The objective of HarmoSearch is to leverage the use of an existing mediation and harmonisation service for the European tourism market, called Harmonise, by adding newly developed components of clear market value addressing specific user needs.
The current version of Harmonise, Harmonise 2.0, is an online service that helps to overcome the interoperability problems when exchanging data between heterogeneous data bases, allowing players to exchange data with others partners without the need to change the local data schema.
However, two basic challenges remain for participants to joint the services of Harmonise:
- To create translation rules the user of Harmonise has to do a mapping between the partner’s own data schema and the Harmonise Ontology. This requires some technical skills and knowledge about data schemas and mappings.
- One participant can send data to other participants, but cannot search on other participant’s data bases. But sending data is only one business case, even more often there is a need to search data without knowing exactly who has it or who has the best offer.
The objective of HarmoSearch project is therefore to develop two components, which shall enable to run meta searches in highly networked environments with the use of semantic technologies. These components are:
- A semantic meta-search component identifying data sources based on a semantic understanding of the search intention and knowledge about existing partners in the network. This knowledge comes from the interpretation and translation of queries based on semantic annotation of data and sources.
- A semantic mapping tool, providing expert knowledge about the data schemas by having the semantic concepts integrated in the mapping tool. This shall allow generating mappings automatically as far as possible, requiring only little activities from the user and very little technical knowledge.
Fulfilling this objective would be of great benefit not only to the participants in this project, but to the entire tourism industry in Europe as such. The market is already dominated by online business, where the position of large suppliers has become much stronger compared to SMEs, since they can afford investments in portals, establishment of several standards and online systems. But at the same time the overwhelming majority of industry players are SMEs, which have difficulties to join the online business and keep pace with current developments. They are becoming more and more depending on larger partners. The Harmonise solutions, with the components for making mappings and the possibility to search on their systems easily, would offer completely new business opportunities for them. It would take very little effort to join the network – either as supplier or as booking platform, search portal, destination marketing organisation whatsoever. The same is true for e.g. the cultural heritage sector, where we see the problem were well in the euromuse.net project: museums have a strong interest to join the portal and to bring their offer to the online market. Harmonise is a great solution for them and gives the necessary infrastructure, still the problem to make mappings needs to be solved. And if they have the mapping, they still depend on larger portals to be found – which could be overcome with the meta-search component.
But not only the market as such would benefit, of course also the SMEs participating in this project. Each of them is either offering interoperability tools and services to the market, is providing meta-search solutions or would directly benefit from services possible with these solutions. Data interoperability in the tourism sector is considered one of the biggest challenges in e-tourism with still growing market volumes. A Harmonise solutions offering meta-search in a highly distributed network with possibly thousands of participants and better access by offering a semi-automatic mapping tool would significantly increase the use of Harmonise and each of the SMEs participating would benefit from increased turn-over.