Francis Phan, Gladis Filchtiner, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Zach Richardson
Sir Tim Berners-Lee is a digital age living legend. He’s credited for inventing the World Wide Web where on Dec. 25, 1990 he and his staff at CERN executed the first successful communication between an HTTP client and server on the Internet, and the rest so to speak is history.
As the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Berners-Lee is overseeing the evolution of the web, particularly in the direction of how information and services are defined. This falls under the auspices of what is known as Semantic Web, or more specifically Linked Data.
Why is this important? Presently web pages are designed to be read and navigated by humans. We take for granted how we surf the net and gather information depending on what our objectives are. Computers on their own can not easily accomplish this without human direction. As we live in the information age, it makes sense that web evolve in such a way that computers have a context and understanding of what’s on a web page and in turn have an informational and associative perspective of that data.
In an effort to help define what applications can be developed leveraging Semantic Web, MIT conducted a week long Linked Data Product Development Lab which culminated on Jan. 19, 2010 in which competing teams demo their Linked Data applications. The presentations were conducted at the Sloan School and the judging panel included Berners-Lee along with representatives from Spark Capital and Charles River Ventures.
The team that I was on, was comprised of MIT alum Gladis Filchtiner and Zach Richardson from the University of Texas. Our project, named LocalFocus, is a development platform in which developers can create sophisticated Linked Data queries, which can then be deployed as modules to a mobile client, such as the iPhone. As part of our demo, we showed various different queries on the iPhone with real time results rendering onto Google Maps.
The coding experience for me was grueling, like Music Hack Day except four times longer! Zach and I didn’t get our client and server communicating properly until an hour before the demo! It was literally down to the wire. It’s really quite an honor for Zach and I to come in as guests to MIT, come under Gladis’ wings and win this competition, especially considering the strength of the seven other competing teams. This has given us the confidence to take LocalFocus to the next step and develop a business plan. As Zach is from Austin, we’re looking to pitch our ideas to investors at SxSW Interactive in March!
Special thanks are in order to the organizers of the event: K. Krasnow Waterman, Reed Sturtevant and Bill Aulet.