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Semantic Web 0 (2016) 121 1

IOS Press

Temporal Representation and Reasoning in

Editor(s): Aldo Gangemi, ISTC-CNR, Italy & Universit Paris 13, France
Solicited review(s): Anisa Rula, Universit degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy; Chris Welty, Google, USA; Aldo Gangemi, ISTC-CNR, Italy
& Universit Paris 13, France ; One anonymous reviewer

Sotiris Batsakis a, , Euripides Petrakis b , Ilias Tachmazidis a and Grigoris Antoniou a

School of Computing and Engineering,University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, UK
E-mail: {S.Batsakis,I.Tachmazidis,G.Antoniou}
School of Electronic and Computer Engineering, Technical University of Crete (TUC) Chania, Crete, Greece

Abstract. The representation of temporal information has been in the center of intensive research activities over the years in
the areas of knowledge representation, databases and more recently, the Semantic Web. The proposed approach extends the
existing framework of representing temporal information in ontologies by allowing for representation of concepts evolving in
time (referred to as dynamic information) and of their properties in terms of qualitative descriptions in addition to quantitative
ones (i.e., dates, time instants and intervals). For this purpose, we advocate the use of natural language expressions, such as
before or after, for temporal entities whose exact durations or starting and ending points in time are unknown. Reasoning
over all types of temporal information (such as the above) is also an important research problem. The current work addresses all
these issues as follows: The representation of dynamic concepts is achieved using the 4D-fluents or, alternatively, the N-ary
relations mechanism. Both mechanisms are thoroughly explored and are expanded for representing qualitative and quantitative
temporal information in OWL. In turn, temporal information is expressed using either intervals or time instants. Qualitative
temporal information representation in particular, is realized using sets of SWRL rules and OWL axioms leading to a sound,
complete and tractable reasoning procedure based on path consistency applied on the existing relation sets. Building upon existing
Semantic Web standards (OWL), tools and member submissions (SWRL), as well as integrating temporal reasoning support into
the proposed representation, are important design features of our approach.

Keywords: Semantic Web, Temporal Representation, Temporal Reasoning

1. Introduction plish these tasks automatically without requiring user

intervention, besides task description. These services
The rapid growth of the World Wide Web (WWW) must be capable to understand the meaning of Web
in recent years has generated the need for tools and pages and reason over their content in a way similar
mechanisms to automatically handle tasks typically to the way humans do. Semantic Web will realize this
handled by humans. For example, planning a trip re- technology by introducing formal, machine readable
quires selecting and purchasing tickets at specific dates semantics for representation of knowledge, combined
at the best available price. Typically, these tasks are with reasoning and querying support.
handled by searching the Web (e.g., using a search en- Formal definitions of concepts and their properties
gine). Semantic Web is intended to provide a solution form ontologies, which are defined using the RDFS
to these needs by developing Web services that accom- and OWL languages [22]. Ontologies contain defini-
tions of concepts and their properties by means of bi-
* Corresponding author. E-mail: nary relations. The syntactic restriction of OWL to bi-

c 2016 IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved
2 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

nary relations complicates the representation of n-ary ring temporal relations and detecting inconsistent as-
(e.g., ternary) relations. For example, an employment sertions. The reasoning mechanism is an integral part
relation for a specific temporal interval that involves of the ontology and is handled by standard reasoners
an employee, an employer and a temporal interval, is (such as Pellet). Reasoning over time instants, in addi-
in fact a ternary relation. In general, properties of ob- tion to time intervals, is also a distinctive feature of our
jects that change in time (dynamic properties) are not work. For this reason, the temporal representation is
binary relations, since they involve a temporal interval complemented by instant (or point) based representa-
in addition to the subject and the object. The availabil- tions as well, which was a limitation of previous work
ity of temporal information in Linked Data is analysed in [6].
in [31]. Representing information that evolve in time Apart from 4D-fluents, a representation of both
in ontologies is the problem this work is dealing with. forms of temporal information (i.e., quantitative, qual-
We introduce an approach for handling temporal in- itative) based on N-ary relations [25] is also proposed.
formation in OWL while being consistent with existing Both approaches (4D-fluents and N-ary) are selected
Semantic Web standards (e.g., OWL [22]), W3C mem- since they are OWL compliant and users have the
ber submissions (e.g., SWRL [16]) and tools (e.g., Pel- choice to select the representation that they are more
let [36] and HermiT [35] reasoners). The latter is a ba- familiar with.
sic design decision in our work. Earlier work by Welty In summary, current work extends the representa-
and Fikes [42] showed how quantitative temporal in- tion presented in [6] in certain ways: (a) time points
formation (i.e., in the form of temporal intervals whose are supported in addition to intervals, (b) quantitative
start and end points are defined) and the evolution of and combined quantitative-qualitative representations
concepts in time can be represented in OWL using the are supported in addition to qualitative representations,
so called 4D-fluents approach. In our work, this ap- (c) several interval and point representations are pro-
proach is extended as follows: The 4D-fluents and the posed and evaluated, and (d) applications and related
N-ary mechanisms are enhanced with qualitative (in tools are presented.
addition to quantitative) temporal expressions allow- Related work in the field of knowledge representa-
ing for the representation of temporal intervals with tion is discussed in Section 2. The proposed ontology
unknown starting and ending points by means of their model for temporal information is presented in Sec-
relation (e.g., before", overlaps") to other time inter- tion 3. The corresponding reasoning mechanism is pre-
vals. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work sented in Section 4, followed by evaluation in Sec-
dealing with both qualitative and quantitative temporal tion 5, related applications in Section 6 and conclu-
information in ontologies, while supporting both time sions and issues for future work in Section 7.
points and intervals.
In our approach, SWRL and OWL 2 constructs (e.g.,
disjoint properties) are combined, offering a sound and 2. Background and Related work
complete reasoning procedure over qualitative rela-
tions ensuring path consistency [41]. This is an issue Semantic Web standards and related work in the
which is not examined in the original work by Welty field of temporal knowledge representation are dis-
and Fikes or by other known approaches for temporal cussed in the following.
information representation (e.g., [4], [21], [25], [12],
[18]). CNTRO ontology [38] contains SWRL rules for 2.1. Description Logics and OWL
temporal reasoning, but is not combined with a sound
and complete reasoning mechanism over Allens in- Description Logics (DLs) [5] are in most cases
terval relations (only reasoning over points and times- based on decidable fragments of First Order Logic
tamps is supported in CNTRO) as this work does. (FOL) that form the basis for the Semantic Web stan-
SOWL ontology [6] supports only qualitative Allen dards for defining rich ontologies (notice that not all
relations using SWRL, but not time points, or inter- DLs are decidable). The basic components of a De-
vals and points defined using dates as this work does. scription Logic formalism are the concepts or classes,
The proposed reasoner handles both quantitative and their properties or roles and the individuals or objects.
qualitative information using tractable sets of relations The expressivity of a description logic formalism is
on which path consistency applies. Reasoning is im- defined by the set of allowable constructs and expres-
plemented using SWRL rules and is capable of infer- sions.
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 3

