The European Commission has given £327,000 (400,000 euros) in funding to Sheffield Hallam University as part of a bigger project (worth 4 million euros) to work on combining semantic technologies with business intelligence. The semantic web is being lorded as the next step in the development of the World Wide Web.

The semantic web will make it possible for computers (rather than people) to undergo the time consuming work of finding, merging and exploiting information – the web will be machine readable. SAP is leading the Combining and Uniting Business Intelligence with Semantic Technologies (CUBIST) project – the platform being developed will enable users to make more sense of the huge amount of data available to them on the web.

The classic Business Intelligence (BI) tools are, ‘not good at federating data from structured and unstructured sources whereas semantic technologies are all geared towards that goal’, explained Simon Andrews, senior lecturer in software engineering at SHU.

BI tools can be too restricting in terms of the user’s query, whereas, semantic technology looks for the hidden information.

Semantic web technologies are very good at mining unstructured sources – such as blogs. But that is just a part of it – the Formal Concept Analysis is an emerging semantic technology, which the project wants to focus on. The plan is to make it easier to gather ‘novel new useful business intelligence’ by displaying objects on a ‘concept lattice’.

Following the government’s plans to cut funding for the Web Science Institute at Southampton University, this project (which begins in October) gives a much-needed lift to semantic web development and all those involved.