graph

The graph consists of nodes (vertices) that represent entities (a.k.a. concepts both concrete and abstract, terms, phrases, but now think things, not strings), and edges (lines or arrows) representing the relationships between nodes. Each concept and each relationship have their own URI (a kind of ID), that helps a search engine or application understand their meaning to spot differences (disambiguation) e.g. homonyms (words spelt or pronounced similarly, but that have different meaning) or similarities e.g. alternative labels, synonyms, acronyms, misspellings, foreign language term equivalents etc.

Google uses its Knowledge Graph when it crawls websites to recognise entities like: People, Places, Products, Organisations and more recently Topics, plus all their known relationships between them. There is often a dire need within most organisations for readily available knowledge about People and their related Roles, Skills/Competencies, Projects, Organisations/Departments and Locations.

There are of course many other well-known Knowledge Graphs now including IBM’s Watson,  Microsoft’s Academic Knowledge Graph, Amazon’s Cortex Knowledge Graph, the Bing Knowledge Graph etc.

One thing to note about Google is that the space devoted to their organic (non-paid for) search results has reduced dramatically over the last ten years. In place, they have used their Knowledge Graph to better understand the end user’s query and context. Information too is served automatically based on query concept relationships, either within an Information Panel or as commonly known Questions and Answers (Q&As). Your employees (as consumers) of course are at home with this intuitive, easy-click user experience. While Google’s supply of information has become sharper, so has its automatic assessment of all webpage content, relying increasingly on websites to provide it with semantic information e.g. declaring their “aboutness” by using schema.org or other microformats in their markup rather than relying on SEO keywords.

How does Knowledge Graph engineering differ from traditional KM/IM processes?

In reality, not that much. We still want the same governing principles that can give data good structure, metadata, context and meaning.

Constructing a Knowledge Graph can still be likened to the development of taxonomy or thesaurus with their concepts and an ontology (the relationships between concepts). Here the relationships include firstly: poly-hierarchical relationships (in terms of the taxonomy): a concept may have several broader concepts meaning that the concept itself (with its own URI) can appear in multiple times within a taxonomy. This polyhierarchy can be exploited later for example in both search filtering and website navigation.

Secondly, relationships can also be associative/relational with regards to meaning and context – your organisation’s own made +/or industry-adopted concepts and the key relationships that define your business, and even its goals, strategy and workflows.

A key difference though is the way in which you can think about your data and its organisation. It is no longer flat or 2-D, but rather think 3-D and 360-degree concept- or consumer-centric views to see how they connect to other concepts.

A semantic layer for Automatic Annotation, smarter data & semantic search

We will look at the many different benefits of a Knowledge Graph and further use cases in the next post, but for now, we go with the magic that an EKG can sit virtually on top of any or all your data sources (with different formats and metadata) without the need to move or copy any data. Any data source or data catalogue then consumed via a processing pipeline can be automatically and consistently be annotated (“tagged”) and classified according to declared industry or in-house standards, thus becoming more structured and its meaning more readily “understood,” ready to be found and consumed in accordance with any known or stated conditions.

The classification may also extend to including levels of data security and sensitivity, provenance or trust or location, device and time accessibility.

Figure 2 The automatic annotation & classification process for making data/content smart by using an Enterprise Knowledge Graph

It’s often assumed, incorrectly, that there is only one Enterprise Knowledge Graph. Essentially an enterprise can have one or many, perhaps overlapping graphs for different purposes, subject domains or applications. The importance is that knowledge becomes encoded and readily usable for humans and machines.

What’s wrong with Relational Databases?

There’s nothing wrong with relational databases per se and Knowledge Graphs will not necessarily replace them any time soon. It’s good to note though that data in tabular format can be converted to RDF graph data (triples/tuples) relatively easily and stored in a triple store (Graph Database) or some equivalent. 

In relational databases, references to other rows and tables are indicated by referring to primary key attributes via foreign key columns. Joins are computed at query time by matching primary and foreign keys of all rows in the connected tables. 

Understanding the connections or relations is usually very cumbersome, and those types of costly join operations are often addressed by denormalizing the data to reduce the number of joins necessary, therefore breaking the data integrity of a relational database.

The data models for relational versus graph are different. If you are used to modelling with relational databases, remember the ease and beauty of a well-designed, normalized entity-relationship diagram (i.e using UML) –  a graph is exactly that – a clear model of the domain. Each node (entity or attribute) in the graph model directly and physically contains a list of relationship records that represent the relationships to other nodes. These relationship records are organized by type and direction and may hold additional attributes.

Querying relational databases is easy with SQL. The graph has something similar by using SPARQL, a query language for RDF. If you have ever tried to write a SQL statement with a large number of joins, you know that you quickly lose sight of what the query actually does. In SPARQL, the syntax remains concise and focused on domain components and the connections among them.