The expressive power of DLs is complemented 2 as the current Semantic Web standard for defining
by inference procedures dealing with subsumption rich ontologies [22].
(i.e., determining subclass-superclass relations), con- SWRL5 is a language for specifying rules apply-
sistency (i.e., determining contradictions in concept ing on Semantic Web ontologies and Rule Interchange
definitions and individual assertions) and instance (i.e., Format (RIF) [17] is the W3C recommendation for ex-
determining the class(es) that an individual belongs changing rules. Horn Clauses (i.e., a disjunction of
to). Decidability of inference is a highly desirable char- classes with at most one positive literal), can be ex-
acteristic so that, in practice, expressivity is often sac- pressed using SWRL, since Horn clauses can be writ-
rificed (i.e., restricted) in order to guarantee decidabil- ten as implications (i.e., AB...C can be written
ity. The OWL language is based on DLs and it is the as A B ... C). The efficiency of reasoning over
basic component of the Semantic Web initiative. Horn clauses using forward chaining algorithms is a
A description logic or language is fully character- reason for choosing this form of rules. The antecedent
ized by the allowable constructs that are used for the (body) of the rule is a conjunction of clauses. No-
definitions of concepts and properties, as expressions tice that neither disjunction nor negation of clauses is
of basic (atomic) concepts and properties. The set of supported in the body of rules. Also, the consequence
such definitions for an application domain forms the (head) of a rule is one positive clause. Neither negation
Terminological Box (TBox) of an ontology. Asser- nor disjunction of clauses can appear as a consequence
tions involving concepts and properties of individu- of a rule. To guarantee decidability, rules are restricted
als form the Assertional Box (ABox) of the ontol- to DL-safe rules [23] that apply only on named indi-
ogy. Reasoning is applied on both TBox definitions viduals in the ABox.
and ABox assertions. Recently, a shift towards the
so called tableaux based reasoning is observed [5]. 2.2. Representation of Time
Popular reasoners such as FaCT++1 , Pellet2 , HermiT3
and RACER4 are examples of tableaux based reason- Time can be conceptualized as discrete or continu-
ers. ous, linear or cyclical, absolute or relative, qualitative
RDF and RDFS represent properties or relations be- or quantitative [9]. Also, time can be represented us-
tween entities by means of triples of the form subject- ing time instances or intervals. Temporal concepts are
predicate-object (e.g., Google employs John). Specific represented by the OWL-Time ontology [13]. OWL-
individuals can belong to classes (e.g., John is-a Per- Time is an ontology of the concepts of time, but OWL-
son, where John is an individual and Person is a class). Time does not specify how these concepts can be used
Properties such as employs can relate individuals of to represent evolving properties of objects (i.e., prop-
specific classes. Classes that the subject and the object erties that change in time) and it does not specify how
of a property are members, are abbreviated as domain to reason over qualitative relations of temporal inter-
and range respectively. Basic taxonomic relations be- vals and instants. This is also a problem this work is
tween classes and properties can be specified as well. dealing with.
For example it can be stated that Employee is a sub- Choosing between a point or an interval-based rep-
class of Person, (i.e., every employee is also a person). resentation is an important issue [41]. When using an
OWL extends RDF/RDFS expressivity and OWL-DL interval-based representation, relations between inter-
is a decidable variant of OWL based on Description vals can be asserted directly, without representing their
Logics. end-points, thus representation is more compact. The
The evolution of the OWL specification was based main disadvantage of an interval-based representation
on the observation that additional constructs can be is that relations between points and between points
added in OWL-DL without compromising decidabil- and intervals can not be represented, while a point-
ity, while increasing expressivity. Extending OWL-DL based representation can support both points and in-
tervals. Point-based representations assume linear or-
with additional constructs led to the adoption of OWL
dering of time points with three possible relations the
<",>",=" often referred to as before, after and
equals respectively. Based on these ordering relations,
4 5
4 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

