Seamless Knowledge: Spontaneous Knowledge Federation using Topic Maps

Steve Pepper


The last three years have seen the advent of what might be called "Semantic Portals" in the public sector in Norway. These are portals that use Topic Maps to structure their content by subject and provide navigation paths based on associations. Starting with and in 2001, upwards of a dozen such portals have been created for organizations ranging from the Research Council to the Consumers' Association, from the Conservative Party to the Armed Forces, and from the Department of Culture to the Department of Agriculture.

Some of these portals overlap with each other in terms of subject matter and many have specific subjects in common. For example, both the Department of Agriculture's biosecurity portal, the Research Council portal, and the Consumers' Association portal have topics that represent the subject "genetically modified food", but each puts a slightly different slant on the information it presents. A user at one of these sites would more than likely be interested in supplementary information from one of the others.

As more portals go live, the potential for connecting these portals increases and this has led to the notion of "Seamless Knowledge" - i.e., spontaneous knowledge federation across portals (and other information systems) based on the automated discovery of related information.

This presentation will explain the concept of Seamless Knowledge and the building blocks that are necessary in order to put it into practice. Those building blocks are:

  1. (1) Topic Maps (or rather, semantically structured data that can be viewed as topic maps, including RDF, relational data, and some XML).
  2. (2) Published Subjects (i.e., a set of unique global identifiers for arbitrary subjects that constitutes a "semantic superhighway" for knowledge federation).
  3. (3) A Remote Access Protocol for Topic Maps (to provide the basis for requesting and delivering fragments of topic map-based information).
  4. (4) Topic Maps Query Language (to permit more a precise specification of the kind of information requested using TMRAP).

The presentation will cover all of these aspects but the major emphasis will be on TMRAP (Topic Maps Remote Access Protocol), a protocol for exchanging Topic Maps-based information which is currently being implemented in a number of Topic Maps systems. The presentation will explain the design of the protocol and show live demonstrations of a commercial implementation.

Keywords: Topic Maps; Metadata

Seamless Knowledge: Spontaneous Knowledge Federation using Topic Maps

Steve Pepper

Extreme Markup Languages 2004® (Montréal, Québec)

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