Toward data-centric solutions with RDF

With enterprise-linked-data, as with knowledge graphs, one is able to connect many different schemas (data models) and formats in different relational databases and build a connected worldview, domain of discourse. Herein lays the strengths with linking-data, and liberating data from lock-in mechanisms either by schemas (data models) or vendor (software). To do queries and inferencing to find new knowledge and insights that were not possible before due to time or human computation factors. Semantics support this reasoning!

Of course, having interoperable graph data means could well mean fewer code patches on individual systems and more sustainable and agile data-centric solutions in the future.

In conclusion

The expression “in the right place, at the right time” is generally associated with luck. We’ve been talking in our enterprises about “the right information, in the right place, at the right time” for ages, unfortunately sometimes with similar fortune attached. The opportunity is here now to embark on a journey to take back control of your data if you haven’t already, and make it an asset again in achieving your enterprise aims and goals.

More reading on graphs and linked enterprise data:

Next up in the series: Knowledge Graphs: The collective Why?

View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey

Making your data F.A.I.R and smart

This is the second post in a new series by Fredric Landqvist & Peter Voisey, explaining how your organisation could best shape its data landscape for the future.

How to create a smart data framework for your organisation

In our last post for you, we presented the benefits of F.A.I.R data, how to make data smarter for search engines and the potentials of an Information Commons. In this post, we’re giving you the pragmatic steps to make your data FAIR by creating and applying your own smart data framework. Your data-sharing dream, internally and externally, is possible.

A smart data framework, using FAIR data principles, encompasses the tooling, models and standards that govern datasets and the different context-specific information systems (registers, catalogues). The data is then ingested and processed (enriched/refined) into smart data, datasets and data catalogues. It can then be used and reused by different applications and e-services via open APIs. In this ecosystem, all actors and information behaviours (personas) interplay: provision agents, owners, builders, enrichers, end-user searchers and referrers.

The workings of a smart data framework

A smart data & metadata catalogue   

A smart data & metadata catalogue (illustrated below), provides an organisational capability that aligns data management with the FAIR data principles. View it not so much as one system to rule them all, but rather an ecosystem that is smart and sustainable. In order to simplify your complex and heterogeneous information environment, this set-up can be  instantiated, as one overarching mechanism. Although we are describing a data and metadata catalogue here, the exact same framework and set up would of course apply also to your organisation’s content, making it smarter and more findable (i.e. it gets the sustainable stamp).

Smart Data Catalogue
The necessary services and component of a smart data catalogue

The above picture illustrates the services and components that, together, build smart data and metadata catalogue capabilities. We now describe each one of them for you:

Processing (Ingestion & Enrichment) for great Findability & Interoperability

  • (A) Ingest, harvest and operate. Here you connect the heterogeneous data sources for ingestion.

The configured input mechanisms describe each of the data sources, with their data, datasets and metadata ready for your catalogue search. Hopefully, at the dataset upload stage, you have provided a good system/form that now provides your search engine with great metadata (i.e. we recommend you use the open data catalogue standard DCAT-AP). The concept upload is interchangeable with either machine-to-machine harvester mechanisms, as with open-data, traditional data integration, or manual provision by human upload effort. (D) Enterprise Metadata Repository: here is the persistent storage of data in both data catalogue, index and graph. All things get a persistent ID (how to design persistent URI) and rich metadata.

  • (B) Enrich, refine analyze, and curate. This is the AI part (NLP, Semantics, ML) that enriches the data and datasets, making them smarter. 

Concepts (read also entities, terms, phrases, synonyms, acronyms etc.) from the data sources are found using named entity extraction (NER). By referring to a Knowledge Graph in the Enricher, the appropriate resources are annotated (“tagged”) with the said concept. It does not end here, however. The concept also takes with it from the Knowledge Graph all of the known relationships it has with other concepts.

Essentially a Knowledge Graph is your encoded domain knowledge in a connected graph format. It is by reading these encoded relationships that the machine “understands” the meaning or aboutness of data.

This opens up a very nice Pandora’s box for your search (understanding query intent) and for your Graphical User Interface (GUI) as your data becomes smarter now through your ability to exploit the relationships and connections (semantics and context) between concepts.

You and AI can have a symbiotic relationship in the development of your Knowledge Graph. AI can suggest new concepts and relationships as new data is added. It is, however, you and your colleagues who determine the of concepts/relationships in the Knowledge Graph – concepts/relationships that are important to your department or business. Remember you can utilise more than one knowledge graph, or part of one, for a particular business need(s) or data source(s). The Knowledge Graph is a flexible expression of your business/information models that give structure to all your data and its access.

Extra optional step: If you can manage not only to index the dataset metadata but the datasets themselves, you can make your Pandora’s box even nicer. Those cryptic/nonsensical field names that your traditional database experts love to create can also be incorporated and mapped (one time only!) into your Knowledge Graph, thus increasing the machine “understanding” of the data. Thus, there is a better chance of the data asset being used more widely. 

The configuration of processing with your Knowledge Graph can take care of dataset versioning, lineage and add further specific classifications e.g. data sensitivity, user access and personal information.

