A brief talk with Jan Voskuil

June 06, 2017

Jan Voskuil is cofounder and CEO of Taxonic and its recent spin-off, OntoPharma. Taxonic was founded in 2012 as an independent consultancy. Its mission: evangelize Linked Data and help organizations applying this technology to solve real world problems. Taxonic is proud to be Premium Sponsor of SEMANTiCS 2017!

Can you tell something about your work/research focus?

We find that the open standards underpinning Linked Data are paramount. We invest time, money and effort in further developing these. Among other things as a W3C Partner. A case in point is SHACL, the coming standard for expressing constraints on data in a graph. Recently, we made some real progress with this. We also invest in research, for instance, in the field of extracting data from textual documents. Since we are an independent commercial venture, however, our most important focus is helping organizations to benefit from applying Linked Data. Among our clients are the Dutch Police, the Kadaster, Wolters Kluwer and Alliander.

Which trends and challenges you see for linked data/semantic web and why are they important for Taxonic?

There are many interesting goings on that spring to mind. Linked Data is increasingly applied inside the enterprise for business vocabularies, data integration and data governance. In a way, this is comparable to the shift from client-server architectures to secure, internally used Web-based applications, which started happening in the early days of the Web. I believe this will become big.

The single most important trend, however, is the transition to Data First. Although computers have pervaded almost every aspect of our lives, we still capture much of the information we live by in the form of text. For computers, this information is simply inaccessible. The trend is to move from Text First to Data First. This is happening in every sector of the economy. Linked Data will play a pivotal role as an enabler in this transition. This is why we invest heavily in knowledge of NLP, AI-techniques, and so on, and how to combine these with Linked Data technologies. As I have earned a PhD in linguistics a very, very long time ago, it is fun to find myself working on these topics again.

What are your expectations about Semantics 2017 in Amsterdam, what makes it special for Taxonic as a company?

Personally, I find Semantics the best yearly event I know of. What I specifically like is the size: big enough to always make unexpected acquaintances, but not so large that it becomes massive. And related to this, the atmosphere of enthusiasm, mixing commercial business and academic research, openness, the friendly spirit of working on something that will shape our future. As a Dutch company mostly working locally, we are particularly excited that this time, the conference is hosted in Amsterdam!