Press Release 086/2011

New Search Technology for Environmental Portals

Quicker and Easier Access to Environmental Information on the Internet
Eine neue Suchtechnologie verbessert den Zugang zu Umweltinformationen im Internet. Das Umweltportal Baden-Württemberg arbeitet mit dieser Technologie. (Foto: Gerd Altmann, pixelio)
A new search technology improves access to environmental information on the internet. The Baden-Württemberg Environmental Portal uses this technology. (Photo: Gerd Altmann, pixelio)

By means of a novel search technology, citizens are granted quicker and easier access to environmental information on the Internet. The Institute of Applied Information Science of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, Systems Technology, and Image Evaluation (IOSB), and the Baden-Württemberg State Office for the Environment, Measurements, and Nature Protection are developing this technology together with other partners. The results will be presented by the partners at a workshop on May 30 and 31.

Which nature reserve is situated near the place of my residence? Is my construction site located in a flood area? What is the air quality at the air measurement station next to the place where I live? The research project on semantic web technologies funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector (UM) is aimed at decisively improving the search for environmental information. Service-oriented interfaces grant access to the connected expert information systems. By semantic technologies, the portal identifies the context of search words even if they do not exactly correspond to the technical terms. Different terminologies of citizens and scientific experts so far have often made the search in environmental information systems by laymen very tiresome. Not rarely, users stop their search after a series of failed attempts, although the desired information is available.

With the new technology, the Baden-Württemberg Environmental Portal ( established by UM will be further extended and improved. Using modern search technology, it provides access to texts and documents available at the state offices and applies the commercial type of the Google search technology (Google Search Appliance) as its central search machine. However, typical queries will disclose a part of the information available at the environmental offices only.    
The semantic web technology now developed by the partners automatically converts the search query of the user into more specific search queries to the underlying information systems. For this purpose, similar terms are identified and relationships established, which go far beyond a text analysis. Search results are grouped depending on their type of information and contextual relationships and displayed clearly on a search result page. Instead of advertisements known from commercial search machines,related information from additional sources are shown beside the main search results. Hence, results from environmental databases, image archives, from the search of the Statistical State Office, and a number of other sources can be displayed at the same time. In the past, the users were forced to individually search all these files in order to obtain all environmental information on the place of their residence, for instance. Now, the system identifies spatial and temporal references and more complex search queries and offers the information fitting to the current “situation” of a citizen without this citizen having to be familiar with the office’s language and organization. I.e a query for “construction Knielingen” offers construction-relevant environmental information for Knielingen as a part of the city of Karlsruhe.  

In the course of the workshop “Intelligent Portals” on May 30 and 31 at Fraunhofer IOSB in Karlsruhe, current results of the research project “Semantic Search for Environmental Information” (SUI) will be presented to environmental authorities and other interested parties. Moreover, the Hippolytos project for the practical implementation of novel semantic technologies and the use of semantic web technologies in the service-bw administration portal of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Interior will be highlighted. For information on the workshop and registration, click


Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

af, 24.05.2011


Monika Landgraf
Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41150
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
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Contact for this press release:

Monika Landgraf
Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-21150
Fax: +49 721 608-41150
monika landgrafSlx3∂kit edu

The press release is available as a PDF file.