Lastly on Processing, your cultural and system interoperability is immensely improved. We’re not talking everyone speaking the same language here, rather everyone talking their language (/culture) and still being able to find the same thing. In this open and FAIR vocabularies further, enrich the meaning to data and your metadata is linked. System interoperability is partially achieved by exploiting the graph of connections that now “sit over” your various data sources.

Controlled Access (Accessible and Reusable)

  • (C) Access, search and visualize APIs. These tools control and influence the delivery, representation, exploration and consumption/use of datasets and data catalogues via a smarter search (made so by smarter data) and a more intuitive Graphical User interface (GUI).

This means your search can now “understand” user intent from just one or two keyword queries (through known relationship connections in the Knowledge Graph). 

Your search now also caters for your searchers who are searching in an unfamiliar subject area or are just having a query off day. Besides offering the standard results page, the GUI can also present related information (again due to the Knowledge Graph), past related user queries, information and question-answer (Q&A) type material. So: search, discovery, learning, serendipity.

Your GUI can also now become more intuitive, changing its information presentation and facets/filters automatically, depending on the query itself (more sustainable front-end coding). 

An alternative to complex scenario coding also includes the possibility for you to create rules (set in your Knowledge Graph) that can control what data users can access (when, how and where) based on their profile, their role, their location, the time and on the device they are using. This same Knowledge Graph can help push and recommend data for certain users proactively. Accessibility will be possible by using standard communication protocols, open access (when possible), authentication where necessary, and always with metadata at hand.

Reusable: your new smart data framework can help increase the time your Data Managers (/Scientists, Analysts) spend using data (and not trying to find it, the 80/20 data science dilemma). It can also help reduce the risk to your AI projects (50% failure rate) by helping searchers find the right data, with its meaning and context, more easily.  Reuse will also be possible with the design that metadata multiple attributes, use licence and provenance in line with community standards

Users and information behaviour (personas)

Users and personas
User groups and services

From experience we have defined the following broad conceptual user-groups:

  • Data Managers, a.k.a. Data Op’s or Data Scientists
    Data Managers are i.e. knowledge engineers, taxonomists and analysts. 
  • Data Stewards
    Data Stewards are responsible for Data Governance, such as data lineage. 
  • Business Professionals/Business end-users
    Business Users may have a diverse background. Hence Business end-users.
  • Actor System are different information systems and applications and services that integrate information via the rich open APIs from the Smart Data Catalogue

The outlined collaborative actors (E-H user groups) and their interplay as information behaviour (personas) with the data (repository) and services (components), together, build the foundation for a more FAIR data management within your organisation, providing for you at the same time, the option to contribute to an even broader shared open FAIR information commons.

  • (E) Data Op’s workplace and dashboard is a combination of tools supporting Data Op’s data management processes in the information behaviours: data provision agents, enrichers and developers.
  • (F) Data Governance workplace is the tools to support Data Stewards collaborative data governance work with Data Managers in the information behaviours: data owner.
  • (G) Access, search, visualize APIs, is the user experience to explore, find and interact with the catalogue and data in the information behaviours: searcher and referrer.
  • (H) API, is the set of open APIs to support access to catalogue data for consuming information systems in the information behaviours: referrer (a.k.a. data exchange).

Potential tooling for this smart data framework:

We hope you enjoyed this post and understand the potential benefits such a smart data framework incorporating FAIR data principles can have on your data catalogue, or for that matter, your organisational content or even your data swamps.


In the next post, Toward data-centric solutions with Knowledge Graphs, we talk about Knowledge Graphs (KG) and its non-proprietary RDF semantic web tech, how you can create your KG(s) and the benefits they can bring to your future data landscape.

View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey

Beyond Office 365 – knowledge graphs, Microsoft Graph & AI!

This is the first joint post in a series where Findwise & SearchExplained, together decompose Microsoft’s realm with the focus on knowledge graphs and AI. The advent of graph technologies and more specific knowledge graphs have become the epicentre of the AI hyperbole.

microsoft_graph

The use of a symbolic representation of the world, as with ontologies (domain models) within AI is by far nothing new. The CyC project, for instance, started back in the 80’s. The most common use for average Joe would be by the use of Google Knowlege Graph that links things and concepts. In the world of Microsoft, this has become a foundational platform capacity with the Microsoft Graph.

It is key to separate the wheat from the chaff since the Microsoft Graph is by no means a Knowledge Graph. It is a highly platform-centric way to connect things, applications, users and information and data. Which is good, but still it lacks the obvious capacity to disambiguate complex things of the world, since this is not its core functionality to build a knowledge graph (i.e ontology).

From a Microsoft centric worldview, one should combine the Microsoft Graph with different applications with AI to automate, and augment the life with Microsoft at Work. The reality is that most enterprises do not use Microsoft only to envelop the enterprise information landscape. The information environment goes far beyond, into a multitude of organising systems within or outside to company walls.