intervals can also be defined as ordered pairs of points lation (or a set of relations) R2 holds between entities
s, e with s < e, often referred to as start and end of B and C then, the composition of relations R1 , R2
an interval respectively. An interval temporal relation (denoted as R1 R2 ) is the set (which may contain
can be one of the 13 pairwise disjoint Allens relations only one relation) R3 of relations holding between A
[1] of Figure 1. and C. Typically, all possible compositions of pairs of
In cases where the exact durations of temporal inter- relations are stored in composition tables [30].
vals are unknown (i.e., their starting or ending points Qualitative relations under the intended semantics
are not specified), their temporal relations to other in- may not apply simultaneously between a pair of in-
tervals (or points) can still be asserted qualitatively by dividuals. For example, given time instants p1 and
means of temporal relations (e.g., event A happens p2 , p1 cannot be simultaneously bef ore and af ter
before B even in cases where the exact durations of p2 . Typically, in temporal representations (e.g., using
A or B or, of both A and B are unknown). Quantita- Allen relations), all basic relations (i.e., simple rela-
tive representations, on the other hand, are expressed tions and not disjunctions of relations) are pairwise
using OWL datatypes (such as xsd:date) which can be disjoint. When disjunctions of basic relations hold true
used for comparing dates (e.g., such as the starting or simultaneously, then their set intersection holds true as
ending points of intervals) and for yielding the Allen well. For example, if p1 is before or equals p2 and si-
relation between time points or intervals. multaneously p1 is after or equals p2 then p1 equals
p2 . In case the intersection of two relations is empty,
Relation Inverse Relation
these relations are disjoint. Checking for consistency
i j
Before(i,j) After(j,i) means checking if asserted and implied relations are
Meets(i,j) MetBy(j,i) disjoint.
Overlaps(i,j) OverlappedBy(j,i) Reasoning over temporal relations is known to be
an NP-hard problem and identifying tractable cases of
Starts(i,j) StartedBy(j,i)
this problem has been in the center of many research
During(i,j) Contains(j,i)
efforts over the last few years [30]. The notion of k-
Finishes(i,j) FinishedBy(j,i) consistency is very important in this research. Given a
Equals(i,j) set of n entities with relations asserted between them
imposing certain restrictions, k-consistency means that
Fig. 1. Allens Temporal Relations every subset of the n entities containing at most k en-
tities does not contain an inconsistency. Notice that
checking for all subsets of n entities for consistency is
2.3. Temporal Reasoning exponential on the number n.
There are cases where, although k-consistency does
Inferring implied relations and detecting inconsis- not imply n-consistency, there are specific sets of re-
tencies are handled by a reasoning mechanism. In the lations Rt (which are subsets of the set of all possible
case of a quantitative representation, such a mecha- disjunctions of basic relations R), with the following
nism is not required because temporal relations are ex- property: if asserted relations are restricted to this set,
tracted from the numerical representations in polyno- then k-consistency implies n-consistency and Rt is a
mial time (e.g., using datatype comparisons). tractable set of relations or a tractable subset of R [30].
In the case of qualitative relations, assertions of re- Tractable subsets for point algebra have been identi-
lations holding between temporal entities (e.g., inter- fied in [41] and tractable sets of Allen interval algebra
vals and points) restrict the possible assertions hold- have been identified in [24].
ing between other temporal entities in the knowledge
base. Then, reasoning on qualitative temporal relations 2.4. The Semantic Web Approach
can be transformed into a constraint satisfaction prob-
lem, which is known to be an NP-hard problem in the Apart from language constructs for the represen-
general case [30]. tation of time in ontologies, there is still a need for
Inferring implied relations is achieved by specify- mechanisms for the representation of the evolution
ing the result of compositions of existing relations. of concepts (e.g., events) in time. Representation of
Specifically, when a relation (or a set of possible re- time in the Semantic Web can be achieved using Tem-
lations) R1 holds between entities A and B and a re- poral Description logics (TDLs) [4], Concrete do-
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 5

mains [21], Quadtuples [20], Reification [25], Tempo- n-ary relation as three properties (subject, object and
ral RDF [12], Versioning [18], named graphs [39] and time) each related with a new object (rather than as the
4D-fluents [42]. object of a property, thus retaining properties of the n-
Temporal RDF is an RDF and not an OWL based ary relation such as inverse properties or symmetry).
approach. Named graphs are also RDF-based ap- Notice that the N-ary relationship approach expresses
proaches, since named graphs are not part of the OWL relations with arity greater than two as a new class
specification. Quadtuples are not always supported rather than as a property [31]. This approach requires
(since they are not part of OWL specification), thus only one additional object for every temporal relation,
this solution depends on the underlying triple store. maintains property semantics but (compared to the 4D-
Temporal Description Logics (TDLs) [4] extend fluents approach below) suffers from data redundancy
standard description logics (DLs) that form the basis in the case of inverse and symmetric properties (e.g.,
for Semantic Web standards for defining rich ontolo- the inverse of a relation is added explicitly twice in-
gies on top of RDF/S, with additional constructs such stead of once as in 4D-fluents) or two separate prop-
as always in the past and sometime in the future. erties (i.e., the second representing the inverse) must
TDLs offer additional expressive capabilities over non be used. This is illustrated in Figure 3. In the case of
temporal DLs and retain decidability (with an appro- transitive properties additional triples are introduced as
priate selection of allowable constructs), but they re- well.
quire extending OWL syntax and semantics with the
additional temporal constructs (the same as property
labelling [12]).
Concrete Domains [21] introduce datatypes and op-
erators based on an underlying domain (such as dec-
imal numbers). The concrete domains approach re-
quires introducing additional datatypes and operators
to OWL, while our work relies on existing OWL con-
structs. This is a basic design decision in our work.
Fig. 2. Example of Reification
TOWL [10] is an approach combining 4D-fluents with
concrete domains but did not support qualitative rela-
tions, path consistency checking (as this work does)
and is not compatible with existing OWL editing,
querying and reasoning tools (e.g., Protg, Pellet,
Versioning [18] suggests that the ontology has dif-
ferent versions (one per instance of time). When a
change takes place, a new version is created. Version-
ing suffers from several disadvantages: (a) changes
even on single attributes require that a new version Fig. 3. Example of N-ary Relations
of the ontology be created leading to information re-
dundancy, (b) searching for events occurred at time
instances or during time intervals requires exhaustive
searches in multiple versions of the ontology, and (c) it
is not clear how the relation between evolving classes
is represented.
Reification (Figure 2) is a general purpose technique
for representing n-ary relations using a language such
as OWL that permits only binary relations. Specifi-
cally, an n-ary relation is represented as a new object
that has all the arguments of the n-ary relation as ob- Fig. 4. Example of 4D fluents
jects of properties. Using an improved form of reifica-
tion (which is used at the CNTRO ontology [38]), the The 4D-fluents (perdurantist) approach [42] shows
N-ary relations approach [25] suggests representing an how temporal information and the evolution of tem-
6 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

poral concepts can be represented in OWL. Concepts and class TimeInterval is the domain class of time in-
in time are represented as 4-dimensional objects with tervals. A time interval holds the temporal informa-
the 4th dimension being the time (timeslices). Time tion of a time slice. Property tsTimeSliceOf (or the
instances and time intervals are represented as in- equivalent property timeSliceOf 6 connects an instance
stances of a TimeInterval class, which in turn is re- of class TimeSlice with an entity. Property tsTimeIn-
lated with concepts varying in time as shown in Fig- terval (or the equivalent property interval, the equiv-
ure 4. Changes occur on the properties of the temporal alent properties are used in order to allow users use
part of the ontology keeping the entities of the static both names) connects an instance of class TimeSlice
part unchanged. The 4D-fluents approach still suffers with an instance of class TimeInterval. Properties hav-
from proliferation of objects since it introduces two ing a time dimension are called fluent properties and
additional objects for each temporal relation (instead connect instances of class TimeSlice.
of one in the case of N-ary relations). The N-ary re-
lations approach referred to above is considered to be
an alternative to the 4D-fluents approach also consid-
ered in this work. Avoiding proliferation of objects can
be achieved if quintuples are used instead of triples as
proposed in [20]. A detailed comparison of design pat-
terns for representing temporal information for the Se-
mantic Web is presented in [11].

