Brussels, 07 May 2004
Today, the Internet provides users with a huge amount of searchable information, as well as interactive services and applications that, based on our input, allow us to book a holiday or order the latest bestselling novel. But few websites are able to propose the ideal weekend break, having taken into account data regarding our previous holiday destinations, preferred types of accommodation and even our work schedule during that period.
Such services would necessitate a level of reasoning that simply isn't available today, and what little reasoning that does exist on today's Internet relies on technologies that are extremely complex, and accordingly expensive. However, a new Network of Excellence established by the European Commission is hoping to place Europe at the forefront of research aimed at turning this vision into a reality.
Over the next four years, the REWERSE - reasoning on the web with rules and semantics - network will act as a virtual research centre, bringing together institutions from 14 European countries. Its work will be supported with five million euro of EU funding, provided through the information society technologies (IST) priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). In addition, the project's participants have matched the Commission's contribution, and raised the total budget to ten million euro.
'REWERSE has two aims,' the project's coordinator, Professor François Bry, told CORDIS News. 'First, it will network and structure the scientific community in this field, and second, it will carry out research in order to produce tangible results for developing reasoning languages for the web.'
More specifically, Professor Bry explained, the research component of the project will develop and test a collection of coherent and complete reasoning languages for advanced web systems and applications. Once these have been developed and validated, the network hopes to propose them for adoption by global standardisation bodies, such as the worldwide web consortium (W3C).
The work of the network is divided into various work programmes. One, for example, will work on developing 'reasoning-aware querying' languages for the web, inspired by existing database querying methods. Another will look at the development of time and location languages, which could enable a website to compare two different cultural calendars, such as the Gregorian and Chinese, and provide context-aware directions to a user based on their location, and even whether or not, for example, they are driving in a one-way system.
'Telling someone where to find the 'nearest pharmacy' will depend on exactly where they are, whether they are driving, and therefore, the availability of parking,' explained Professor Bry.
Asked whether REWERSE is a unique initiative on a global level, Professor Bry admitted that he doesn't know precisely what avenues other research groups around the world are pursuing, as the obvious commercial applications for such technologies create a certain reluctance for scientists to widely advertise their research.
'REWERSE involves a significant group of people, and is already an achievement in itself,' said Professor Bry. 'This is an emerging area of technology in Europe, and while people have carried out work previously on the various elements of the work programme, this is the first time they have all worked together.'
And with private companies still reluctant to invest heavily in emerging areas of technological research given the recent turbulence in the sector, ten million euro represents a significant investment. 'In this sense, REWERSE has already taken a leading role in this area,' concluded Professor Bry.
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