Question: How does one connect the dots in this maze-like workplace? By using knowledge graphs and infuse them into the Microsoft Graph realm?

Office 365 MDM

The model, artefacts and pragmatics

People at work continuously have to balance between modalities (provision/find/act) independent of work practice, or discipline when dealing with data and information. People also have to interact with groups, and imaged entities (i.e. organisations, corporations and institutions). These interactions become the mould whereupon shared narratives emerge.

Knowledge Graphs (ontologies) are the pillar artefacts where users will find a level playing field for communication and codification of knowledge in organising systems. When linking the knowledge graphs, with a smart semantic information engine utility, we get enterprise-linked-data that connect the dots. A sustainable resilient model in the content continuum.

Microsoft at Work – the platform, as with Office 365 have some key building blocks, the content model that goes cross applications and services. The Meccano pieces like collections [libraries/sites] and resources [documents, pages, feeds, lists] should be configured with sound resource descriptions (metadata) and organising principles. One of the back-end service to deal with this is Managed Metadata Service and the cumbersome TermStore (it is not a taxonomy management system!). The pragmatic approach will be to infuse/integrate the smart semantic information engine (knowledge graphs) with these foundation blocks. One outstanding question, is why Microsoft has left these services unchanged and with few improvements for many years?

The unabridged pathway and lifecycle to content provision, as the creation of sites curating documents, will be a guided (automated and augmented [AI & Semantics]) route ( in the best of worlds). The Microsoft Graph and the set of API:s and connectors, push the envelope with people at centre. As mentioned, it is a platform-centric graph service, but it lacks connection to shared narratives (as with knowledge graphs).  Fuzzy logic, where end-user profiles and behaviour patterns connect content and people. But no, or very limited opportunity to fine-tune, or align these patterns to the models (concepts and facts).

Akin to the provision modality pragmatics above is the find (search, navigate and link) domain in Office 365. The Search road-map from Microsoft, like a yellow brick road, envision a cohesive experience across all applications. The reality, it is a silo search still 😉 The Microsoft Graph will go hand in hand to realise personalised search, but since it is still constraint in the means to deliver a targeted search experience (search-driven-application) in the modern search. It is problematic, to say the least. And the back-end processing steps, as well as the user experience do not lean upon the models to deliver i.e semantic-search to connect the dots. Only using the end-user behaviour patterns, end-user tags (/system/keyword) surface as a disjoint experience with low precision and recall.

The smart semantic information engine will usually be a mix of services or platforms that work in tandem,  an example:

  1. Semantic Tools (PoolParty, Semaphore)
  2. Search and Analytics (i3, Elastic Stack)
  3. Data Integration (Marklogic, Biztalk)
  4. AI modules (MS Cognitive stack)

In the forthcoming post on the theme Beyond Office 365 unpacking the promised land with knowledge graphs and AI, there will be some more technical assertions.
View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Agnes Molnar's LinkedIn profileAgnes Molnar SearchExplained

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Tinkering with knowledge graphs

I don’t want to sail with this ship of fools, on the opulent data sea, where people are drowning without any sense-making knowledge shores in sight. You don’t see the edge before you drop!

Knowledge EngineeringEchoencephalogram (Lars Leksell)  and neural networks

How do organisations reach a level playing field, where it is possible to create a sustainable learning organisation [cybernetics]?
(Enacted Knowledge Management practices and processes)

Sadly, in many cases, we face the tragedy of the commons!

There is an urgent need to iron out the social dilemmas and focus on motivational solutions that strive for cooperation and collective action. Knowledge deciphered with the notion of intelligence and emerging utilities with AI as an assistant with us humans. We the peoples!

To make a model of the world, to codify our knowledge and enable worldviews to complex data is nothing new per se. A Knowlege Graph – is in its essence a constituted shared narrative within the collective imagination (i.e organisation). Where facts of things and their inherited relationships and constraints define the model to be used to master the matrix.  These concepts and topics are our communication means to bridge between groups of people. Shared nomenclatures and vocabularies.

Terminology Management

Knowledge Engineering in practice


At work – building a knowledge graph – there are some pillars, that the architecture rests upon.  First and foremost is the language we use every day to undertake our practices within an organisation. The corpus of concepts, topics and things that revolve around the overarching theme. No entity act in a vacuum with no shared concepts. Humans coordinate work practices by shared narratives embedded into concepts and their translations from person to person. This communication might be using different means, like cuneiform (in ancient Babel) or digital tools of today. To curate, cultivate and nurture a good organisational vocabulary, we also need to develop practices and disciplines that to some extent renders similarities to ancient clay-tablet librarians. Organising principles, to the organising system (information system, applications).  This discipline could be defined as taxonomists (taxonomy manager) or knowledge engineers. (or information architect)

Set the scope – no need to boil the ocean


All organisations, independent of business vertical, have known domain concepts that either are defined by standards, code systems or open vocabularies. A good idea will obviously be to first go foraging in the sea of terminologies, to link, re-hash/re-use and manage the domain. The second task in this scoping effort will be to audit and map the internal terrain of content corpora. Since information is scattered across a multitude of organising systems, but within these, there are pockets of a structure. Here we will find glossaries, controlled vocabularies, data-models and the like.  The taxonomist will then together with subject matter experts arrange governance principles and engage in conversations on how the outer and inner loop of concepts link, and start to build domain-specific taxonomies. Preferable using the simple knowledge organisation system (SKOS) standard

Participatory Design from inception


Concepts and their resource description will need to be evaluated and semantically enhanced with several different worldviews from all practices and disciplines within the organisation. Concepts might have a different meaning. Meaning is subjective, demographic, socio-political, and complex. Meaning sometimes gets lost in translation (between different communities of practices).

