Roger Cutler interviewed by W3C

Chevron IT luminary ponders ‘still experimental’ semantic technology in oil and gas.

World wide web consortium (W3C) blogger Ian Jacobs recently interviewed Chevron retiree and standards luminary, Roger Cutler, on Chevron’s use of semantic web technology. Cutler explained that Chevron’s focus, back in 2000, was on XML and web services. Chevron later sought to exploit the ‘expressiveness and reasoning’ achievable with the web ontology language, OWL. This program was a technical success, but has not as yet produced a significant business benefit. A second effort focused on ‘challenging integration problems’ spanning equipment used in major capital projects, involving ‘tens of thousands of objects: flanges, pumps, blowout preventers and so on.’ Chevron again leveraged OWL to pull all this information together. Again, a technical ‘success’ has not yet seen at scale deployment. Cutler reported ‘We’re [still] at the stage of learning and experimenting with the technology.’

Cutler remains positive about the promise of semantic technology to bridge ‘different organizations with different data models and systems.’ Such an approach ought to enable system-wide optimization as opposed to current domain-specific work. Technology of interest includes an ‘upper ontology’ that defines general concepts like units of measure. OWL is also a promising alternative for relational technology. In one example, some 15 lines of comprehensible rules were equivalent to over 1000 lines of complex relational code. However the ‘reasoning’ bit has proved intimidating—‘It is daunting to figure out how to gain the organizational capability to support a technology that is so difficult to understand and use effectively.’ Read the full interview on 0701.

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