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The Human Genome Project was one of the most ambitious data undertakings in human history. Identifying and mapping every human gene down to nucleotide pairs was a worldwide, collaborative effort — and it could never have happened without ontology.

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What’s ontology? It’s a way to understand reality by becoming intimately familiar with categories and their properties, and the relationships between and among those categories and properties. In other words, it’s a way of streamlining language and understanding so that everybody who uses that language and leverages that understanding is on the same page about what it all means. In gene ontology, this means controlling the vocabulary around genes, describing the specific functions of those genes — and then opening up what you’ve learned to everybody else so that there is full access to the data and knowledge you’ve assimilated.

Ontology is a powerful new way of processing data. And if gene ontology has given us a mapped human genome, imagine what ontology can do when applied to real estate data.

That’s what Tavi Truman, PhD candidate at Buffalo University and CTO and Chief Architect at RocketUrBiz, will be discussing at a special Hacker Connect session, “Living in a World Without Data Silos: Ontology vs. Machine Learning and AI” It’s taking place on Tuesday, July 17, as part of Inman Connect San Francisco (July 17 through 20 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square).

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“The very nature of how we do business in the United States creates an integration problem, a power problem — ultimately, a political problem,” said Truman. The competitive basis of capitalism means that nobody wants to share data or information, and that was a barrier that genome scientists were able to overcome to the benefit of all.

“It’s an operability problem for data systems; it works against them,” he added. “You need a paradigm shift from databases to an ontological model of information systems so you can get yourself away from the problem of data integration and data inoperability.”

When scientists were willing to put aside their competition around data and information, they were able to solve the gene-mapping problem so radically that textbooks and training for biologists, doctors and chemists had to be completely rewritten and rethought.

Truman is working with RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization) on a project called ORREO (Open Residential Real Estate Ontology) that is going to apply this revolutionary model of thinking about data to real estate. He’ll explain exactly how he’s doing it and what it’s going to mean at Hacker Connect on Tuesday, July 17.

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