The best approach to get a highly participatory design in the development of a sustainable model is by simply publish the concepts as open thesauri. A great example is the HealthDirect thesaurus. This service becomes a canonical reference that people are able to search, navigate and annotate.

It is smart to let people edit and refine and comment (annotate) in the same manner as the Wikipedia evolves, i.e edit wiki data entries. These annotations will then feedback to the governance network of the terminologies. 

Term Uppdate

Link to organising systems

All models (taxonomies, vocabularies, ontologies etc.) should be interlinked to the existing base of organising systems (information systems [IS]) or platforms. Most IS’s have schemas and in-built models and business rules to serve as applications for a specific use-case.  This implies also the use of concepts to define and describe the data in metadata, as reference data tables or as user experience controls. In all these lego pieces within an IS or platform, there are opportunities to link these concepts to the shared narratives in the terminology service.  Linked-enterprise-data building a web of meaning, and opening up for a more interoperable information landscape.

One omnipresent quest is to set-up a sound content model and design for i.e Office 365, where content types, collections, resource descriptions and metadata have to be concerted in the back-end services as managed-metadata-service. Within these features and capacities, it is wise to integrate with the semantic layer. (terminologies, and graphs). Other highly relevant integrations relate to search-as-a-service, where the semantic layer co-acts in the pipeline steps, add semantics, link, auto-classify and disambiguate with entity extraction. In the user experience journey, the semantic layer augments and connect things. Which is for instance how Microsoft Graph has been ingrained all through their platform. Search and semantics push the envelope 😉

Data integration and information mechanics

A decoupled information systems architecture using an enterprise service bus (messaging techniques) is by far the most used model.  To enable a sustainable data integration, there is a need to have a data architecture and clear integration design. Adjacent to the data integration, are means for cleaning up data and harmonise data-sets into a cohesive matter, extract-load-transfer [etl]. Data Governance is essential! In this ballpark we also find cues to master data management. Data and information have fluid properties, and the flow has to be seamless and smooth.  

When defining the message structure (asynchronous) in information exchange protocols and packages. It is highly desired to rely on standards, well-defined models (ontologies). As within the healthcare & life science domain using Hl7/FHIR.  These standards have domain-models with entities, properties, relations and graphs. The data serialisation for data exchange might use XML or RDF (JSON-LD, Turtle etc.). The value-set (namespaces) for properties will be possible to link to SKOS vocabularies with terms.

Query the graph

Knowledge engineering is both setting the useful terminologies into action, but also load, refine and develop ontologies (information models, data models). There are many very useful open ontologies that could or should be used and refined by the taxonomists, i.e ISA2 Core Vocabularies, With data-sets stored in a graph (triplestore) there are many ways to query the graph to get results and insights (links). Either by using SPARQL (similar to SQL in schema-based systems), or combine this with SHACL (constraints) or via Restful APIs.

These means to query the knowledge graph will be one reasoning to add semantics to data integration as described above.

Adding smartness and we are all done…

Semantic AI or means to bridge between symbolic representation (semantics) and machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and deep-learning is where all thing come together.

In the works (knowledge engineering) to build the knowledge graph, and govern it, it taxes many manual steps as mapping models, standards and large corpora of terminologies.  Here AI capacities enable automation and continuous improvements with learning networks. Understanding human capacities and intelligence, unpacking the neurosciences (as Lars Leksell) combined with neural-networks will be our road ahead with safe and sustainable uses of AI.
View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog

Benevolent & sustainable smart city development

The digitisation of society emerge in all sectors, and the key driver to all this is the abundance of data that needs to be brought into context and use.

Participation

When discussing digitisation, people commonly think in data highways and server farms as being the infrastructure. Access to comprehensive information resources is increasingly becoming a commodity, enabling and enhancing societal living conditions. To achieve this, sense-making of data has to be in integrative part of the digital infrastructure. Reflecting this to traditional patterns, digital roads need junctions, signs and semaphores to function, just as their physical counterparts.

The ambition with AI and smart society and cities should be for the benefit of its inhabitants, but without a blueprint to get a coherent model that will be working in all these utilities, it will all break. Second to this, benevolence, participation and sustainability, have to be the overarching theme, to contrast dystopian visions with citizen surveillance and fraudulent behaviour.

