APIs and Linked Data: A match made in Heaven

Due to the proliferation of available public sector data sources and initiatives, the interlinking and combination of such datasets has become a topic of major interest within SME information managers. While more agile options for data integration are being requested, conventional methods of data integration are not feasible for use due to the massive size of available data. The current state of the latter data is also mostly unstructured, thus making it either unaccessible for SMEs, or else making the cost of utilizing such data unbearable for SMEs. This calls for tools that support users in the re-use of such data, whilst hiding the underlying complexity and allowing the re-use of existing software applications.

A Quick Intro

A nice Linked Data primer can be found on this useful blog post or you can go quickly through my following presentation.

So, here is an extra attempt to explain the Linked Data Web, and I promise that I wont use any lingo in the following:

Imagine you’re in a huge building with several storeys, each with an incredible large amount of rooms. Each room has tons of things in it. It’s utterly dark in that building, all you can do is walk down a hallway till you bang into a door or a wall. All the rooms in the buildings are somehow connected but you don’t know how. Now, I tell you that in some rooms there is a treasure hidden and you’ve got one hour to find it.
Here comes the good news: you’re not left to your own resources. You have a jinn, let’s call him Goog, who will help you. Goog is able to take you instantaneously to any room once you tell him a magic word. Let’s imagine the treasure you’re after is a chocolate bar, and you tell Goog: “I want Twox”. Goog tells you now that there are 3579 rooms where there is something with “Twox” in there. So you start with the first room Goog suggests to you, and as a good jinn he of course takes you there immediately; you don’t need to walk there. Now you’re in the room you put everything you can grab into your rucksack and get back outside (remember, you can’t see anything, in there). Once you are outside the building again and can finally see what you’ve gathered you find out that what is in your rucksack is not really what you wanted. So, you have to get back into the building again and try the second room. Again, and again till you eventually find the Twox you want (and you are really hungry now, right?).
Now, imagine the same building but all the rooms and stairs are marked with fluorescent stripes in different colours, for example a hallway that leads you to some food is marked with a green stripe. Furthermore, the things in the rooms have also fluorescent markers in different shapes. For example, Twox chocolate bars are marked with green circles. And there is another jinn now as well- say hello to LinD. You ask LinD the same thing as Goog before: “I want Twox” and LinD asks you: do you mean Twox the chocolate bar or Twox the car? Well, thechocolate bar of course, you say and LinD tells you: I know about 23 rooms that contain Twox chocolate bars, I will get one for you in a moment.
How can LinD do this? Is LinD so much more clever than Goog?
Well, not really. LinD does not understand what a chocolate bar is, pretty much the same as Goog does not know. However, LinD knows how to use the fluorescent stripes and markers in the building, and can thus get you directly what you want.
You see. It’s the same building and the same things in there, but with a bit of a help in forms of markers we can find and gather things much quicker and with less disappointments involved.
In the Linked Data Web we mark the things and hallways in the building, enabling jinns such as LinD to help you to find and use your treasures. As quick and comfortable as possible and no matter where they are.

A Workshop on Linked Data

Almost a month ago I attended a workshop on Linked Data organised by the Linda Project. Even though I already have a lot of experience with various tools on the area I could not expect what I see. They have created a super simple to use toolkit that you can find by simply following this link. They offer all the code as open source so that you can fork whatever repo you like!!

Obviously we wouldn’t even be here discussing about this nice tool if they did not offer everything already packed with many nice APIs.

Other Linked Data APIs

I tend to update this section as a reference for companies that utilise Linked Data through APIs as their core business value.

OpenCorporates

OpenCorporates’ mission goal is to aggregate every bit of company-related public data and match it to the relevant company.

opencorporates

Fin

Today’s information economy calls for enterprises and SMEs that are capable to rapidly extract valuable information from various data sources and transform them into intelligence in order to gain (or retain) their competitive advantage, forecast future conditions and transform themselves into intelligent based and information rich entities that are going beyond their traditional business practises, by exploiting opportunities that arise to the surface during the process of information retrieval and digestion.

normalmap

In this context, information managers do hold a significant position in today’s enterprises, as they are responsible for the above-mentioned process. However, their daily activities are becoming more and more difficult and pressing, as the last decade an explosion in the delivery of public sector information data sources and initiatives has been recorded, following inconsistent patterns of publishing formats and data logic (semantics), creating a very fragmented field of work. The massive growth of available data has doomed conventional methods of data integration to fail while the complexity of processes within organisations ask for more agile options to link and mash-up data in a qualified way. Availability and matching of diverse data sources is today becoming more crucial and therefore the need for standards-based tools for the information management of SMEs is growing.

The Linked Data domain is promising to provide the answer to such problems, by creating the necessary infrastructure that will interlink these vast amounts of data.

 

 

 

 

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