Linked data versus geospatial semantics: Where do you stand?

Contributed by: 
Linda van den Brink, Geonovum

The other day at the Geonovum office we were discussing whether Linked Data is over-hyped. According to some of us, it is, although none of us knew where exactly it is in the hype cycle. In any case, we agreed that it is growing in popularity a lot, at least in Europe. In the Netherlands we have a community called the Platform Linked Data Nederland (450 members from private, public and scientific organizations). This community is still growing and is a place where we share knowledge about linked data and semantic web. Within this community there are sometimes clashes of opinion. Is it enough to publish your data on the web and link it, or is it useful or even necessary to add meaning, i.e. semantics to the data, in a correct and standardized manner? Some of them think this is all far too complex; publishing linked data is enough. Others think this is essential and the only proper way forward.

AT OGC  we have the GeoSemantics Domain Working Group (DWG) who have been discussing these topics for many years already. From the GeoSemantics work, standards have arisen such as GeoSPARQL for doing spatial queries on linked geodata. The use of semantics on the web, e.g. adding semantics to geoservices for better discovery, or better understanding of the data, has been a recurring topic in OGC Testbeds.

Personally I think semantics are essential to data. Soon we will be drowning in data. Big data technology can help us with this, but all this offers is statistics as a solution. To make sense of data, to know if certain data solves your problem (is of use to you), you need to know what the data means and if you can trust it enough for your purposes.

At the moment, as I said, linked data is sort of a hot topic, at least in Europe; and semantics, I think, are a necessary component of linked data so we can make proper sense of it. But not everyone agrees. So it's good timing to have a group of people get together and share their opinions and experiences. That’s why we as the OGC GeoSemantics DWG are hosting the GeoSemantics Summit: Standards Intersect Ontologies. This summit is aimed at bringing the informal linked data and formal ontology worlds closer together in the geospatial standards development process. Specific goals of the summit are to advance 1) formal ontology practice for defining geospatial standards, and 2) standard ontologies / geosemantic tools needed to advance linked data.

We hope to see you there!