SUCCESS STORY: PROV4ITDaTa – A flexible tool for transparent transfer of personal data to personal data stores

by PROV4ITDaTa team

The Challenge

Your personal data is locked in with the web services you use. Solid[1] provides a better way: a decentralized ecosystem[2] where data and applications are decoupled: you can use a meeting scheduling application on top of your contact information managed by a separate address book application. And you can later switch address book applications without loss of data. However, the problem is that we are currently using so many different web services and systems, that our personal data is scattered everywhere. To regain control over our data[3], we need to access that data and port it to something such as the Solid ecosystem. Doing that for every imaginable service is too complex and too costly to be achieved by any single person or company.

The Solution

PROV4ITDaTa is a data processing platform to integrate your personal data from existing web services and systems to your personal data stores. Compared to existing alternatives, it is not a one-to-one hard-coded tool, but a platform that can access any data source in any format. Being highly configurable, you can extend the platform to any existing and new data source without needing to invest development time. On top, it is a transparent platform using semantic standards: not only the data that you port becomes interoperable and machine-interpretable, also the configurations themselves are machine-interpretable. As a result, you have full data governance and provenance when processing your personal data with PROV4ITDaTa.

DAPSI support

Being part of a research centre, our results are largely of an academic nature. DAPSI support has helped us to bootstrap the PROV4ITDaTa platform that integrates our academic products RML.io[4] and Comunica[5] with the Solid ecosystem. We were able to grow our team with a developer focussed on the DAPSI project.

DAPSI journey – Achievements from first phase of the DAPSI programme

Within the first phase of the DAPSI program, we were able to bootstrap our PROV4ITData project. Not only on a technical level by improving the technology stack and creating a demonstrator at https://prov4itdata.ilabt.imec.be, but also more importantly design a business model and reflecting on product-market fit.

Joining the W3C Knowledge Graph Construction Community Group helped us to guide the data portability roadmap, specifically for transforming existing (personal) data into interoperable data that can be reused by multiple different applications.


DAPSI journey – Achievements from second phase of the DAPSI programme

During the second phase of the DAPSI program, we streamlined and feature-completed the PROV4ITDaTa demonstrator. We completed a first set of supported web services and finalized the architecture to easily extend the configurations to other web services.

We promoted our platform not only via academic publications, but also by participating in multiple industry-oriented events (Knowledge Graph Conference and NLNet), next to the public DAPSI events.

Being part of the DAPSI program helped us discover new leads and get a bigger connection between Data Portability communities and companies across Europe. We continue having fruitful discussions with multiple data portability stakeholders to this day. Additionally, we started the Comunica Association as a dedicated income stream for our open-source projects to enable sustainable development and maintenance in the future.

Lessons learnt

Mostly, DAPSI gave us the opportunity to reflect on and flesh out our business plan and product-market fit. This was also the most challenging part, given our mostly academic background. The trainings and one-to-one sessions with mentors provided many useful insights that would not have been possible in our existing context. As we had hoped, DAPSI allowed us to review our academic results from a business perspective and we believe it made us better product builders.

What’s next

We are currently building a pilot project to apply PROV4ITDaTa as an enabler for a Solid-powered photo management application. Meanwhile, follow-up pilot projects are being negotiated and we continue our efforts in the W3C Knowledge Graph Construction Community Group. In parallel, investigations are ongoing to create a venture.

More information

The PROV4ITDaTa demonstrator can be found at https://prov4itdata.ilabt.imec.be/, documentation at https://prov4itdata.ilabt.imec.be/docs/. All software is MIT open source at https://github.com/RMLio/prov4itdata-web-app. Description of the complete team is available at  https://knows.idlab.ugent.be/. The main contributors are:

 

[1] https://solidproject.org/

[2] Aligned with https://research.ngi.eu/eight-goals-for-a-human-centric-internet/: 2. Decentralised Power on the Internet

[3] Aligned with https://research.ngi.eu/eight-goals-for-a-human-centric-internet/: 3. Personal Data Control

[4] https://rml.io

[5] https://comunica.dev/