Data needs context to make sense and create value, and this frame of reference will be realised through domain models of the world, with shared vocabularies to disambiguate concepts. In short a semantic layer. It is impossible to boil the ocean, which makes us rather lean toward a layered approach.

All complex systems (or complex adaptive system, CAS) revolve around a set of autonomous agents, for example, cells in a human body or citizens in an urban city. The emergent behaviour in CAS is governed by self-organising principles. A City Information Architecture is by nature a CAS, and hence the design has to be resilient and coherent.

What infrastructural dimensions should a smart city design build upon?

  • Urban Environment, the physical spaces comprised of geodata means, register of cadastre (real-estate), roads and other things in the landscape.
  • Movable Objects, with mobile sensing platforms capturing things like vehicles, traffic and more, in short, the dynamics of a city environment.
  • Human actor networks, the social economic mobility, culture and community in the habitat
  • Virtual Urban Systems augmented and immersive platforms to model the present or envision future states of the city environment

Each of these organising systems and categories holds many different types of data, but the data flows also intertwine. Many of the things described in the geospatial and urban environment domain, might be enveloped in a set of building information models (BIM) and geographical information systems (GIS). The resource descriptions link the objects, moving from one building to a city block or area. Similar behaviour will be found in the movable object’s domain because the agents moving around will by nature do so in the physical spaces. So when building information infrastructures, the design has to be able to cross-boundaries with linked-models for all useful concepts. One way to express this is through a city information model (CIM).

When you add the human actor networks layer to your data, things will become messy. In an urban system, there are many organisations and some of these act as public agencies to serve the citizens all through the life and business events. This socially knitted interaction model, use the urban environment and in many cases moveble objects. The social life of information when people work together, co-act and collaborate, become the shared content continuum.
Lastly, data from all the above-mentioned categories also feeds into the virtual urban system, that either augment the perceived city real environment, or the city information modelling used to create instrumental scenarios of the future state of the complex system.

Everything is deeply intertwingled

Connect people and things using semantics and artificial intelligence (AI) companions. There will be no useful AI without a sustainable information architecture (IA). Interoperability on all levels is the prerequisite; systemic (technical and semantic),  organisational (process and climate).

Only when we follow the approach of integration and the use of a semantic layer to glue together all the different types and models – thereby linking heterogeneous information and data from several sources to solve the data variety problem – are we able to develop an interoperable and sustainable City Information Model (CIM).

Such model can not only be used inside one city or municipality – it should be used also to interlink and exchange data and information between cities as well as between cities and provinces, regions, countries and societal digitalisation transformation.

A semantic layer completes the four-layered Data & Content Architecture that usual systems have in place:

semantic-layer

Fig.: Four layered content & data architecture

Use standards (as ISA2), and meld them into contextual schemas and models (ontologies), disambiguate concepts and link these with verbatim thesauri and taxonomies (i.e SKOS). Start making sense and let AI co-act as companions (Deep-learning AI) in the real and virtual smart city, applying semantic search technologies over various sources to provide new insights. Participation and engagement from all actor-networks will be the default value-chain, the drivers being new and cheaper, more efficient smart services, the building block for the city innovation platform.

The recorded webinar and also the slides presented

 

View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey
View Martin Kaltenböck's LinkedIn profileMartin Kaltenböck
View Sebastian Gabler's LinkedIn profileSebastian Gabler

Digital recycling & knowledge growth

How do we prevent the digital debris of human clutter and mess? And to what extent will future digital platforms guide us in knowledge creation and use?

Start making sense, and the art of making sense!

People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's  National Postal Museum

People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

Mankind’s preoccupation for much of this century has to become fully digitalized. Utilities, software, services and platforms are all becoming an ‘intertwingled’ reality for all of us. Being mobile, the blurring of the borders between the workplace and recreational life plus the ease of digital creation are creating information overloads and (out-of-sight) digital landfills. While digital content creation is cheaper to create and store, its volume and its uncared for status makes it harder for everyone else to find and consume the bits they really need (and have some provenance for peace of mind).

Fear not. A collection of emerging digital technologies exist that can both support and maintain future sustainable digital recycling – things like: Cognitive Computing, Artificial Intelligence; Natural Language Processing; Machine Learning and the like, Semantics adding meaning to shared concepts, and Graphs linking our content and information resources. With good information management practice and having the appropriate supporting tools to tinker with, there is a great opportunity to not only automate knowledge digitization but to augment it.

Automation

In the content continuum (from its creation to its disposal) there is a great need for automating processes as much as possible in order to reduce the amount of obsolete or hidden (currently value-less) digital content. Digital knowledge recycling is difficult as nearly every document or content creator is, by nature, reluctant to add further digital tags (a.k.a. metadata) describing their content or documents once they have been created. What’s more experience shows this is inefficient on a number of accounts, one of which is inconsistency.

