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RDFox Blog

Ask Ian: How did RDFox begin?

Ask Ian: How did RDFox begin?
Ian Horrocks

In this episode we asked Ian, BSc Lovelace Medalist and OST co-founder, how did RDFox begin?

To listen along, check out our podcast episode below, available on YouTube.

Why did we start RDFox?


Well actually RDFox is only point of progress on the journey that myself and other members of the research group have had over more than 20 years of working in this area.


Actually, I started out personally working in a medical application where that problem was that the team were trying to use the logical reasoner to check the logical consistency of a body of medical knowledge they were capturing. The reasoning system was slow and getting even slower as they added more knowledge and they weren't even sure it was correct.


So what I did was I went back to basics, found a logic that could be used to capture this knowledge and formal reasoning algorithms whose correctness could be guaranteed, and then develop optimised reasoning systems that could do that in a much shorter time than their ad hoc system had been doing before. Their system was taking about 24 hours to check the knowledge that they had and I managed to build a system that was guaranteed to be correct and that would do the whole job in about 3 minutes with the first system that I built.


Then we went on to develop more sophisticated algorithms and more sophisticated optimizations and we got that time down to a few seconds even for a much larger amount of knowledge, and that was kind of the journey that we went on. We studied more and more expressive logics more and more optimised systems, different types of algorithms, and eventually after 15 years we arrived the genesis of RDFox which came about because we wanted to be able to deal with even much, much larger amounts of knowledge. this medical application I was describing had, let's say, about 500,000 facts and we really wanted to be able to deal with systems that would deal with at least 500 million facts, or even 50 billion facts, so several orders of magnitude scaled up, and that was what inspired the development of RDFox.


It took a bit longer than we initially expected because we started working on this as much as ten years ago but, by now, we think we've cracked it.

Stay tuned for future podcast episodes, where we ask Ian more about how RDFox was created and the applications of KRR in various industries.

Check out our other interview series, ‘Meet the Founders’, where we asked our founders about their journey in bringing OST to life:

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Team and Resources

The team behind Oxford Semantic Technologies started working on RDFox in 2011 at the Computer Science Department of the University of Oxford with the conviction that flexible and high-performance reasoning was a possibility for data-intensive applications without jeopardising the correctness of the results. RDFox is the first market-ready knowledge graph designed from the ground up with reasoning in mind. Oxford Semantic Technologies is a spin-out of the University of Oxford and is backed by leading investors including Samsung Venture Investment Corporation (SVIC), Oxford Sciences Enterprises (OSE) and Oxford University Innovation (OUI).