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Sparql Droid – A Semantic Technology Application for the Android Platform

Sparql Droid logoThe semantic technology concepts that comprise what is generally called the semantic web involve paradigm shifts in the ways that we represent data, organize information and compute results. Such shifts create opportunities and present challenges.  The opportunities include easier correlation of decentralized information, flexible data relationships and reduced data storage entropy.  The challenges include new data management technology, new syntaxes, and a new separation of data and its relationships.

I am a strong advocate of leveraging semantic technology.  I believe that this new paradigms provide a more flexible basis for our journey to create meaningful, efficient and effective business automation solutions. However, one challenge that differentiates leveraging semantic technology from more common technology (such as relational databases) is the lack of mature tools supporting a business system infrastructure.

It will take a while for solid solutions to appear.  Support for mainstream capabilities such as reporting, BI, workflow, application design and development that all leverage semantic technology are missing or weak at best.  Again, this is an opportunity and a challenge.  For those who enjoy creating computer software it presents a new world of possibilities.  For those looking to leverage mature solutions in order to advance their business vision it will take investment and patience.

In parallel with the semantic paradigm we have an ever increasing focus on mobile-based solutions. Smart phones and tablet devices, focused on network connectivity as the enabler of value, rather than on-board storage and compute power, are becoming the standard tool for human-system interaction.  As we design new solutions we must keep the mobile-accessible mantra in mind.

As part of my exploration of these two technologies, I’ve started working on a semantic technology mobile application called Sparql Droid. Built for the Android platform, my goal is a tool for exploring and mashing semantic data sources.  As a small first-step I’ve leveraged the Androjena port of the Jena framework and created an application with some basic capabilities.

Sparql Droid allows the user to enter an ontology, run the Androjena OWL reasoned and then use SPARQL to query the resulting triples.  This functionality provided a way to prove to myself that the pieces would work, as well as to get a feel for the performance and scalability of the Androjena libraries running on a smartphone.  I also wanted to see how a multi-threaded application would perform on the Android.

Ontology Input SPARQL Query Output

The application works and I have placed it in the Android Market for those that are willing to experiment with it.  The real goal of the application is to become a point-and-click tool for exploring and mashing semantic data. However, having a semantic reasoner available in order to do some experimentation seems like a feature one would want in a semantic toolbox so I believe this functionality will remain useful.

I’ll be writing a bit in an upcoming blog post about my development journey.  I have learned a bit about Android programming in the process of building this application and perhaps others will be able to benefit from my experiences.

In the meantime, if you are willing to test the application and provide feedback on its operation as well as collaborate on fleshing this out I would appreciate hearing from you.

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One Response to “Sparql Droid – A Semantic Technology Application for the Android Platform”

  1. shufnagl Says:

    Hi David,

    great work! I like you App. I have several Android Devices…on a Xoom Tablet with Android 4 I have some problems with the UI.
    I’m not sure if Android with limited memory is the right platform?
    If you are interested let me know…


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