3. Temporal Representation

We propose an ontology for representing and rea-

soning over dynamic information in OWL. Building
upon well established standards (OWL 2) and tools
the proposed ontology enables representation of static
as well as of dynamic information based on the 4D-
fluents [42] (or, equivalently, on the N-ary [25]) ap-
proach. Representing both qualitative temporal infor-
mation (i.e., information whose temporal are unknown
Fig. 5. Dynamic Enterprise Ontology
such as before for temporal relations) in addition
to quantitative information (i.e., where temporal infor-
mation is defined precisely) is a distinctive feature of Figure 5 illustrates a temporal ontology with classes
this work. Both, the 4D-fluents and the N-ary relations Company (with datatype property companyName),
approaches are expanded to accommodate this infor- Product (with datatype properties Price and product-
mation. The corresponding reasoner implements path Name), and Location which represents the location
consistency [30], and is capable of inferring new re- of the company. In this example, CompanyName is
lations and checking their consistency, while retaining a static property (its value does not change in time),
soundness, completeness, and tractability over the sup- while properties produces, productName, locatedAt
ported sets of relations. and Price are dynamic (fluent) properties. Fluent prop-
erties are the properties whose values may change in
3.1. Temporal Representation using 4D-Fluents time. Because they are fluent properties, their domain
(and range) is of class TimeSlice. CompanyTimeSlice,
Following the approach by Welty and Fikes [42], LocationTimeslice and ProductTimeSlice are instances
to add time dimension to an ontology, classes TimeS- of class TimeSlice.
lice and TimeInterval with properties tsTimeSliceOf In this work, the 4D-fluents and N-ary representa-
(tsTimeSliceof is an equivalent property of timeS- tions are enhanced with qualitative temporal relations
liceOf property defined in [42]) and tsTimeInterval are
introduced. Class TimeSlice is the domain class for en- 6 the equivalent properties are used in order to allow users use both

tities representing temporal parts (i.e., time slices) names

S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 7

holding between time intervals whose starting and end- spectively. In turn, each Instant can be related with a
ing points are not specified. This is implemented by specific date using the concrete dateT ime datatype.
introducing temporal relationships as object relations One of the bef ore, af ter or equals relations may
between time intervals. This can be one of the 13 pair- hold between any two temporal instants with the cor-
wise disjoint Allens relations [1] of Figure 1. Defini- responding point located before, after or at the same
tions for temporal entities (e.g., intervals) are provided location with the reference point on the axis of time re-
by incorporating OWL-Time into the same ontology. spectively. In fact, only relation bef ore is needed since
Qualitative relations are used for increasing the ex- relation af ter is defined as the inverse of bef ore and
pressive power of the representation. Specifically, a relation equals can be represented using the sameAs
fact can be asserted even when exact dates are not OWL property applied on temporal instants. In this
known by means of the qualitative temporal relations work, for readability, we use all three relations. Notice
with other intervals. Typically, the 4D-fluents model that property bef ore may be qualitative when holding
(similarly to other approaches such as Temporal RDF between time instants or intervals whose values or end
[12]) assumes closed temporal intervals for the repre- points are not specified. Instants can also be defined
sentation of temporal information, while semi-closed quantitatively using the dateT ime datatype.
Relations between intervals are expressed as rela-
and open intervals cannot be represented effectively in
tions between their starting and ending points, which,
a formal way. This is handled by Allen relations: for in turn are expressed as a function of the three pos-
example if interval t1 is known and t2 is unknown but sible relations between points (time instants) namely
we know that t2 starts when t1 ends, then we can as- equals, bef ore and af ter denoted by =, < and
sert that t2 is met by t1 . Likewise, if t3 is an interval > respectively, forming the so called point algebra
with unknown endpoints and t3 is bef ore t1 then, us- [41]. Let i1 = [s1 , e1 ] and i2 = [s2 , e2 ] be two inter-
ing compositions of Allen relations [1], we infer that t3 vals with starting and ending points s1 , s2 and e1 ,e2
is bef ore t2 although both intervals endpoints are un- respectively; then, the 13 Allen relations of Figure 1
are rewritten as follows (according to Allen [1], for any
known and their relation is not represented explicitly in
given interval with starting point s and ending point e,
the ontology. Semi-closed intervals can be handled in the following holds: s < e) :
a similar way. For example, if t1 starts at time point 1,
still holds at time point 2, but its endpoint is unknown, i1 bef ore i2 e1 < s2
we assert that t1 has started by interval t2 :[1,2]. i1 equals i2 s1 = s2 e1 = e2
i1 overlaps i2 s1 < s2 e1 < e2 e1 > s2
Our approach demonstrates enhanced expressivity
i1 meets i2 e1 = s2
compared to previous approaches [39,10] that require i1 during i2 s1 > s2 e1 < e2
specific dates for all asserted facts by combining 4D- i1 starts i2 s1 = s2 e1 < e2
fluents with Allens temporal relations; their formal se- i1 f inishes i2 s1 > s2 e1 = e2
mantics and composition rules are defined in [1]. For
example, if A happened before B, and C happens dur-
The relations after, overlappedby, metby, contains,
ing B, then we can assert these facts using qualitative startedby and finishedby are the inverse of before,
interval relations and infer that A happened before C, overlaps, meets, during, starts and finishes and are de-
even if all dates are unknown. This is not possible us- fined accordingly (by interchanging s1 , s2 and e1 , e2 in
ing quantitative only approaches such as [39,10]. No- their respective definitions). Notice that in the case of
tice that temporal instants still cannot be expressed; Allen relations, additional relations (representing dis-
subsequently, relations between time instants or be- junctions of basic relations) are introduced in order to
tween instants and intervals cannot be expressed ex- implement path consistency, totalling a set of 29 sup-
plicitly. ported relations (although, such relations are not re-
In this work, an instant-based (or point-based) ap- quired by a point algebra). Example of such relations is
proach is proposed as well. As in the case of tem- the disjunction of relations during, overlaps and starts.
poral intervals, OWL-Time provides with definitions The full set of supported relations is presented in Sec-
for instants: each interval (which is an individual of tion 4.2. These temporal relations and the correspond-
the P roperInterval class of OWL-Time) is related ing reasoning mechanism are integrated within the on-
with two temporal instants (individuals of the Instant tology.
class) that specify its starting and ending points using The aforementioned reasoning mechanism is also
the hasBegining and hasEnd object properties re- used for enforcing restrictions in the 4D-fluents mech-
8 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

