Semantic cure for Excel ‘hell’

Cambridge Semantics’ Anzo for Excel leverages semantic web techniques in Chevron-backed proof of concept.

In a trial for Chevron, start-up Cambridge Semantics has shown how semantic technology can unify data in multiple spreadsheets scattered through the enterprise. The proof of concept involved daily production data supplied by joint venture partner BHP. Cambridge Semantics’ Anzo for Excel collected data from the daily reports, collating it with internal Chevron data. Anzo for Excel uses semantic web templates to map spreadsheet fields to enterprise databases. Excel cell to production database field mapping is done once and for all. Anzo Exposé was used to view shared data from spreadsheets and other sources. Different ‘lenses’ can be applied to data views, including a cute ‘timeline’ display that was used to track production report comments against time. Other ‘lenses’ allow for instance, spreadsheet data recast to PRODML.

Speaking at the W3C workshop (page 6) Cambridge Semantics CTO, ex IBM-er Lee Feigenbaum described the semantic web as an ‘expressive’ way of building domain and expertise models that align better than the relational database (RDB) and XML. Feigenbaum recognizes the spreadsheet as the lynchpin of human machine interaction but observes that Excel has created a ‘shadow IT’ world of data that is not discoverable or searchable. According to Feigenbaum, tools like Anzo and other semantic technologies will be the cornerstone of the next generation of data management.

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