introductionontology applications publications team further information

>link to the SeReS II follower project (2008-2010)


Geospatial web services will play a major role in the emerging Semantic Web whose vision is to make web contents accessible to both human and non-human agents. Using and sharing information in such environments requires semantic interoperability, which involves capturing the semantics of applications through ontologies and negotiating between them.

In analogy to spatial reference systems that enable on-the-fly transformations of geospatial information between different coordinate systems, we propose the notion of semantic reference systems, to enable semantic translation between geospatial information resources, such as databases and web services.

The project Semantic Reference Systems (SeReS) started out with the general research question of how to enable geospatial information providers to semantically annotate their contents and how to enable information requesters to discover suitable information sources for the task at hand. The project's goal is to develop a theory of semantic reference systems and to provide, as proof of concept, a prototypical application. The approach incorporates theories from cognitive science, namely conceptual spaces and image schemas, into ontology engineering.
We follow the hypothesis that an ontology-based semantic reference system allows for comparing the conceptualizations underlying information sources. In a spatial reference system, the distance between two objects can be determined and transformations of coordinates can be calculated. In analogy, a semantic reference system allows to determine the "distance" between two concepts and semantic translations between "locations" of concepts in semantic reference systems. Enabling information providers and requesters to compare, align or transform their conceptualizations is an essential requirement for achieving semantic interoperability.

After a successful completing of the first phase of the project, we applied successfully for a continuation of the project. The start of the second phase is currently under preparation. In this phase we focus on developing a theory for spatial relational qualities.




three level ontology architecture


(extended) foundation ontology

Foundation ontologies provide a rigorous formal semantics for the top-level notions. They are intended to serve as conceptual foundation for domain ontologies, which in turn provide specialized views on a certain domain. The semantics of the vocabulary used in domain ontologies are specified using top-level concepts.

The foundation ontology DOLCE (Descriptive Ontology for Linguistic and Cognitive Engineering) is used in the SeReS ontology architecture. We analyze to which extent the current version of DOLCE is suitable to account for observations & measurements. In this sense, we develop an extension to the foundation ontology DOLCE. The general structure needed to communicate about observation and measurement is domain independent.

OWL-based Version 1.0 (June 2007):
extended foundation ontology accounting for observation & measurements

Formal characterization based on first order logics. (coming soon)


domain ontologies


application ontologies

In the developed application ontologies, we take some of the qualities specified in the gwsg domain ontology and specify complete semantic reference spaces for those. For example, the general domain qualities "river-segment-depth" and "profile-depth" are fully specified.

Version 1.0 (June 2007):

SeReS application ontology for ecological assessment of watercourse structure

(Requires the import of version 1.0 of the extended foundational ontology. See above)


boathouses & houseboats

In this use case we investigate the possibilities of using Haskell as ontology language. Focus is on capturing the semantics of houseboats and boathouses via the affordances boats and houses offer.

Ontologies written in Haskell (Please get in contact for more details!)


image schema ontology

currently under revision. Please get in contact for more details!

This ontology contains symbols for image schema. Since the currently available ontology editors are string-based, the image schemas are represented with terms. This may be misleading in indicating that an image schema can be represented by a term (symbol)



SeRes VIS-Tool

We developed a prototype for visually comparing semantic reference spaces.
(due to building renovation, server is currently down (Oct. '07). Please get in contact for any questions.

Start application


Kuhn, W. (2004). Elements of a Computational Theory of Location. AGILE, Heraklion, Crete.

M. Raubal (2004) Formalizing Conceptual Spaces. in: A. Varzi and L. Vieu (Eds.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems, Proceedings of the Third International Conference (FOIS 2004). Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications 114, pp. 153-164, IOS Press, Amsterdam, NL.

Probst, F. and Lutz, M. (2004): Giving Meaning to GI Web Service Descriptions (Extended Abstract). 7th Conference on Geographic Information Science (AGILE 2004), Heraklion, Greece.    pdf

Probst, F., F. R. Gibotti, A. M. Prazos Morantes, M. A. Esbri, M. B. B. de Barros Filho, M. Gutierrez and W. Kuhn (2004). Connecting ISO and OGC Standards to the Semantic Web. Third International Conference on Geographic Information Science, Adelphi, MD, USA. pdf

M. Raubal (2005) Mappings For Cognitive Semantic Interoperability. in: F. Toppen and M. Painho (Eds.), AGILE 2005 - 8th Conference on Geographic Information Science. pp. 291-296, Instituto Geografico Portugues (IGP), Lisboa, Portugal.

Klien, E. and F. Probst (2005). Requirements for Geospatial Ontology Engineering. 8th Conference on Geographic Information Science (AGILE 2005). Estoril, Portugal.    pdf

Probst, F. (2005). Position Paper: Investigating the Applicability of DOLCE as Foundation for Service Descriptions. W3C Workshop on Frameworks for Semantics in Web Services, Innsbruck, http://www.w3.org/2005/04/FSWS/accepted-papers.html.

W. Kuhn (2005). Geospatial Semantics: Why, of What, and How? Journal on Data Semantics, Special Issue on Semantic-based Geographical Information Systems, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 3534: 1-24.

Probst, F. (2006). An Ontological Analysis of Observations and Measurements. 4th. International Conference on Geographic Information Science (GIScience) (accepted for publication), Münster, Germany.    pdf

Probst, F. and M. Espeter (2006). Spatial Dimensionality as Classification Criterion for Qualities.FOIS'06 International Conference on Formal Ontology in Information Systems.   pdf




Further information about SeRes

Please contact: Florian Probst

Muenster Semantic Interoperability Lab (MUSIL)

Institute for Geoinformatics