anism. Specifically, in the original work by Welty lations can hold, these relations are <",>",=" also
and Fikes [42], the following restriction is imposed referred to as before, after and equals respectively. If
on timeslices: whenever two timeslices are related by date/time is available then a corresponding datatype
means of a fluent property, their corresponding tem- property can be used. Qualitative and quantitative rep-
poral intervals must be equal. However, no mecha- resentations can be combined (see Figure 6). An in-
nism for enforcing this restriction is provided. In this
work, the following SWRL rule in conjunction with
the reasoning mechanism of Section 4 (which is used
for checking if equality of intervals causes an incon-
sistency) imposes the required restriction:
Point Point

f luent(x, y) tsT imeInterval(y, z)

tsT imeInterval(x, w) (1)
equals(w, z)
3.2. Representation using N-ary Relations

The N-ary version of the ontology introduces one

additional object for representing a temporal property.
This object is an individual of class Event and this Fig. 6. Point Representation
name convention is also adopted by other approaches
such as the LODE ontology [34]. In our work, the tem- terval temporal relation can be one of the 13 pairwise
poral property remains a property (and not object of disjoint Allen relations [1] of Figure 1. In cases where
property as in Figure 2) relating the additional object the exact durations of temporal intervals are unknown
with both the subject and object (e.g., an Employee (i.e., their starting or ending points are not specified),
and a Company) involved in a temporal relation. their temporal relations to other intervals can still be
This is illustrated in Figure 3. The representation of asserted qualitatively by means of temporal relations
qualitative relations between temporal intervals or in- (e.g., interval i1 is before interval i2 even in cases
stants (and the corresponding reasoning mechanisms) where the exact starting and ending time of either i1 ,
remains identical to the 4D-fluents based version of the i2 , or both are unknown).
If a fluent property is transitive, specific rules must
be defined since the equality of the related intervals
must also hold when a temporal (fluent) property is AllenRelation
transitive. For example if worksF or is transitive, in Interval Interval

case of dynamic properties this holds only if the cor-

responding intervals are equal (e.g., if A worksFor B
during interval I1 and B worksFor C during interval I2
startsAt endsAt
and the property workFor is transitive then A worskFor
C if intervals I1 and I2 are equal). This can be achieved
using an SWRL rule such as in the case of 4D-fluents.
DateTime DateTime

3.3. Representation of Points and Intervals

This work deals with qualitative relations between

points in addition to interval Allen relations. Qualita- Fig. 7. Direct Interval Representation
tive relations of two points are represented using an
object property specifying their relative position on the Intervals can be represented using two directly at-
axis of time. Specifically between two points three re- tached datatype properties, corresponding to starting
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 9

and ending time of each interval (see Figure 7). This 4. Temporal Reasoning
straightforward approach can be applied only when
start and end time of intervals are known. Interval Temporal reasoning in this work is realized by intro-
relations can be inferred using comparisons of start- ducing a set of SWRL7 rules for asserting inferred tem-
ing/ending dates using SWRL rules. poral Allen relations. Reasoners that support DL-safe
rules (i.e., rules that apply only on named individuals
in the knowledge base) such as Pellet [36] can be used
for inference and consistency checking over temporal
Interval Interval
Specifically, reasoning is applied either on tempo-
ral intervals directly [6] or by applying point-based
reasoning [8] operating on representations of intervals
involving their starting and ending points. Both ap-
startsAt endsAt
startsAt endsAt
proaches have been implemented and are discussed in
the following.
Point Point Point Point 4.1. Reasoning over Interval-Based Representations

Reasoning is realized by introducing a set of SWRL

rules operating on temporal intervals. The tempo-
ral reasoning rules are based on the composition of
Fig. 8. Point-Interval Representation pairs of the basic Allens relations of Figure 1 as de-
fined in [1]. Specifically, if relation R1 holds between
Another more flexible and more complex approach interval1 and interval2 and relation R2 holds be-
is presented in Figure 8. In this case, intervals are re- tween interval2 and interval3 , then the composition
lated with starting and ending points using object prop- table defined in [1] denotes the possible relation(s)
erties, and not directly with dates. These points can holding between interval1 and interval3 . Not all
be associated with dates, as in Figure 6, and/or with compositions yield a unique relation as a result. For
other points using object point relations (such as after). example, the composition of relations During and
Point relations can be inferred using comparisons of M eets yields the relation Bef ore as a result, while
dates and/or reasoning rules over asserted point rela- the composition of relations Overlaps and During
tions. When point relations are inferred, then Allen re- yields three possible relations namely During, Over-
lations between intervals can be inferred using SWRL laps and Starts. In our proposed approach, reasoning
rules implementing the definitions of Figure 1. is realized by sets of rules corresponding to compo-
sitions of relations R1 , R2 8 . Rules yielding a unique
relation R3 as a result can be represented using SWRL
as follows:

R1 (x, y) R2 (y, z) R3 (x, z) (2)
Interval Interval

An example of temporal inference rule is the follow-


During(x, y) M eets(y, z) Bef ore(x, z) (3)

Rules yielding a set of possible relations cannot be

Fig. 9. Allen-Based Interval Representation represented directly in SWRL since, disjunctions of

Finally, reasoning over qualitative defined Allen re- 7

lations can be applied directly without using dates or 8 We have made this representation available on the Web at

points as in Figure 9.

