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Achieving the BEnefits of SWIM by making smart use of Semantic Technologies

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - BEST (Achieving the BEnefits of SWIM by making smart use of Semantic Technologies)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-05-31

The BEST acronym summarises the core idea of the project: Achieving the BEnefits of Swim by making smart use of semantic Technologies.

The main objective was to determine how semantic technologies can be used effectively to maximise the benefits of adopting SWIM.

SWIM (System wide information management) is a well-known concept in the ATM world, promising a complete change in the way ATM information is managed, and contributing towards achieving common situational awareness. However, using SWIM does not in itself guarantee the common situational awareness that is the ultimate aim of ATM information management. For that to be achieved, ways need to be found to avoid information overload and ensure that all involved parties receive just the information they need, just when they want it, with appropriate metadata about provenance, freshness etc. Achieving that needs extra support beyond the basic infrastructure provided by the SWIM concept. And that is where semantic technologies can have a role to play. Semantic technologies are not so well-known in ATM, and there is even some scepticism about their applicability, so the project was ambitious in introducing them to this domain.

BEST experimented with various approaches to using semantic technologies for ATM information management, invented some new ones, and produced some tools, conclusions and recommendations.

Technical highlights:
1. AIRM and various data exchange models transformed to an OWL representation, allowing processing by semantic technologies. BEST produced tools to automate the transformation.
2. Compliance validation tool, automating checks of consistency between different models.
3. Modularisation tool, allowing large and complex models (such as AIRM) to be automatically split into smaller, more manageable units. Can have implications for governance.
4. New concept: Semantic Containers. These can be combined with SWIM services to associate meta-data with ATM information, making it easier to find exactly the information required, and to automate its distribution and replication.
5. Analysis of scalability aspects of using semantic technologies.

Benefits of the BEST approach:
1. Understanding of the potential for using semantic technologies in ATM information management
2. Support for filtering and distribution of information using meta-data: easier to find exactly the information you need, exactly where you need it
3. Partial automation of (currently labour-intensive) compliance validation processes
4. Automated modularisation, with potential benefits for governance
5. Understanding of scalability issues


While BEST was primarily a research-oriented project, it was designed to ensure relevance to and suitability for ATM operations, through project activities and the involvement of a Reference Group of key stakeholders.
"The project has now been completed, and all results have been produced. These are as follows:

* Semantic Containers Concept: Set of techniques for ontology-based data description and discovery in a decentralised SWIM knowledge base.
* Semantic Containers Infrastructure needed to distribute data: For the Semantic Container concept to work in practice, it is necessary to provide infrastructure – a Sematic Container Management System – to arrange that containers are distributed and replicated at multiple locations in a network. This result describes how such infrastructure could be implemented effectively.
* Use Case Scenarios: A set of use case scenarios designed to illustrate the capabilities of semantic containers in a SWIM enabled environment. They are a pre-requisite for development of proof-of-concept applications.
* Proof-of-concept Applications: Proof-of-concept implementation of the Semantic Container concept in an operational setting, based on the Use Case Scenarios, and supporting information distribution and replication.
* Automated Ontology Engineering - Script-based transformation from AIRM/AIXM to OWL: Technical work in BEST needed an ontology representation of AIRM – but it is defined entirely in UML. However, ontology engineering (i.e. producing ontologies from other models/transforming ontologies) is a process that typically requires a lot of manual effort and time. This result was produced to speed up this process: it consists of a set of transformation scripts that can automatically transform AIRM and AIXM to OWL. The transformation uses a combination of the transformation language XSLT and the UML to OWL mapping rules defined by OMG.
* AIRM Compliance Validator: Proof-of-concept application that partially automates the task of verifying compliance between ontological representations of the ATM Information Reference Model (AIRM) and other ontologies (such as ones developed in the project).
* Tools for Ontology Modularisation: Prototype tools to allow an ontology to be broken down into smaller modules, using different criteria for doing the modularisation.
* Ontologies for AIRM, AIXM and IWXXM.
* Tutorial for Software Developers: BEST produced a variety of software artefacts that can be of interest outside the project. All of these are available for download (details on the project website). This “tutorial” provides hints and advice for anyone wishing to use the software.
* Modularisation Guidelines: Advice about different approaches to modularisation of ontologies, based on the possibilities that re opened up by the modularisation tool developed in BEST.
* Governance Guidelines: Advice about the feasibility of using semantic technologies in SWIM Governance, and specific advice about how they could be used. The possibilities opened up by the automated compliance testing and modularisation implemented in BEST receive particular attention.
* Scalability Guidelines: Describes an approach to assessing scalability aspects of using the Semantic Container approach developed in BEST, and the results of experiments carried out to measure and assess scalability on some specific cases. Based on these experiments and other work in BEST, a set of seven recommendations are provided advising on measures to take to promote scalable solutions when using semantic technologies.
* Stakeholder View: Describes the views of key ATM stakeholders about the ideas and concrete results from BEST – some from early in the project when ideas were immature, and some from nearer the end of the project when results were mature.

These results are described in more detail in section 2.4 of the project's ""Final Project Results Report"" (publicly available). The report also describes (in sections 2.4 and section 4.3) the ""next steps"" for further developing and/or using each of these results.




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"Applying semantic technologies in the field of ATM is entirely new, and it therefore represents significant advance with respect to state-of-the art that BEST has succeed in doing this, in several areas.

As a TRL1 exploratory research project, short-term impacts are all about opening new avenues of further research on the topics covered by the project. There are no immediate socio-economic or societal implications.

The project's ""Final Project Results Report"" (publicly available) provides detailed information (in sections 2.4 and 4.3) about next steps for further R&D for each of the project results.

in the longer term, the benefits of the project arise from improved information management enhancing the effectiveness and safety of air traffic management.


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