Prof. Lambert Schomaker wins the prestigious IBM Faculty Award for the Target-supported Monk system
Prof. Lambert Schomaker - director of Artificial Intelligence Research at the Department of Artificial Intelligence, University of Groningen received an IBM Faculty award 2011 at an official ceremony on November 29th this year. The award is a recognition for his work and contribution to the development of a distinctive IT system that enables quick and efficient searching through handwritten documents and archives. The system, called Monk is one of Target's challenging projects. Since 2009, when Prof. Schomaker and his group joined the Target consortium, the pool of expertise and close collaborations within the Target knowledge center have helped Monk become a technology with growing potential that is quickly catching the attention of archives and libraries around Europe.
Monk and Target
Monk was developed within the broader research initiative supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), called Continuous Access to Cultural Heritage (CATCH), where efforts are focused on developing methods and techniques that utilize ICT technology to facilitate access to, and management of large historical collections. The system explores ways of using the advantages offered by the fast growing computational, processing and storage technologies for improving the access and search through large digitized archives. It is now used by Scratch4all - one of Target pilot projects managed by Target Holding, to search and store documents from the National Archive of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief).
Monk specifically targets historical records, such as handwritten documents, for which traditional OCR (Optical Character recognition) techniques are either not applicable or not effective. The system relies on efficient word-retrieval and recognition algorithms that can be trained in real time using inputs from volunteers, who label individual handwritten words. Currently, Monk has ingested fifteen books form the National Archive and soon this number is expected to grow to forty. The long-term ambition is to use Monk technology in massive world heritage archives.
When developing Monk, Prof. Schomaker and his research group envisioned a system that integrates real-time machine learning, interactive web access and uninterrupted expansion with the help of high-performance computing and massive data storage. As such, Monk fitted well into the goal of the Target project - to design and build the necessary intelligent technology for large-scale, data- and computationally-intensive information systems. At present, the Monk system is running on the Target testbed - a hardware park featuring impressive processing and storage (close to 10 Petabytes) facilities. The cooperation and knowledge sharing environment, fostered by Target, provides a platform for steady improvements in the performance of Monk, particularly in the area of scalability. In addition, the development of new web interfaces made Monk a very user-friendly system, easily accessible to the general public. As a result, Monk search engine has attracted considerable interest from archival institutions, nationally and internationally, and its significance as a novel system for access/search through large handwritten archives is only expected to grow. " What is special about Monk is that there is no question of a laboratory phase and a separate operational stage in the real world. What is happening is continuous learning of material supplied by a number of Dutch archives. This approach makes special, new demands of computer systems" said prof. Schomaker d uring the ceremony, after receiving the IBM Faculty Award.
Target is a consortium of five academic partners, and five industry partners, who share the common belief that developing innovative solutions for managing the exponentially growing volumes of data, and efficiently extracting meaningful information from these data, will be a key factor in defining the rate of scientific, technological, commercial and social progress in the future. The Target consortium is maintaining the necessary ICT facilities, that allow the implementation and evaluation of the ideas emerging from the Target knowledge center as a result of extensive teamwork and close collaborations. Target runs the largest public-private IT R&D project in the northern part of the Netherlands, supported by the European Fund for Regional Development, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Groningen and Drenthe provinces. Apart from Monk, Target infrastructure and expertise are currently used by world-class scientific projects in astronomy like Lofar, ESO's* Public Surveys KiDS and VIKING, and MUSE**, as well as projects in other fields, like Lifelines and GLIMPS. At the same time, the Target project strives to make an important impact in all areas of e-science, e-commerce and e-governance by making its technology and infrastructure available to other interested parties that can, in turn, result in innovative, marketable Target applications and services. The privately held Target Holding is established to do precisely this valorisation of Target technology and infrastructure.
* ESO - European Southern Observatory;
**MUSE - The Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer
IBM Faculty Award
The IBM Faculty Award, as part of the IBM Global University Relations Program, is a highly competitive award distributed annually to renowned faculty members around the world, who have made a significant contribution to developing IT research concepts and ideas to technological solutions with high societal impact. This year there were only 92 recipients of the award, of whom only two were Dutch. Along with prof. Schomaker, IBM presented an award to another faculty member at the University of Groningen - prof. Rien Herber.
Information for the press:
Target coordinator Prof. Valentijn
Prof. Schomaker's webpage
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