10 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

atomic formulas are not permitted as a rule head. In- consists of the head and body and not the intermediate
stead, disjunctions of relations are represented using decomposition):
new relations whose compositions must also be de-
fined and asserted into the knowledge base. For ex- DOS During
ample, the composition of relations Overlaps and
(During Overlaps Starts) During
During yields the disjunction of three possible rela-
tions During, Overlaps and Starts (DOS) as a result: (During During) (Overlaps During)
(Starts During) (6)
Overlaps(x, y) During(y, z) (During) (During Overlaps Starts)
During(x, z) Starts(x, z) Overlaps(x, z) (During) During Starts Overlaps

If the relation DOS represents the disjunction of re- DOS

lations During, Overlaps and Starts, then the composi-
tion of Overlaps and During can be represented us- The symbol denotes composition of relations. Com-
ing SWRL as follows: positions of basic (non-disjunctive) relations are de-
fined at [1]. Similarly, the inverse of a disjunction of
basic relations is the disjunction of the inverses of
Overlaps(x, y) During(y, z) DOS(x, z) (5) these basic relations illustrated in Figure 1. For exam-
ple, the inverse of the disjunction of relations Bef ore
The set of possible disjunctions over all basic and M eets is the disjunction of their inverse relations,
Allens relations contains 213 relations and complete Af ter and M etBy respectively.
reasoning over all temporal Allen relations has expo- By applying compositions of relations, the implied
nential time complexity. However, tractable subsets of relations may be inconsistent (i.e., yield the empty re-
this set that are closed under composition (i.e., com- lation as a result). Consistency checking is achieved
positions of relation pairs from this subset yield also a by applying path consistency [30,24,41]. Path consis-
relation in this subset) are also known to exist [24,41]. tency is implemented by consecutive application of the
In this work, we use the subset presented in Section formula:
4.2. In addition, inverse axioms (relations After, Metby,
Overlappedby, Startedby, Contains and Finishedby are x, y, k Ri (x, y) (Rj (x, k) Rk (k, y))
the inverse of Before, Meets, Overlaps, Starts, Dur-
ing and Finishes respectively) and rules defining the Rs (x, y) (7)
relation holding between two intervals with known
starting and ending points (e.g., if the ending point of representing intersection of compositions of relations
interval1 is before the starting point of interval2 , with existing relations Ri , Rj , Rk , (symbol denotes
then interval1 is before interval2 ) are also asserted intersection). The formula is applied until a fixed point
into the knowledge base. is reached (i.e., application of rules does not yield new
The starting and ending points of intervals are rep- inferences) or until the empty set is reached, implying
resented using concrete datatypes such as xsd:date that that the ontology is inconsistent. Implementing the for-
support ordering relations. Axioms involving disjunc- mula requires definition of rules for both composition
tions of basic relations are denoted using the corre- and intersection.
sponding axioms for these basic relations. Specifically, An additional set of rules defining the result of in-
compositions of disjunctions of basic relations are de- tersection of relations holding between two intervals is
fined as the disjunction of the compositions of these thus introduced. These rules are of the form:
basic relations. For example, the composition of re-
lation DOS (representing the disjunction of During, R1 (x, y) R2 (x, y) R3 (x, y), (8)
Overlaps and Starts) and the relation During yields
the relation DOS as follows (notice that in this exam- where R3 can be the empty relation. For example,
ple DOS is decomposed to basic relations for illustra- the intersection of relation DOS (represents the dis-
tive purposes, the corresponding SWRL reasoning rule junction of During, Overlaps and Starts) with relation
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 11

During, yields relation During as a result: been proven to be undecidable [14]. Therefore, reason-
ing using SWRL, as proposed in this work, is the only
DOS(x, y) During(x, y) During(x, y) (9) solution complying with current OWL specifications
while retaining decidability.
The intersection of relations During and Starts Implementing path consistency over Allen relations
yields the empty relation, and an inconsistency is de- requires minimizing the required additional relations
tected: and rules for implementing the mechanism. Existing
work (e.g., [29]) emphasizes on determining maximal
Starts(x, y) During(x, y) (10) tractable subsets of relations, while practical imple-
mentations calls for minimizing of such relation sets
The maximal tractable subset of Allen relations con- (i.e., finding the minimal tractable set that contains the
taining all basic relations when applying path consis- required relations). For example, implementing path
tency comprises of 868 relations [24]. Tractable sub- consistency over the maximal tractable set of Allen
sets of Allen relations containing 83 or 188 relations relations [29], containing 868 relations is impractical,
[41] can be used instead, offering reduced expressiv- since defining all intersections and compositions of
ity but increased efficiency over the maximal subset of pairs of relations by means of SWRL rules requires
[24]. A tractable set of relations is a set of basic rela- millions of such rules.
tions or disjunctions of basic relations with the follow- In this work we propose the closure method of Ta-
ing property: when asserted properties into the knowl- ble 1 for computing the minimal relation sets contain-
edge base are restricted to this set then a polynomial ing a tractable set of basic relations: starting with a
time algorithm such as path consistency can be used to set of relations, intersections and compositions of re-
infer all implied relations and detect all inconsistencies lations are applied iteratively until no new relations
( i.e., the algorithms is sound and complete). This is not are produced. Since compositions and intersections are
the case of arbitrary disjunctions of Allen relations, in constant-time operations (i.e., a bounded number of ta-
this case exponential algorithms must be applied [1]. ble lookup operations is required at the correspond-
Furthermore, since the proposed temporal reasoning ing composition tables) the running time of closure
mechanism affects only relations of temporal intervals, method is linear to the total number of relations of the
it can be also applied to other temporal representation identified tractable set. Applying the closure method
methods (besides 4D-fluents) such as N-ary relations. over the set of basic Allen relations yields a tractable
Reasoning operating on temporal instants rather on in- set containing 29 relations, illustrated in Section 4.2.
tervals is also feasible [41]. Specifically, qualitative re-
Table 1
lations involving instants form a tractable set if relation
Closure method
6= (i.e., a temporal instant is before or after another
instant) is excluded. Reasoning involving relations be- Input:Set S of tractable relations
tween interval and instants is achieved by translating Table C of compositions
relations between intervals to relations between their WHILE S size changes
endpoints [1]. BEGIN
Path consistency requires composition of properties, Compute C:Set of compositions of relations in S
intersection of properties and role complement. No- S=S C
tice that disjointness of properties can be represented Compute I:Set of intersections of relations in S
in terms of complement of properties (i.e., two prop- S= S I
erties are disjoint when one of them is subproperty END
of the complement of the second property). However, RETURN S
the combination of property composition, intersection
and complement has been proven to be undecidable Notice that implementing path consistency using
[33]. Instead of property complement, the disjointness rules of the form of Equation 7 over n relations re-
of two properties can be represented as an at most 0 quires O(n3 ) rules (i.e., rules for every possible se-
cardinality constraint over their intersection. However, lection of three relations must be defined), while im-
the intersection and the composition of two properties plementing path consistency using rules according to
is a composite (i.e., not simple) property and applying Equation 2 and Equation 8 (as implemented in this
cardinality constraints over composite properties has work) requires O(n2 ) rules since rules for every pair of
12 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

