Firebrary, The electronic data dictionary for the Dutch service.
Now that emergency services are starting to use electronic data exchange more and more, it is important that all parties participating in this data exchange have agreement about the terms and definitions used. Or at least have access to the definitions of the terms used.
An electronic data dictionary that is available on-line ensures that all parties can always consult the latest version of the data dictionary.
In addition to making the terms available, it is recommended to also manage and maintain these terms in an on-line platform. This prevents the ‘disappearance’ of the definitions in text documents or spreadsheets on websites.
Access to this dictionary must be possible for people, searching and reading concepts and definitions, as well as for software systems.
In the context of cross (language) border deployment of emergency services, it is important that it is possible to offer the definitions and terms in more then one language.
By using internationally recognized standards for the exchange of definitions and taxonomies, it is possible to apply standard software for the use of the data dictionary.
Emergency services are not the only government institutions that are in the process of establishing their concepts and terms in online platforms. It is therefore recommended to be able to connect with other government institutions when choosing platforms and standards.
For the Firebrary, the Fire Brigade Data Dictionary, the decision was made to offer the definitions as linked data according to the SKOS and SKOS-XL model, an international standard that makes it possible to provide the dictionary through the web. The big advantage is that no special tools are needed to use the definitions.
In addition, this method is already used by, among others, EuroVoc and the system catalog of the Dutch government. The latter in particular is interesting because it allows us to refer in its own domain definitions to concepts where the emergency services themselves are not ‘owners’. As an example, in the National Reporting Classification the term ‘Brand Gebouw’ is used and for the subdivision in types of buildings we refer to the law. This definition and concepts are also available in the system catalog so that we can directly refer to them. In the system catalog the legal ‘owner’ of the term ensures that this is available in the latest version.
The technical implementation of the FireBrary consists of 2 parts
- Terminology Management
For the management of concepts and definitions Vocbench is used, an open source tool with which SKOS / SKOS-XL taxonomies can be managed. This tool was originally developed for the FAO to manage AgroVoc. From version 2.0 on, the emphasis has shifted less to AgroVoc but more to the general use. This environment makes it possible to maintain a taxonomy together with a group of people. To facilitate this maintenance and to steer it in the right direction, it is possible to assign different roles and versions can be managed.
Different groups can use the same platform side by side and also use definitions in future versions.
As long as the group does not decide to publish terms, these are not visible to the outside world. After publication on the external publication platform the definitions can be used by external parties (see 2).
- Publication platform
This forms the user interface of the FireBrary. After a group has decided to publish the terms in the management environment, the data is transferred to the publication platform.
This platform, hosted and maintained by an independent party, ensures that the data is presented in multiple forms.
- A web interface where the user can search for concepts, terms and definitions. Relationships with other concepts are also shown here, as well as the metadata made available (who worked when this term was worked out). All terms with definitions have their own page on the Internet with a unique URL. This URL can be used as a reference when referring to the definition of a used term.
- reconciliation interface, this makes it possible to look up the used terms and their definitions in a piece of text, e.g, a website, and to automatically record references by means of the terms URL. Eg, in an article response time I used, now it is possible to then automatically add a link to the definition of response time in the text
- a linked data interface where the web pages are also offered as linked data so that they can be processed by programs and websites. The text on the web pages with explanations is very difficult for computer programs to process. The moment a program requests the same URL, Content Negotiation determines in which format the program prefers to get the definition back. This makes it possible to automatically retrieve terms and definitions, for example in User interfaces where certain function names are used. This interface supports all standards imposed by the W3C, Turtle, JSON-LD, JSON.
- LDP Linked Data Platform  interface, this standard ensures that programs can ‘browse’ through the different definitions and, for example, pick up lists that can be used in programs. With the term URLs it is possible to retrieve a specific definition, but not to ‘browse’ through a list of definitions, the LDP standard offers this possibility, via a start endpoint all terminology lists are offered and a program can browse the lists and individual terms. For example, for Forensic research a list of available terms can be shown in a reporting program. Here too, the standards mentioned under c) apply.
- SPARQL Endpoint, allows you to run via the web queries on the underlying definition and metadata data. SPARQL is the query language for the web of data, it allows the user to use definitions from the firebrary in internal queries. For example, relationships between certain incident classifications can be used to group reports of calls.
- Download of terms.
This offers the possibility to download the complete terms list of a specific topic.
By using ‘Content negotiation’ it is possible to request the data in options b up to and including f in a variety of data standards, including JSON, JSON-LD, XML and Turtle.
All the above mentioned standards are part of the ‘Open Web Platform’