Most digital documents (and most digital content, unless intended to sell something publicly) therefore lack the proper recycling resource descriptors that can help with e.g. classification, topic description or annotation with domain specific (shared, consistent) concepts. Such descriptions add appropriate meaning or context to content, aiding its further digital reuse (consumption). Without them, the problem of findability is likely to remain omnipresent across many intranets and searched resources.

Smartphones generate content automatically, often without the user thinking or realizing. All kinds of resource descriptors (time, place etc.) are created automatically through movement and mobile usage. With the addition of further machine learning and algorithms, online services such as Google Photos use these descriptors (and some automatic annotation of their own) to add more contextual data before classifying pictures into collections. This improved data quality (read: metadata addition and improved findability) allows us to find the pictures or timeline we want more easily.

In the very same manner, workplace content or documents can now have this same type of supporting technical platform that automatically adds additional business specific context and meaning. This could include data from users: their profiles, departments or their system user behaviour patterns.

For real organizational agility though a further extra layer of automatic annotation (tagging) and classification is needed – achieved using shared models of the business. These models can be expressed through a combination of various controlled vocabularies (taxonomies) that can be further joined through relationships (ontologies) and finally published (publicly or privately) as domain models as linked data (in graphs). Within this layer exist not just synonyms, but alternative and preferred labels, and more importantly relationships can be expressed between concepts – hence the graph: concepts being the dots (nodes) with relationships the joining lines (vertices). Using certain tools, the certain relationships between concepts can be further given a weighting.

This added layer generates a higher quality of automated context, meaning and consistency for the annotation (tagging) of content and documents alike. The very same layer feeds information architecture in the navigation of resources (e.g. websites). In Search, it helps to disambiguate between queries (e.g. apple the fruit, or apple the organization?).

This digital helper application layer works very much in the same smooth manner as e.g. Google Photos, i.e. in the background, without troubling the user.

This automation however, will not work without sustainable organizing principles, applied in information management practices and tools. We still need a bit of human touch! (Just as Google Photos added theirs behind the scenes earlier, as a work in progress)

Augmentation

This codification or digitalization of knowledge allows content to be annotated, classified and navigated more efficiently. We are all becoming more aware of the Google Knowledge Graph or the Microsoft Graph that can connect content and people. The analogy of connecting the dots in a graph is like linking digital concepts and their known relationships or values.

Augmentation can take shape in a number of forms. A user searching for a particular query can be presented not only with the most appropriate search results (via the sense-making connections and relationships) but also can be presented with related ideas they had not thought of or were unaware of – new knowledge and serendipity!

Search, semantic, and cognitive platforms have now reached a much more useful level than in earlier days of AI. Through further techniques new knowledge can also be discovered by inference, using the known relationships within the graph to fill in missing knowledge.

Key to all of this though is the building of a supporting back-end platform for continuous improvement in the content continuum. Technically, something that is easier to start than one may first suspect.

Sustainable Organising Principles to the Digital Workplace

 


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View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey

Digital wizardry for customers & employees – the next elements

A reflection on Mobile World Congress topics mobility, digitalisation, IoT, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and sustainability

MWC2017Commerce has always had a conversational, today it is digital. Organisations are asking how to organise clean effective data for an open digital conversation. 

Digitalization’s aim is to answer customer/consumer-centric demands effectively (with relevant and related data) and in an efficient manner. [for the remainder of the article read consumer and customer interchangeably]

This essentially means Joining the dots between clean data and information and being able to recognise the main and most consumer-valuable use cases, be it common transaction behaviour or negating their most painful user experiences.

This includes treading the fine line between being able to offer “intelligent” information (intelligent in terms of relevance and context)  to the consumer effectively and not seeming to be freaky or stalker-like. The latter is dealt with by forming a digital conversation where the consumer understands the use of their information only being used for their end needs or wants.

While clean, related data from the many various multi-channel customer touch-points forms the basis of an agile digital organisation, it is the combination of significant data analysis insight of user demand & behaviour (clicks, log analysis etc), machine learning and sensible prediction that forms the basis of artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence broken down is essentially resultant action based on the inferences of knowing certain information, i.e. the elementary Dr Watson, but done by computers.

This new digital data basis means being able to take data from what were previous data silos and combine it effectively in a meaningful way, for a valuable purpose. While the tag of Big Data becomes weary in a generalised context, key is the picking of data/information to get relevant answers to the mosts valuable questions, or in consumer speak, to get a question answered or a job done effectively.