relations must be defined. Further improvements and {Di, O, Fi}, {Eq}, {F}, {F, Fi, Eq}, {Fi}, {M}, {Mi},
reductions can be achieved by observing that the dis- {O}, {Oi}, {S}, {S, Si, Eq}, {Si}.
junction of all basic Allen relations when composed
with other relations yields the same relation, while in- 4.3. Reasoning over Point-Based Representations
tersections yield the other relation. Specifically, given
that All represents the disjunction of all basic relations In the following, we propose a reasoner relying on
and, Rx is a relation in the supported set then the fol- the instants-based representation suggested in Section
lowing hold for every Rx : 3. The possible relations between temporal instants are
bef ore, af ter and equals, denoted as <,>,=
respectively. Table 2 illustrates the set of reasoning
All(x, y) Rx (x, y) Rx (x, y) rules defined on the composition of existing relation
All(x, y) Rx (y, z) All(x, z) (11)
Table 2
Rx (x, y) All(y, z) All(x, z)
Composition Table for point-based temporal relations.
Since relation All always holds between two indi- Relations < = >
viduals, because it is the disjunction of all possible re- < < < <, =, >
lations, all rules involving this relation, both composi- = < = >
tions and intersections, do not add new relations into > <, =, > > >
the ontology and they can be safely removed. Also, all
rules yielding the relation All as a result of the com- The composition table represents the result of the com-
position of two supported relations Rx1 , Rx2 : position of two temporal relations. For example, if re-
lation R1 holds between instant1 and instant2 and
Rx1 (x, y) Rx2 (y, z) All(x, z) (12) relation R2 holds between instant2 and instant3 ,
then the entry of Table 2 corresponding to row R1 and
can be removed as well. Thus, since intersections yield column R2 denotes the possible relation(s) holding be-
existing relations and the fact that the disjunction over tween instant1 and instant3 . Also, the three tem-
all basic relations must hold between two intervals, all poral relations are declared as pairwise disjoint, since
rules involving the disjunction of all basic relations they cannot simultaneously hold between two instants.
and consequently all rules yielding this relation can be Not all compositions yield a unique relation as a result.
safely removed from the knowledge base. After apply- For example, the composition of relations bef ore and
ing this optimization the required number of axioms af ter yields all possible relations as a result. Because
for implementing path consistency over the minimal such compositions do not yield new information these
tractable set of Allen relations is reduced to 983. rules are discarded. Rules corresponding to composi-
tions of relations R1 and R2 yielding a unique relation
4.2. Supported Set of Tractable Allen Relations R3 as a result are retained (7 out of the 9 entries of Ta-
ble 2 are retained) and are expressed in SWRL using
The following is the set of tractable Allen rela- rules of the form (Equation 2):
tions used for implementing the reasoning mechanism
of Section 4.1. Relations Before, After, Meets, Metby, R1 (x, y) R2 (y, z) R3 (x, z) (13)
Overlaps, Overlappedby, During, Contains, Starts,
Startedby, Finishes, Finishedby and Equals are repre- The following is an example of such a temporal infer-
sented using symbols B, A, M, Mi, O, Oi, D, Di, S, Si, ence rule:
F, Fi and Eq respectively. These are basic Allen rela-
tions or disjunctions of basic relations represented as a bef ore(x, y) equals(y, z) bef ore(x, z) (14)
set of relations into brackets:
{B},{A},{A, D, Di, O, Oi, Mi, S, Si, F, Fi, Eq}, {A, Therefore, 7 out of the 9 entries in Table 2 can be
D, Oi, Mi, F}, {A, Di, Oi, Mi, Si}, {A, Oi, Mi}, {B, expressed using SWRL rules, while the two remain-
D, Di, O, Oi, M, S, Si, F, Fi, Eq}, {B, D, O, M, S}, {B, ing entries do not convey new information. A series of
Di, O, M, Fi}, {B, O, M}, {D}, {D, Di, O, Oi, S, Si, compositions of relations may imply relations which
F, Fi, Eq}, {D, Oi, F}, {D, O, S}, {Di}, {Di, Oi, Si}, are inconsistent with existing ones. Consistency check-
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 13

ing is achieved by imposing path consistency [41]. (also bef ore is asymmetric and irreflexive) in order to
Path consistency is implemented by iteratively apply- detect inconsistencies. However, OWL specifications9
ing formula of Equation 7. In addition to rules imple- disallow the combination of transitivity and disjoint-
menting compositions of temporal relations, a set of ness (or asymmetry) axioms on a property since they
rules defining the result of intersecting relations hold- can lead to undecidability [15]. This restriction is nec-
ing between two instances must also be defined in or- essary in order to guarantee decidability of the basic
der to implement path consistency. These rules are of reasoning problems for OWL 2 DL. Thus, reasoning
the form of Equation 8: and consistency checking requires the use of SWRL
R1 (x, y) R2 (x, y) R3 (x, y) (15) In cases where temporal information is provided
as dates, the qualitative relations are specified using
where R3 can be the empty relation. For example, the SWRL rules that apply on the quantitative representa-
intersection of the relation representing the disjunction tion. An example of such a rule is the following:
of before, after and equals (abbreviated as ALL), and
the relation bef ore yields the relation bef ore as result:
Instant(x) Instant(z)
inXSDDateT ime(x, y)
ALL(x, y) bef ore(x, y) bef ore(x, y) (16) (18)
inXSDDateT ime(z, w) lessT han(y, w)
The intersection of relations bef ore and af ter bef ore(x, z)
yields the empty relation, and an inconsistency is de-
tected: Replacing the lessT han operator in the rule with
greaterT han and equal yields the corresponding
bef ore(x, y) af ter(x, y) (17) rules for relations af ter and equals respectively.
These qualitative relations can be combined with as-
As shown in Table 2, compositions of relations may serted and inferred qualitative relations using path con-
yield one of the following four relations: before, after, sistency.
equals and the disjunction of these three relations. In- All interval relations can be represented by means of
tersecting the disjunction of all three relations with any point relations between their end-points. Rules imple-
of these leaves existing relations unchanged. Intersect- menting transformation of Allen relations to endpoint
ing any one of the tree basic (non disjunctive) relations relations and rules yielding Allen relations from end-
with itself also leaves existing relations unaffected. point relations have been implemented as well. For ex-
Only compositions of pairs of different basic relations ample, the rule yielding the During Allen relation from
affect the ontology by yielding the empty relation as endpoint relations is the following:
a result, thus detecting an inconsistency. By declaring
the three basic relations before, after, equals as pair- P roperInterval(a) P roperInterval(x)
wise disjoint, all intersections that can affect the ontol-
ogy are defined. Path consistency is implemented by bef ore(b, y) bef ore(z, c)
defining compositions of relations using SWRL rules hasBeginning(a, b)
and by declaring the three basic relations as disjoint. (19)
Notice that path consistency is sound and complete hasBeginning(x, y)
when applied on the three basic relations [41]. hasEnd(a, c) hasEnd(x, z)
Alternatively, we can define the composition of
bef ore with itself as a transitivity axiom rather than intervalDuring(x, a)
by an SWRL rule. In this case, there would be no need
for SWRL rules applying only on named individuals Rules similar to the above, yielding all basic Allen
into the ontology ABox. The resulting representation relations are implemented. Notice that the inverse
will apply on the TBox as well. However, this is not transformation cannot be expressed by a single SWRL
compatible with OWL 2 specification: relation bef ore
must be declared as transitive in order to infer implied 9

