Data Clouds for product life-cycle management - exchange and integration of Road Assets information


Exchange and bringing together overlapping or complementing information from various sources, applications, and perspectives has been a major issue in both commercial and scientific domains. Several aspects can be identified that complicate the realization of a solution to the problem one of the largest being the way in which information is offered. Differences in formats or structures of information as well as differences in vocabulary provide hurdles for the interoperability and integration of information.

The aforementioned problem for integration and exchange of information also comes to the fore for National Road Authorities. These are in need of solutions to bring about a unified view of asset management information over its various life cycles. In order to stimulate the market to provide such a solution, the Dutch and Swedish national road authorities (i.e. Rijkswaterstaat and Trafikverket) have issued a European project by the name of Virtual Construction for Roads (V-Con: Within this project, the focus lies on data exchange and integration on the construction of roads and asset management specifically. The desired solution will have to incorporate, align, and integrate various pieces of information on construction objects. This includes geometrical (3D CAD), geospatial (2D GIS), and systems engineering (SE) information.

Semmtech, partnering with the global engineering firm Arcadis, has produced a working prototype specifically to tackle the challenge as set by this European project issued by these two Road Authorities. This solution to integrate information into a coherent and cohesive set utilizes Semantic Web technology to overcome differences in format and vocabulary. In order to overcome differences in formats, the prototype translates the structure of information between native data formats (such as Expire-oriented standards like STEP for CAD information) and the Semantic Web structure (i.e. triples). Subsequently, logic is applied to transform the available information which is now available in a shared format to be expressed in a common vocabulary. Once information is available in a shared format and expressed in a common vocabulary, overlapping and complementing information can be integrated into a single coherent and cohesive set.

What makes our V-Con prototype unique is the employment of control models. With the term control model we refer to an information model, conforming to Semantic Web standards, that facilitates transformations by supplying it with a set of rules to perform its business logic. In using control models, the need to hard-code logic and decisions into the code of the software can be significantly reduced or even done away with. The operations of our integration solution will as a result be easier to analyse, adjust, share, and maintain. Moreover, this also entails that the technical components in place will themselves be easier to reuse in other systems, as they can be made to work for other data integration situations by supplying them with control models that are specific to those contexts.

The specific V-Con prototype is part of a much larger research & development-effort by Semmtech, already covering a period of 5-10 years. In this period Semmtech has been working on a so called SEMMweb Data Cloud-solution, making full use of Semantic Web-technology in an advanced and innovative manner. A Data Cloud is a coherent set of information that can be used by different software from different suppliers unbound by the location where the information is stored. A Data Cloud can be a single autonomous set of information or a collection of different sets which link information into a coherent whole. A Data Cloud can describe any business domain, like for instance civil engineering products, throughout its life-cycle, while different parts (subsets) of the data are managed by different parties in the supply chain, with different software from different vendors. Information in a Data Cloud is retrievable via the Internet and can be (re)used by different parties to add data about any object, contributing to one big ’cloud’ of data that covers parts of or even the whole range of references and attributes related to an object.

Solution components of this Data Cloud-solution cover among others the full scope of an enterprise-ready Data exchange platform. This Platform is build upon proven Linked Data Platform-technology, and is extended to meet typical enterprise requirements on authentication + authorization, version + baseline management as well as (data) workflow configuration. Next to the exchange, or rather sharing of data, the solution also foresees in a modular architecture, and as such is easily extendable to incorporate a wide range of data integration services. These services foresee in translations of data captured in different formats (e.g. structure and/or syntax) to and from a Linked Data-format, as well as conversions of information adhering to different vocabularies (e.g. semantics). Again, also these integration services are build upon generic Semantic Web-technology components, and make full use of the typical Semantic Web-features like referencing (avoid data duplication and redundancy) and inferencing (avoid hard-coded, application specific business logic).

As the application and added value of a platform proposition like the SEMMweb Data Cloud-solution is best understood by showing it being used in a specific business environment, the design of our solution as well as a demo/showcase of the V-Con prototype in a hands on/tutorial session can be provided. Only than the impact of the innovative use of Semantic Web-technology as underlying foundation of the Data Cloud-solution is shown in its full.

In case required, a scientific publication may be provided to give a more elaborate view on the Data Cloud-solution described. See attached document for an extended abstract.

Semmtech B.V.

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