Linked Open Data

From Open Energy Information

Linked Open Data and OpenEI

Linked open data is one of the more exciting ways OpenEI keeps energy information open, available and relevant. By utilizing the standards and practices of the linked open data community, OpenEI can share information in a universal format that is easily integrated by other sites using basic web technology.

Linked Open Data

Much in the same way HTML, the backbone of the Web, serves information in a human-readable format, linked open data serves information in a machine-readable format. But it’s more than just machines talking to each other. Linked open data is about connecting information to enrich content, reduce duplication of effort, and provide a more universalized data structure. Here’s how it works:

A typical website stores information about a topic in its own unique database and displays it for the world to see. Other websites displaying similar information typically follow the same design pattern. This results in duplication of effort and information. Additionally, if one of these websites fails to update their data, the online community is presented with conflicting information {figure 1}.

The linked open data community aims to combine like datasets by organizing these topics into a single linked concept. Once both sites are certain they are talking about the same concept, they can freely share related information. By sharing data, websites can reduce the amount of data they store locally. Other websites can even combine shared resources to present new content in exciting and unanticipated ways {figure 2}.

Now image that hundreds of websites were sharing content with each other. Each site would have seemingly endless resources related to their topic. This is not far from the truth. As the figure to the right shows, the linked open data community is already quite large, and growing larger every day {figure 3}.

The Advantages

Focused Efforts

By utilizing linked open data, the authors of a website about any given topic can display all relevant information to that topic but focus on providing only the information they consider themselves to be subject matter experts of.

Reduced Maintenance and Effort

Data provided by linked open data partners is updated in real time whenever the contributing party makes changes on their end. This means the maintenance cost and development effort of the database as a whole can be distributed among contributing partners.

Semantic Linkages and Interoperability

By declaring concepts and creating open data links, linked open data becomes part of the semantic web, and as such, can be integrated, combined, mashed-up and utilized in ways never before imaged. SPARQL, one of the driving languages behind linked open data querying, allows developers to write powerful queries which can span multiple data sources.