Constructing an Ontology – Common Inspection and Test Plans
ABE Services has developed a web based application, the Compliance Data Management Service (CDMS) for checking work performed on site as part of building and construction projects. These are projects undertaken by the building, construction and related industries.
The diagram below gives an overview of how CDMS works.
The three main parts of CDMS are:
- Designing Projects by identifying the tasks to be performed and allocating those tasks to the people who will perform them.
- Using a mobile phone on site to check that completed tasks comply with industry standards and best practice
- Monitoring and Managing the project via the progress and status of the completed tasks, the tasks outstanding and the non-compliant tasks.
Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs) are central to the three main parts of CDMS.
An Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) identifies the inspection, testing (verification) and acceptance requirements of a particular type of task, eg brickwork. Conceptually an ITP could be thought of as a refined checklist, identifying the usual steps to be followed when undertaking a particular type of task. A specific task may also have additional requirements specific just to it.
An Inspection and Test Plan is composed of one or more:
- Verification Point(s) which identify the parts of the task to verify. Each Verification Point is composed of one or more:
- Criterion (plural Criteria) which define the specific requirements by which a verification point can be deemed compliant. This could include referencing specific industry standards which the task is required to comply with.
A set of commonly recurring Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs) has been identified and published on the ABE Services web site. To help promote a higher standard of work in the building and construction industries ABE Services decided to make these common Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs) freely and publicly available. Currently though the details of these common Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs) are hidden within the CDMS application. To place them in the public domain an OWL ontology, named the Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology, is being constructed based on this initial set of commonly recurring Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs).
The definition of ontology in this context is along the lines of “an ontology is a specification of a conceptualization“. In this case the specification is that which constitutes a generic Inspection and Test Plan and the more specialized Inspection and Test Plans listed in the set of common Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs). Other related definitions of ontology include the more philosophical “the study of the nature of being” and the more detailed Wikipedia definitions Ontology and Ontology (Information Science)
The Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology is being implemented using the Web Ontology Language (OWL). OWL is an ontology language that can formally describe the meaning of terminology used in Semantic Web documents (See Why OWL?). In turn the Semantic Web is about two things. It is about common formats for integration and combination of data drawn from diverse sources, where on the original Web mainly concentrated on the interchange of documents. It is also about language for recording how the data relates to real world objects. That allows a person, or a machine, to start off in one database, and then move through an unending set of databases which are connected not by wires but by being about the same thing.
In the world of building and construction projects, and activities related to Real Estate, the buying and selling of houses, house and building maintenance, and potentially in the selection of contractors to perform building work, the Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology will form one of these databases, connected by the concept of how to perform a specific type of building, construction or related task.
In the first instance the Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology has been published in a very simple draft form, listing only the Inspection and Test Plans and not the more detailed the Verification Points and Criteria.
This draft version is available at the URI: http://www.abeservices.com.au/schema/2008/05/InspectionTestPlans.rdf.
It is intended that the Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology evolve as a result of community participation. As well as general feedback it is hoped to also make available a web-based vocabulary editor which would allow for greater collaboration . (Potential options include using Neologism and OntoWiki).
The next steps are to
- add Verification Point(s) and Criteria to the currently identified Inspection and Test Plans
- identify additional concepts related to Inspection and Test Plans, e.g. Hold Points
- add some worked examples
In a future article I’ll also outline how to query the Common Inspection and Test Plans ontology for specific informaton using the RDF query language SPARQL. A SPARQL end point is currently available at http://abeserver.isa.net.au:2020/ providing a SPARQL Query form .