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Quest for reports

A revolutionary tool that will take away the whole cumbersomeness of locating, filling in and executing reports, making it all as simple as asking one natural language question: "what are the it department salary reports for april 2010?"

Since the beginning of the Database Management Systems (DBMS), the users’ need of displaying the computer-managed data using an easily customizable and richly formatted output arose. As a consequence, a vast assortment of reporting tools was developed, offering incredible flexibility and customization over the final presented results. However, as the information technology began to abruptly evolve and became easily embraceable by all the interested businesses, the amount of reports a company based its activity on started to exceed straightforwardly manageable boundaries. In a common workflow, the user having the task of running a large number of specific reports would have to remember the name (and location or other identification attributes – specific to the reporting tools used by the company) of each of the reports, open each reporting tool (if the reports he has to access were created using different solutions), fill in each of the required parameters of each report, subsequently running each one of them and waiting for each of the outputted results. This workflow has several major flaws: • The whole process is time consuming and error prone; • If the user responsible for the task has to be replaced or cannot perform it himself, another employee needs to be trained regarding the meaning and identification logic of each report and its parameters; • If a report is moved or renamed, the user in charge has to be aware of the modifications and to remember to take them into account when necessary; • If several reports require a similar pattern of parameters, the user would have to redundantly fill them in for each report. The vision is to create a revolutionary tool that will take away the whole complexity of this task and will make it as simple as asking a question – e.g.: “What are the IT Department salary reports for April 2010?” After the user inputs a single natural language question, guided by intelligent contextual suggestions, a conversion engine would transform the question into a specialized semantic interrogation language which, in turn, would query a Semantic Repository of metadata containing information about the company’s available reports and would identify and execute all the matching reports, automatically filling in all their parameters, with minimal need of actual human intervention. In case of input ambiguities or multiple responses questions, the user would be presented with all the matching results, ordered by means of page ranks and Levenshtein Distance (a metric for measuring the amount of difference between two sequences; regarding strings, it measures the minimum number of edits needed to transform one string into another, with the allowable edit operations being insertion, deletion, or substitution of a single character), allowing him to choose the most relevant response. The rank of the selected response would then be automatically increased, in order to favour it for subsequent similar queries. The key of the proposed solution is represented by the Semantic Repository, as the central data store of RDF (Resource Description Framework) encoded information – the RDF specifications being used as a method for conceptual description and modelling of reports metadata, grammars, synonyms and other information. The collection of reports metadata will be mainly created based on the parameters defined by the reporting tools and will be extracted and semantically encoded by a customized crawler, while the resulting ontology, designed as a formal, explicit specification of the shared reports metadata conceptualization, will become the central piece hosted within the Semantic Repository.
Start date: 
10-01-2011
Project Duration: 
24months
Project costs: 
520 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Information Filtering, Semantics, Statistics
Market Area: 
Data processing, analysis and input services

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.