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Vacation Time: More Summer Fun With Semantic Tech

By   /  May 30, 2014  /  No Comments

volcpixby Jennifer Zaino

Earlier this week we took a look at how semantic technology can play into your summer outdoor living plans. Today, we’ll spend a little time looking into how semtech-based solutions could factor into your summer vacation plans.

Perhaps the latest advancement on that front was the work we reported on last week from Sabre, which launched a new developer portal to with APIs based around semantic algorithms that should lead to more personalized travel search services. But while we’re waiting for developers to glom on, there are some other fun ways to explore your holiday options, some of which you might not immediately think of as particularly germaine to the task.

Take, for example, semantic web site creation platform Silk. There are a universe of Silks that have been built that might whet your appetite for a more radical vacation than perhaps you were originally thinking of – or at least better prepare you for an adventure vacation you have in mind. There’s The Volcanoes Catalogue, for instance, with collections of information on all 1,551 known volcanoes. Using data from the Smithsonian Institution and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it plots the 50 highest volcanoes; categorizes them by type; and clues you into which are the most active; which have the highest volcano explosivity index (VEI), which rates eruptions based on the volume of product exploded and the cloud height; and which have caused the most casualties, among other features – all information that might be useful in matching your tolerance for risk and danger against your desire to experience steaming craters, hot lava and active eruptions up close.

Good news: sites in Hawaii don’t show up among the most active volcanoes, nor do they have a high VEI. Bad news: Kilauea on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is among the top ten in human casualties over the course of history. Good news: According to this article, as of 2011 it still had not re-entered explosive mode when, the piece notes, “a long-term evacuation of the summit, a popular vacation spot, will be necessary.”

zappixSo, with that information in mind, it’s a snap to head over to a site like ZapTravel, which lets users search in natural language for the types of activities and destinations that inspire them. Type in something like “I want to visit volcanoes in Hawaii” as your inspiration, and among your offers you’ll find an 8-day vacation in Kauai. A bit surprisingly, other queries on the topic – such as plain old “volcano,” “explore a volcano,” or “I would like to hike a volcano” – leads to the response that no deal combines all the criteria I’m looking for. But it still pulls together options outside all the criteria that include A “Wonders of Nature” tour on the same island and some other Hawaiian sites, as well as some other exotic choices.

SRI spin-out Desti also uses NLP and artificial intelligence to help you find what you’re looking for, but to date it remains an iPad-only app. (Alas, we’ve got a tablet from another brand in our house.) If neither of these are a fit for you, there are plenty of other semantically-infused travel sites to try, such as Hopper and TravelShark. These are just some start-up players in what will be an increasingly crowded market: Travel booking website Skyscanner, which recently conducted research on the future of travel in conjunction with other parties, quotes its head of B2B Filip Filipov as saying, “In the near future, there is going to be a mass-market conversion to semantic, location-aware and Big Data [data sets that are beyond our reasonable abilities to manage or comprehend so that more imaginative methods and ways to visualize them are required] applications, which will be of transformative use to travelers.”

More vacation help is to be found in personalized recommendation engines that target more specific aspects of vacations, like Nara, which is based on neural networking technology and currently focuses on pointing you to the restaurant or hotel that best suits your taste. Kauai doesn’t appear to be in its database (yet) for me to find the hotel and restaurants there that meet my criteria for boutique accommodations with on-site spas and chic, Asian food dining establishments. But it’s got options for me if I decide, while I’m on that volcano-exploration vacation there, to hop over to Honolulu for a couple of days, too.

Don’t know about you but this is all making me eager for a real vacation getaway. Time to get busy planning!


About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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