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Convergence of Semantic Naming & Identification Technologies

Objective of Meeting

Semantic interoperability is a major issue for government organizations and commercial enterprises today. How to manage and relate information in different forms is a big problem, which must be solved if we are to achieve Boundaryless Information Flow™. There are several different and apparently conflicting approaches, and as yet no agreement on a solution. But perhaps it is now time to start looking for consensus.

The purpose of this meeting, sponsored by The Open Group jointly with the Federal Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice (SICoP), and the Federal Metadata Management Consortium, was to address the candidate semantic naming and identification standards, review example use cases, and address the question of whether convergence of these semantic naming and identification standards and technologies is possible or practical. 


Brand Niemann, Chairman of the Federal Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice (SICoP), and Chris Harding, Forum Director for SOA and Semantic Interoperability, The Open Group gave a brief Introduction, setting out the viewpoints of the sponsoring organizations and the objectives of the meeting. Brand spoke on behalf of Denise Warzel for the FMMC, as well as for the SICoP.

Ron Schuldt, Senior Staff Systems Architect, Lockheed Martin Enterprise Information Systems gave the opening keynote presentation: Convergence of the Semantic Naming and Identification Technologies - What are the Choices? What are the Issues?. He explained the problem of semantic interoperability in relation to structured and unstructured data, and outlined the roles of ISO 11179 and the Semantic Web in addressing the problem in these respective spheres. He explained the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF), and how it can play a key role.

Conor Shankey, CEO of Visual Knowledge, presented on Semantic Wikis for Information Management. He described how semantic agents can help with metadata management by dealing with the impacts of changes in the underlying ontologies. He went on to explain the concept of the semantic wiki, and to show how semantic wikis can enable the addition of metadata (which in turn enables inferencing) to information created collaboratively through wikis, and can also facilitate collaborative development of ontologies. They are a key element of tooling for implementation of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Data Reference Model and of knowledge reference models in general.

Garry Duvall of OASD presented on RFID/Wireless Coordination and Collaboration. RFID is an important labelling technology, enabling item label information to be accessed by reader devices using wireless communication. It will dramatically increase the volume of information available to enterprises, and will also dramatically increase the amount of item coding that enterprises do. It is possible to include metadata in RFID identifiers. There are issues relating to security and privacy, to the assignment of universally meaningful identifiers (distributors, for example, sometimes assign identifiers that omit manufacturer information), and to how RFID and coding should be managed; but the biggest challenge is in understanding the impact on business practices. 

Denise Warzel, Assistant Director caDSR, National Cancer Institute, Center for Bioinformatics described the Common Framework for Creating, Managing, and Deploying Semantically Interoperable Systems that was developed by the NCI and is in current use by them. It is a complete metadata management infrastructure, that combines use of ISO 11179 and ontologies, and uses model-driven architecture techniques to derive information management APIs. It is an excellent use case for semantic information management.

Neil Lovering, of Cisco described the Impact of IPv6 on Semantic Interoperability. IPv6 is the next-generation Internet protocol defined by the IETF to replace the current version (IPv4), whose address space will be exhausted some time between 2008 and 2015. IPv6 has an enormous address space, that will enable components, as well as systems, to be addressed individually. A part of each address is assignable within the host system, and can be used as an identifier. One possibility would be to make it the same as the RFID identifier for the component in question.

Brand Niemann posed the key questions as he sees them, and Chris Harding then added a description of his key questions.

The speakers and the audience then combined in a discussion moderated by John Yanosy, chair of the SII WG of the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC), to address the question of whether convergence is possible or practical. Following the discussion, there were summaries of the key points by Brand, Chris, and John.

The discussion was wide-ranging. It started with semantics for machine-machine communication and for person-machine communication, and the crossover of human-understandable and machine-processable semantics. It stressed the importance of semantic context: business context and IT architecture context. This led to the need to identify business objects and semantic concepts, and appropriate methods and standards for such identification.

ISO 11179 and the Semantic Web will both have roles to play in enterprise IT architecture. Methods and practices by which they can play those roles effectively and in combination must be found.

Identification is crucial because it relates the concept to the referrent object. Some identifiers can also include semantic information. Two specific forms of identifier were discussed: RFID identifiers for business objects, and UDEF identifiers for semantic concepts. It could be possible to embed UDEF identifiers as semantic information within RFID identifiers, which might in turn be embedded within IPv6 host addresses. No conclusion was reached, however, on the desirability of doing this.


This report is the main output of the meeting from The Open Group. The SICoP will also produce a report (see the Wiki page under Links below).

Next Steps

The SICoP may initiate an IPv6 Address Assignment Pilot, to explore the question of how agencies should manage the host-assignable parts of their IPv6 addresses.

Increasingly, SOA constitutes the IT architecture environment for semantic interoperability. The SOA Community of Practice (SOACoP) of the US Federal CIO Council will hold a Service-Oriented Architectures for E-Government Conference, May 23-24, 2006.

The Open Group UDEF Forum will continue to work to enable and promote the UDEF as the primary standard for identification of data element concepts.

The forthcoming Open Group Architecture Practitioners Conference in Miami, July 17-19, 2006 will address both semantic interoperability and SOA.


See the links above, and also:

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