Project aims to help businesses stay abreast of web trends

A new international research project could help businesses keep on top of the latest trends and technologies on the web.

Southampton University has teamed up with the Fraunhofer Society in Germany to develop software tools, including a ‘Web Observatory’ that will allow researchers and businesses to share and analyse data on how use of the web is changing.

One of the leaders of the SoFWIRed project, Southampton’s Prof Dame Wendy Hall, said she hoped such a tool could help open up otherwise inaccessible data by giving businesses a platform to offer analysis and commentary on things they are learning.

‘There’s an awful lot of data that is highly personal or commercially confident,’ she told The Engineer.

‘Big companies such as Google and Facebook have a lot of the data and we’re not expecting them to open up their data archives but we’re saying “engage with the observatory, help us to build it so that we can all have a better understanding of how this ecosystem functions”.’

The Southampton team decided to partner with Fraunhofer, the German research organisation that focuses on commercialising technology research, to access its expertise in working with businesses.

Hall said that the project would help businesses make use of changes in the way people use the web rather than just having to react to it.

‘What happens is a lot of businesses completely lose out in these revolutions because the things they used to do become useless.

‘By analysing the web and analysing what people do on the web, by looking at it from the point of view of technology and mathematics and the economic and social context, we can begin to see trends.

‘It’s about innovation on the web and how businesses learnt to adapt or innovate, either within a big company or a small start-up.’

Hall, who is dean of physical and applied sciences, and Prof Nigel Shadbolt, head of Southampton’s Web and Internet Science Group, will lead the project, working with the Fraunhofer institutes for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) and Open Communication Systems (FOKUS).