Structured Dynamics' growing product portfolio is geared to power the semantic enterprise. It leverages existing assets with interoperable technologies and linked data. Our products and applications enable users to discover, connect, communicate, and share knowledge in new and innovative ways. We share your vision to get information to interoperate, regardless of legacy or form.
Modern IT architectures are evolving to become Web-based and layered. They are Web-based because the designs are proven, simple, scalable and accessible. They are layered to prevent "lock-in" to particular vendors or standards and to allow incorporation of new innovations, including open source.
We discuss each of our relevant products in relation to these layers. To try out the full stack yourself, please visit our Citizen Dan sandbox, which is a working demonstration in the context of local governments and community indicator systems.
The New Paradigm of Ontology-Driven Applications
By combining the richness of existing information structure with semantic technologies, we provide a new paradigm in information technology: ontology-driven applications. Ontology-driven applications are modular, generic tools, which operate and present results to users based on the underlying structures that feed them.
The ontology-driven paradigm replaces the current brittle and specific approaches to application code development, query formulation and report writers. Instead, attention shifts to the structure and organization of the information itself, a focus that democratizes the knowledge management process.
Structured Dynamics is constantly filling in pieces to the puzzle of the semantic enterprise. The good news is that very capable puzzle pieces exist across the spectrum, and we can paint a complete picture mixing and matching our products with others as appropriate.
The embracing context for Structured Dynamics' products is
open semantic framework. OSF is a combination of a layered
architecture and modular software. Most of the items below
are contributing parts to the OSF.
The open semantic framework may be deployed in its entirety, or by mixing-and-matching various parts within its framework. The OSF completely embraces the product architecture shown above. The relationship of the various components and layers that make up the framework is depicted by what some have affectionately called the "semantic muffin" (right).
The software and tools associated with the OSF are all open source, and are available for download from the OpenStructs.org Web site. A knowledge base of some 300 detailed articles -- which itself can be downloaded and modified -- is available from the OpenStructs TechWiki.
The Application Layer
The application layer is appropriately diverse. Embracing this diversity and designing for it is a key to ongoing adaptability.
Structured Dynamics provides a user application layer via conStruct, a structured content system built on Drupal. conStruct enables structured data and its controlling vocabularies (ontologies) to drive applications and user interfaces. It is based on RDF and SD's structWSF platform-independent Web services framework (below).
Users and groups can flexibly access and manage any or all datasets exposed by the system depending on roles and permissions. Report and presentation templates are easily defined, styled or modified based on the underlying datasets and structure. Collaboration networks can readily be established across multiple installations and non-Drupal endpoints. Powerful linked data integration can be included to embrace data anywhere on the Web.
conStruct provides Drupal-level CRUD, data display templating, faceted browsing, full-text search, and import and export over structured data stores based on RDF.
Data Visualization and Manipulation Sub-layer
Tha application layer also includes various open source semantic components (sComponents), which are Flex-based data visualization, display and manipulation widgets tailored to structWSF data. These components may be used directly in HTML pages or embedded in conStruct.
The sComponent library currently includes its own ontology and control object. Representative widgets include the concept (relation) browser, search, story viewer, map object, image, box object, text object, pie chart, bar chart and linear chart.
The Ontology ('Schema') Layer
Ontologies are the key structures that provide the horsepower behind these ontology-driven applications. As such, however, these data-driven adaptive ontologies - with their expanded duties in Web deployment and user interfaces - have added requirements:
- Linked data, and the use and accessibility of URIs as resource identifiers
- Workflow considerations with explicit treatment of user
edits and candidate suggestions
- Context- and instance-sensitive data display, including templates, and
- Preferred and alternate labels for data objects to "drive" user interfaces.
Structured Dynamics understands - indeed first discovered and formulated the best practices for - how adaptive ontologies can drive the semantic enterprise.
