Technology Spain , Salamanca, Monday, May 18 of 2015, 17:17

The UPSA explores the possibilities of open data on the Internet

The union of the linked data of the semantic web and open data creates the field of Open Linked Data; the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca is implementing projects to test their potential, for example by developing applications for tourism

José Pichel Andrés/DICYT The Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca (UPSA) is researching the field of Open Linked Data. The possibilities that Internet currently offers could be multiplied in the forthcoming years with the development of these technologies, which enrich the search for data and make possible the new semantic web, which provides additional information and connects data in a smart way.


Ana Fermoso, the director of the Internet Mobility Technology and Services research group, explains some details of the semantic web. “It gives the information meaning by means of certain labels, which for instance allow the searches to be smarter”, she comments to DiCYT. The Linked Data are a part of this semantic web, a way of linking data distributed on the Internet in the same way as two websites are connected by links.


On the other hand, another trend on the Internet is that of Open Data. Public administrations in particular owing to the growing need for transparency, but also private bodies, publish data free from copyright so that they can be used by third parties. “The objective is for this information to help to create citizen services by means of technology”, the expert points out. The format in which these data are published is very important if they are to be reused; ideally it should be the so-called RDF (Resource Description Framework).


Open Linked Data is the result of mixing the concepts of open data and linked data. “The idea that open data can be linked with other data existing on the semantic web has huge potential”, Ana Fermoso affirms. “It is a way of inferring knowledge without extra work, simply by linking, and to do so the only requirement is for the information to be published in the RDF format".


For example, the DBPedia project is the transferring of the information of the well known Wikipedia to the semantic format. When it is in RDF this information can be linked on the semantic web, while other similar formats have other functions such as geolocation.


In the HTML programming language habitually used on websites, “only humans are capable of deciding whether the information is suitable”, but thanks to the semantic labels added by RDF “a machine can reason due to the meaning” and associate new valuable contents.


Developing this field is a major world project that is gradually being constructed without invalidating what already exists. The researchers of the Computing Faculty of the UPSA make their contributions in the form of small projects that help to test its potential.


For example, the BBC already provides data on music or programmes in the semantic web format. On working with their databases much more information can be generated automatically on the contents they offer, for example on a specific musician. Along these lines the UPSA is developing a project with the Telefónica company related to BBC Programmes.


Open data for tourism


Subsequently with the launch of the Open Data Portal of the Regional Government of Castilla y León, Ana Fermoso's team began to work on specific projects related to the region, especially concerning tourism. The first was a mobile phone and Internet application known as Quédate in Castilla y León, which allowed searching for accommodation and catering establishments such as hotels, cafés, and hostels. “On travelling in the autonomous region and interrelating this type of data, the information can be multiplied”, the researcher points out. For example, “if the DBPedia contains information on a certain place, it can be linked automatically without the programmer of the application having to add it”.


Another project was started along the same lines to form part of the latest edition of the University Innovation Club; this initiative was used by the UPSA to involve its students in research. It was a device for Android devices known as Smart Tourism and concentrating on tourism in Salamanca, although the same model could be useful in any town. From a user point of view the app offers a guide to monuments and places of interest, showing their position on the map in relation to the user and with index cards on characteristics, timetables, prices, and a gallery of images.


From a technical point of view however it is very original because it uses Open Linked Data technology to achieve these elements by means of different Internet sources, such as the data published by the Regional Government, the DBPedia, or Flickr. At the same time it encourages active user participation as new photographs can be included.


“The possibilities of open data on the Internet are endless”, Ana Fermoso comments. “It all depends on your imagination, on thinking how you can make the most out of the data, on the data that are being published, and on the fact that there are more and more sets of linked data”.