The value of ontologies for developing semantic standards

Brande, J. van den (2013) The value of ontologies for developing semantic standards.

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Abstract:A current trending topic in the information modeling discipline is ontologies. An ontology can be seen as something different from traditional information models. It is a formal, explicit specification of a shared conceptualization of a real-world domain. TNO developed a methodology to develop semantic standards using an information model, called MOSES. As in the literature currently no or few development methodologies exist that use an ontology instead of an information model for developing a semantic standard, one of the goals of this thesis is to develop such a development method, based on MOSES. By extending this methodology the benefits an ontology could bring can be examined as well. Therefore the main research question is formulated as: How can the MOSES methodology be extended with the development and use of an ontology? For semantic standards interoperability is of great value. Interoperability refers here to the ease of exchange of information between domain stakeholders. The interoperability between stakeholders in a domain is expected to be able to be reinforced by making use of an ontology. In the literature specific aspects of ontologies were denoted to do this and also mindsets from other ontology development methods were found in the literature that reinforce interoperability. The most important aspects found are that an ontology provides a shared vocabulary with unambiguous concept descriptions for all stakeholders to improve interoperability. By means of validity rules an ontology can also rule out any configurations possible that do not square with the real-world domain and because an ontology can model processes and operation rules, dynamic domain behavior can be modeled as well. The extension of the MOSES methodology with the development and use of an ontology means the information model that is developed is replaced with an ontology. MOSES is designed to explicitly capture all static and dynamic concepts of a domain. To be able to develop an ontology that at least covers these aspects, the Resource-Event-Agent (REA) upper ontology is used as ontological foundation for the ontologies to be developed in the method. This means all domain concepts have to be mapped on the concepts defined by REA. The main concepts of REA are resources, events, agents and commitments, where commitments correspond to agreements between two agents to exchange (the information of) one specific resource. The commitment is executed by at least one event sending the resource and at least one event receiving the resource. Taking into account the interoperability benefits ontologies can bring, the MOSES methodology has been adapted to include the development and usage of an ontology. The exact methodology steps, mindsets and notations are documented well to facilitate practitioners to execute the development methodology. The first phase of MOSES is hardly changed, so in this phase the resources, events, agents and commitments of the domain still need to be identified in a MERODE model. To extend the MOSES methodology with an ontology, the business information modeling phase is replaced by a phase building an ontology base and another to further specify the ontology model. In the latter phase, the properties of the agents are determined and resources, but also their constraints. The latter is done by initially capturing the constraints in a semi-informal way to facilitate domain experts, followed by a formalization step. The final phase of MOSES is hardly altered; message structures can be generated from the ontology making use of an XML-translation. To gain hands-on experience with the developed methodology, a case developing a microgrid with flexibility in energy demand and supply was performed. Using relevant literature sources and knowledge from domain experts, the extended methodology was applied. Performing the methodology resulted in a multipurpose ontology that not only can be used for deriving a semantic standard, but also can be used for other purposes. The case shows an example of an additional application where the congestion impositions on grid participants are shown in an overview. By having several domain experts and ontology development experts examining the case and its end products, the extended methodology was iteratively improved to suit the building of domain ontologies best.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
TNO, the Netherlands
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Information Technology MSc (60025)
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