Two roles for ontologies are to position existing datasets into an "aboutness" framework and to help guide how the data can be described and related to other data. A useful asset developed by Structured Dynamics is the UMBEL (Upper Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer) ontology. UMBEL is a coherent reference framework of about 28,000 reference concepts, connected and acting like constellations in the information sky, for orienting content and datasets. It is also a general vocabulary and approach that aids creation of domain-specific ontologies, which can tie in and inter-relate to the more general UMBEL structure.
RDF and these data structures provide long-sought benefits in data federation, consistent enterprise-wide semantics, and flexible frameworks for business intelligence and knowledge management.
The broad experience Structured Dynamics has in ontologies is a key success factor for enabling the semantic enterprise.
A Common Web Services Interface
An essential interface layer is the mediator between existing data assets and structure and the interoperability provided by adaptive ontologies. This layer needs to communicate and present clear semantics at the interoperable side of the interface. It needs to accept and convert a diversity of data, structures and schema. This interface layer must absolutely be neutral to any data format or application presented to it.
Structured Dynamics packages this interface layer in its structWSF Web services framework. structWSF is platform-independent middleware for accessing and exposing structured RDF data, with generic tools driven by underlying data structures. Its central perspective is that of the dataset. Access and user rights are granted around these datasets, making the framework enterprise-ready and designed for collaboration. Since a structWSF layer may be placed over virtually any existing datastore with Web access - including large instance record stores in existing relational databases - it is also a framework for Web-wide deployments and interoperability.
The structWSF framework is generally RESTful in design and is based on HTTP and Web protocols and open standards. The core structWSF framework comes packaged with a baseline set of about twenty Web services in CRUD (create - read - update - delete), browse, full-text and faceted search, and export and import (multiple supported formats). More services can readily be added to the system, including advanced analytics, ontology creation and management, and data visualization. All Web services are exposed via APIs and SPARQL endpoints.
The tools within structWSF (or those designed to interoperate with it) are different than traditional applications. They are designed to have generic functionality, the specific operation and expression of which is based on the inherent structure within the data and its relationships. This design approach is closer to Web 2.0 "mashup" designs, which emphasize APIs and protocols.
The Conversion, Extraction and Authoring Layer
Structured Dynamics has other engines to complement these ontology-driven applications. These engines provide information extraction, RDF conversion of legacy data structs, and simple dataset authoring and exchange formats.
Information extraction is important because 80% to 85% of all information resides in unstructured text. Metadata tagging through IE allows faceting, finding named entities, and inferencing over conceptual relationships. Structured Dynamics' information extraction engine is scones (Subject Concepts Or Named EntitieS). It uses rather simple natural language processing (NLP) methods as informed by concept ontologies and named entity (instance record) dictionaries to help guide the extraction process. The co-occurrence of matches between concepts and entities also aids the disambiguation task. The resulting scones tags can be managed separately or fed to user interfaces or re-injected back into the original content as RDFa.
For RDF conversion ("RDFizers"), Structured Dynamics has access to more than 150 specific format options and often develops its own. These converters can also work directly with major application APIs. If not already in hand, Structured Dynamics is very knowledgeable in new format conversion.
For dataset authoring, Structured Dynamics has developed irON, an instance record and object notation that can be serialized as JSON (called irJSON), XML (called irXML) or comma-separated values (or CSV comma-delimited files, called commON). The purpose of these notations is to provide easier authoring environments and scripting support to RDF-ready datasets. The advantage is to shield users from the nuances of RDF. The design of commON is especially geared to using spreadsheets as authoring environments for instance record tables or simple outline structures.
The Starting Layer: Existing Assets
Of course, in all cases there are existing systems hosting and managing the enterprise's core information assets. Structured Dynamics takes these systems as givens, and works to interoperate with them via the perspectives and technologies noted above. This approach leverages prior investments in vocabularies and schema structures.
Structured Dynamics has significant experience with RDF datastores and can also bring this product and deployment experience to bear with customers.