Digitalisation (and then the following artificial intelligence) relies obviously on computer automation, but it still requires some thoughtful human-related input. Important steps in the move towards digitalization include:

  • Content and Data Inventory, to clean data/ the cleansing of data and information;
  • Its architecture (information modelling, content analysis, automatic classification and annotation/tagging);
  • Data analysis in combination with text analysis (or NLP: natural language processing for the more abundant unstructured data, content), the latter to put flesh on the bone as it were, or adding meaning and context
  • Information Governance: the process of being responsible for the collection, proper storage and use of important digital information (now made less ignorable with new citizen-centric data laws (GDPR) and the need for data agility or anonymization of data)
  • Data/system Interoperability: which data formats, structures, and standards, are most appropriate for you? What data collections are most Relational databases, Linked/graph data, data lakes etc.?); 
  • Language/cultural interoperability: letting people with different perspectives accessing the same information topics using their own terminology.
  • Interoperability for the future also means being able to link everything in your business ecosystem for collaboration, in- and outbound conversations, endless innovation and sustainability.
  • IoT or the Internet of Things is making the physical world digital and adding further to the interlinked network, soon to be superseded by the AoT (the analysis of things)
  • Newer steps of Machine learning (learning about consumer preferences and behaviour etc.) and artificial intelligence (being able to provide seemingly impossible relevant information, clever decision-making and/or seamless user experience).

The fusion of technologies continues further as the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres with developments in immersive Internet, as with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The next elements are here already: semantic (‘intelligent’) search, virtual assistants, robots, chat bots… with 5G around the corner to move more data, faster.

Progress within mobility paves the way for a more sustainable world for all of us (UN Sustainable Development), with a future based on participation. In emerging markets we are seeing giant leaps in societal change. Rural areas now have access to the vast human resources of knowledge to service innovation e.g. through free-access to Wikipedia on cheap mobile devices and Open Campuses. Gender equality with changed monetary and mobile financial practices and blockchain means to raise to the challenge with interoperability. We have to address the open paradigm (e.g Open Data) and the participation economy, building the next elements. Shared experience and information commons. This also falls back to the intertwingled digital workplace, and practices to move into new cloud based arenas.

Some last remarks on the telecom industry, it is loaded with acronyms and for laymen in the area sometimes a maze to navigate and to build some sensemaking.

So are these steps straightforward, or is the reality still a potential headache for your organisation? 

Contact Findwise now to ease the process, before your competitor does 😉
View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog
View Peter Voisey's LinkedIn profilePeter Voisey

Sensemaking or Digital Despair

Finding our way in the bright, futuristic, data-driven & intertwined world, often taxes us and our digital-hungry senses. Fast rewind to the recent FindabilityDay 2015 and the parade of brilliant speaker talents on stage. Starting of with our dear friend and peer, Martin White, on the topic the future of search.

Human factors, from idea inception to design and practical UX of our digital artifacts. The key has been make-do and ship. This is the reason the more technically-advanced mobiles fell by the wayside 8 years ago Apple’s iPhone.

The social life with information, shapes our daily lives, in a hyper-connected world. It’s still very hard to find that information needle in the haystack, and most days we feel despair when losing the scent of information nuggets. The results from the Findability Survey, spoke clearly. Without sound organising principles to information and data, and a pliable recorded vision, we won’t find anything of value.

Next, moving into an old business model, with Luna’s and Sara’s presentation, a great example, where we see that the orchestration and choreography of their data assets will determine their survival or demise – in conjunction with infused means to information management practices, processes and tools. They showed a new set of facets to delivering on their mission in their line-of business.

Regardless of the line of business, it becomes clear that our fragmented workplace setting now only partly “on tap”. It makes our daily lives a mess, since things do not interoperate. The vision should show the way to a shared information commons, where we all cultivate.

So finally, How do we make sense of any mess?

Answer: Architect a place where you can find comfort with social conventions shared on the information used. Abby Covert, laid out a beautiful tapestry of things we all need to take on, to make sense in everyday life, and life at work. With clear and distinct guardrails, and signposts we don’t feel so distracted or lost. Her talk was a true enlightenment for me, being of the same profession, Information Architect.

View Fredric Landqvist's LinkedIn profileFredric Landqvist research blog

Finding business values in the emerging digital workplace

How does one experience the promised business rewards of the emerging digital workplace (a.k.a the intranet)?

A group of renowned intranet professionals have taken on the task this question and offer sound practical advice as to how to achieve real business value in their new book “intranets that create business value” or in Swedish “intranät som skapar värde“,

intranat-som-skapar-varde-framsida

Today, in fact most days, end-users feel bewildered when using the intranet.It is to some extent impossible to navigate.There exists a hodgepodge of mixed user experiences, given that the intranet often serves as the access point to several tools. And findability too is low! With a coherent, smooth and interoperable workplace, users should be able to find information and data, peers and colleagues to solve their everyday tasks, in an efficient way…  anywhere, on any device and anytime.

The authors’ narrative describes how the intranet can best be used to produce beneficial business transformation, by including detailed chapters on: strategy, content & information architecture, search/findability, governance and stakeholder management, end-user engagement and adaptation. Measures and metrics are also included to qualify the sought after business values.

Findwise have contributed to the sections relating to organising principles. Put simply, it should be easy for a user to know where and how to contribute with information and content in a good manner, so that others are able to find and co-act on such codified knowledge.

Without sound and sustainable organising principles there will be no findability: shit in = shit out! Regardless of the technology platform employed for search or intranet

Buy the e-book today, in advance of the published printed version in May!