Managing bank puke with the Semantic Web

August 29th, 2007

The Economist has a short article on the development of the Semantic Web, The web: some antics, that highlights two startups whose business models are based on integrating personal information.

The article’s summary of what the Semantic Web is a bit light, but does mention SPARQL.

“The semantic web is so called because it aspires to make the web readable by machines as well as humans, by adding special tags, technically known as metadata, to its pages. Whereas the web today provides links between documents which humans read and extract meaning from, the semantic web aims to provide computers with the means to extract useful information from data accessible on the internet, be it on web pages, in calendars or inside spreadsheets. It does so using a trio of new technologies: the Resource Description Framework (RDF), the Web Ontology Language (OWL), and the SPARQL query language. Together, they allow computers to group objects and their features—from prices and measurements to locations and user ratings—into meaningful relationships and hierarchies, by analysing their associated metadata.”

One of the startups is a TripIt which integrates travel information:

“His intention is that people should be able to dump all of their travel details (electronic tickets, car-hire bookings, hotel reservations and so on) straight from any reservation site into a central repository, which TripIt will run. Then RDF, OWL and SPARQL—or, at least, TripIt’s implementations of them—will sort the information. The software will group the data appropriately and annotate the result with weather forecasts, driving directions, restaurant recommendations and even the travel plans of friends and family.”

The other is Wesabe which is working in the domain of personal financial information.

“Another area where the semantic web may make a contribution is personal finance. Even if they have not heard the term, most people will be familiar with the idea of what a company called Wesabe refers to as “bank puke”. This firm, which is also based in San Francisco, plans to make money by clearing up such puke and turning it into useful information. The idea is that its customers will be able to feed their bank statements, credit-card accounts and so on into the system as if they were throwing reams of paper onto an accountant’s desk.”

Bank puke, I love it! The phrase, I mean.

(spotted in a message from Mark Montgomery in public-owl-dev)