In recent years, knowledge and data base applications have progressively converged towards integrated technologies which try to overcome the limits of each single discipline. Research in Knowledge Representation (KR) originally concentrated around logic-based formalisms that are typically tuned to deal with relatively small knowledge bases, but provide powerful deduction services, and the language to structure information is highly expressive. For example, research on formal languages for ontologies was originated from KR, as well as research in computational semantics for natural language. In contrast, Information Systems and Database (DB) research mainly dealt with efficient storage and retrieval of powerful query languages, and with sharing and displaying large amounts of (multimedia) documents. However, data representations were relatively simple and flat, and reasoning over the structure and the content of the documents played only a minor role.
This distinction between the requirements in Knowledge Representation and Databases is vanishing rapidly. On the one hand, to be useful in realistic applications, a modern KR system must be able to handle large data sets, and to provide expressive query languages. This suggests that techniques developed in the DB area could be useful for KR systems. On the other hand, the information stored on the web, in digital libraries, and in data warehouses is now very complex and with deep semantic structures, thus requiring more intelligent modelling languages and methodologies, and reasoning services on those complex representations to support design, management, flexible access, and integration. Therefore, a great call for an integrated logic-based view of Knowledge Representation and Database technologies is emerging.
The KRDB centre was founded in 2002 by Enrico Franconi, who is currently its director, and it aims at being an international centre of excellence in basic and applied research on Knowledge Representation and Database technologies and at proposing to selected enterprises innovative ideas and technologies based on the research developed in the centre.
The research carried on in the KRDB centre is currently organised in four main scientific areas, each of them capturing specific aspects of Knowledge Representation and Database technologies and Artificial Intelligence: Conceptual and Cognitive Modelling (CORE, lead by Giancarlo Guizzardi), Intelligent Integration and Access to Data (In2Data, lead by Diego Calvanese), Process-aware Information Systems Management (PRISM, lead by Marco Montali), and Foundations of Database Technologies (FDT, lead by Werner Nutt).
The KRDB centre manages the European Masters Program in Computational Logic (EMCL), an international joint Master of Science degree in cooperation with the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, and the Technische Universität Wien, Austria. The aim of the program is to provide profound theoretical and practical knowledge required for professional practice in artificial intelligence, computer science, logic, linguistics and cognitive science.
The KRDB research centre is situated in the charming town of Bozen-Bolzano in South Tyrol at the heart of the Dolomites – the pink mountains of the Alps. The nature around the city is a tourist haven for people interested in hiking in the mountains, mountain climbers, biking along the valley and in winter skiing brings millions of turists to the area. The city is trilingual between the major languages Italian and German and the minority language Ladin. Due to the large degree of tourism in the city, the majority of the population also speaks English. The colourful medieval, Gothic and Belle Époque buildings, with their stepped gables, turrets and attractively faded frescoes, have a north European feel. Yet the main commercial street feels Mediterranean, and at Piazza delle Erbe, described with pleasure by Goethe in his Italian Journey, the two flavours meet. Some of the cosiest bars and cafés are hidden behind the stalls of fruit and flowers, spices and cheeses. Bolzano is also the home of Ötzi the Iceman; found in melting glacier ice in 1991 he is one of the oldest human mummies at roughly 5000 years.