Numbers game: True Engineering Technology stores numerical information on a central server. The system can create visualizations, shown above, that illustrate how different figures relate to each other.
“In the past, we thought of numbers as having an absolute value and an absolute measure of their authority, but of course that’s not really ever the case,” says Bruce Jenkins, an analyst at Ora Research in Cambridge, MA, who’s been briefed about the technology.
“The pedigree and authority of numbers in a system will become so much more visible with this technology,” Jenkins says, “and weaknesses, questions over the authority of numbers, will become much easier to see and correct.”
Jim Hendler, a professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies the semantic Web, says that the approach is in line with how he expects semantic technologies to be commercialized. “The semantic Web is really an infrastructure technology that’s used to enhance what we already do on the Web and to create new applications,” he says.
Some observers have questioned whether users will take the time required to add contextual information to semantic systems and to keep them up to date. But Hendler says that if a system is well designed, adding contextual information can actually save users time in the long run. “It’s a mistake to think that metadata makes things harder or causes extra work,” he says.
Though Numberspace is being marketed primarily to engineering companies, Razdow says the website could also be used in any industry that deals heavily with numbers. Research firms, journalists, and academics, for example, might all benefit, he says.