The advantage of an ontology is that it represents real world information
in a manner that is machine process able. This leads to a
variety of interesting applications for the benefit of the
target user groups. For example, using the ontology in figure
in ontologies examples, we can ask the following questions
for information discovery purposes:
- Give me all courses of the computer science department
- Give me all courses in year 4
- Give me all courses of a specific subject area
The above are machine implement able for user friendly results.
The reason ontologies are becoming popular is largely due to what they
promise: a shared and common understanding of a domain that can be communicated
between people and application systems. Specifically, ontologies offer
the following benefits:
- They assist in the communication between humans. Here, an unambiguous
but informal ontology may be sufficient.
- They achieve interoperability among computer systems achieved by translating
between different modelling methods, paradigms, languages and software
tools. Here, the ontology is used as an interchange format.
- They improve the process and/or quality of engineering software systems.
With respect to computer-based modelling, ontologies have the following
- Re-Usability: the ontology is the basis for a formal
encoding of the important entities, attributes, processes
and their inter-relationships in the domain of interest.
This formal representation may be a reusable and/or shared
component in a software system.
- Search: an ontology may be used as metadata, serving as an index into
a repository of information.
- Knowledge Acquisition: using an existing ontology as the starting point
and basis for guiding knowledge acquisition when building knowledge-based
systems may increase speed and reliability.
The development of an ontology is an interdisciplinary research process
that involves com-puter scientists as well as experts for the specific
area that is addressed. Once an ontology has been created it may be used
for information discovery in the following ways:
- To pose queries for either metadata, concepts or properties of the
- As a conceptual framework to help the user think about the information
repository and formulate queries
- As a guide to understand the ontology-driven metadata
- To drive the user interface for creating and refining queries