The Auto-ID Labs are working closely with GS1 in its GS1 Digital portfolio of projects.
The first of these projects, GTIN+Data on the web focuses on making trusted data about products, services and offerings more easily available on the web, using approaches such Linked Open Data to make this data accessible to software applications (e.g. 'apps' on mobile phones) and to search engines.
By improving the visibility of products, services and offerings, we enable consumers to find the products and services that most closely match their needs, taking into account various factors such as price, urgency/availability, technical specifications, ratings, reviews and consumer feedback, as well as the environmental impact of the product and its production and ethical accreditations.
Already web search is becoming much smarter and more semantic in nature, with an emphasis on extracting meaning from words and understanding concepts, named entities and the meaning of words within a particular context. Some search engines are even providing companies with incentives for including semantic markup of factual data within their web pages. For example, Google provide enhanced search listings ('Google Rich Snippets') that are synthesised from structured data about products or store locations, opening hours and contact details. The USA consumer electronics retailer BestBuy has reported a 30% increase in web traffic to their store pages since they included semantic markup using existing vocabularies such as schema.org and GoodRelations.
Linked from this page you can find two early demonstrations of how Linked Data can be used for finding products.
The GPC contextual search demo illustrates how a consumer could type a keyword and then be provided with appropriate contextual filters to help to refine their search for a product of interest.
The Linked Data markup example illustrates the use of RDFa (Resource Description Framework in annotations) to embed structured data within a web page about a product, so that this information can be more easily extracted by smartphone apps, search engines and other software applications.
To use this demo, click on the link above to open the web page, then select 'View Source' and copy the HTML source code into the HTML tab of http://rdfa.info/play to see a visualisation of the structured data embedded in the page.
The GTIN+Data on the web project also aims to improve consumer interactivity with products and to support new product-centric services and applications - essentially building an open product-centric platform in an analogous way to the use of the Google Maps API and OpenStreetMap to enable a platform for location-based services and data mash-ups. In the same way that terrestrial co-ordinates (latitude, longitude, altitude) define a point or region on our planet, GS1 identifiers such as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) [ which appears as the UPC-12 or EAN-13 barcode on most product packaging ] provides a globally consistent and unambiguous identifier for the same product, anywhere in the world and enables various kinds of data to be associated with the product.
Linked Data technology (also known as Semantic Web technology) has been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to enable the Web to be transformed into a massively distributed global database of facts and factual claims. Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) are used to identify not only web pages but also concepts, places, people, physical objects and organisations as well as the relationships that connect all of these together. Furthermore, the use of HTTP URIs means that definitions and related information can easily be retrieved via the web. The GTIN+ on the Web project is developing a recommendation about how to represent GTINs and other GS1 identifier keys as HTTP URIs, as well as explaining to its community about how they can express factual data about products within web pages, so that the facts about a product or product offer can be more easily extracted by search engines and mobile apps.
Over the years, the GS1 community of end-users and technology solution providers have developed a number of vocabularies, data dictionaries and product classification systems (such as Global Product Classification (GPC)) that have precise definitions that can be used for describing products and their characteristics with a high level of granularity and detail. The Auto-ID Labs are working closely with GS1 and with other organisations, such as W3C, to make these existing open standards available for use with Linked Data technology. We are also supporting GS1 and companies within its community by developing early prototypes and supporting pilot activities, to help companies to understand how to embed Linked Open Data within web pages about products, as well as assessing the benefits of doing so.