relations and disjoint with af ter, its inverse relation, 20091027/#The_Restrictions_on_the_Axiom_Closure

14 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

rule: one Allen relation corresponds to four end-point ioms instead of SWRL rules that apply on the ontology
relations and conjunctions at the rule head are not sup- TBox as well. Such axioms are of the form:
ported in SWRL. Conjunctions can be expressed as
rules with identical antecedent part and different head. bef ore equals @ bef ore (24)
For example, the following rules represent the trans-
formation of relation IntervalOverlaps: All relation compositions can be defined similarly. In-
tersections of relations are not required in case of basic
point algebra relations and if the consistency checking
hasBeginning(a, b) hasBeginning(x, y) requirement is dropped, only OWL axioms are suffi-
cient for implementing the reasoning mechanism.
hasEnd(a, c) hasEnd(x, z) (20)
In total, based on the reasoning mechanism, five
intervalOverlaps(x, a) bef ore(z, c) different representations for points have been imple-
Quantitative Point Representation (P1): Relations
hasBeginning(a, b) hasBeginning(x, y) are extracted by comparing date/time values us-
hasEnd(a, c) hasEnd(x, z) (21) ing SWRL.
Qualitative Only using SWRL (P2): Only qual-
intervalOverlaps(x, a) bef ore(b, z) itative point relations are asserted and reasoning
using Path Consistency implemented in SWRL is
hasBeginning(a, b) hasBeginning(x, y) Qualitative Only using Role Inclusion Axioms
(P3): Only qualitative point relations are asserted
hasEnd(a, c) hasEnd(x, z) (22) and reasoning using Path Consistency is imple-
intervalOverlaps(x, a) bef ore(y, b) mented using OWL 2 Role Inclusion Axioms.
Combined representation using SWRL (P4): Both
dates and qualitative relations are asserted and
reasoning mechanism combines rules from repre-
hasBeginning(a, b) hasBeginning(x, y) sentations P1 and P2.
hasEnd(a, c) hasEnd(x, z) (23) Combined representation using OWL Role Inclu-
sion Axioms (P5): Both dates and qualitative rela-
intervalOverlaps(x, a) bef ore(y, c) tions are asserted and reasoning mechanism com-
bines SWRL rules from representations P1 and
Notice that if data consistency can be assured, then OWL axioms from P3.
reasoning can be significantly speeded-up. In cases
where all relations are specified quantitatively (i.e., by Based on the above representations and rules for
numerical values) reasoning with path consistency can extracting interval relations from end-point relations
be dropped. For example, for intervals with known five different interval representations have been imple-
end-points, all possible relations between them can be mented10 .
computed in quadratic time from their end-point dates. Allen-based Interval Representation (I1): Qual-
The computed set of relations is guaranteed to be con- itative Allen relations only are asserted directly
sistent and reasoning is not needed. between intervals (points are not used, see Fig-
If consistency checking is not needed (in case in- ure 9) combined with the reasoning mechanism
stance assertions do not contain conflicts, implied of Section 4.1.
or direct), then temporal properties need not be de- Quantitative Only-direct intervals (I2): Only dates
clared disjoint. For example, if sequences of events or times are asserted attached directly to intervals
are recorded using sensors, then there is a valid ar- (see Figure 7) and Allen relations are extracted
rangement of the events on the axis of time (i.e., the by date/time comparisons.
sequence of their recording), thus their temporal re-
lations are consistent by definition. In this case, rea- 10 We have made all point and interval representations available on

soning can be achieved using OWL role inclusion ax- the Web at:
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 15

Quantitative Only using Points (I3): Only dates or ditional relations and a total of 20 axioms are adequate
times are asserted attached to Points representing for implementing path consistency [8].
end-points of intervals (see Figure 8) and Allen The O(n5 ) upper limit referred to above is obtained
relations are extracted by date/time comparisons. as follows: At most O(n2 ) relations can be added
Qualitative Only Point Based Interval represen- in the knowledge base. At each such addition step,
tation (I4): Only qualitative relations between the reasoner selects 3 variables among n intervals (or
points (see Figure 8) are asserted and reason- points or regions) which corresponds to O(n3 ) pos-
ing mechanism is based on Point reasoning rules sible different choices. Clearly, this upper bound is
from Section 4.3 and Allen extraction rules from pessimistic, since the overall number of steps may be
Section 4). lower than O(n2 ) because an inconsistency detection
Combined qualitative/quantitative Interval repre- may terminate the reasoning process early, or the as-
sentation (I5): Both dates and qualitative relations serted relations may yield a small number of infer-
between points are asserted (see Figure 8) and ences. Also, forward chaining rule execution engines
date/time comparisons are combined with SWRL employ several optimizations (e.g., the Rete algorithm
rules of Section 4.3 and Allen extraction rules). employed at the SWRL implementation of Pellet as
presented at [19]), thus the selection of appropriate
Reasoning is achieved by employing DL-safe rules variables usually involves fewer than O(n3 ) trials.
expressed in SWRL that apply on named individu- Nevertheless, since the end user may use any reasoner
als in the ontology ABox, thus retaining decidability supporting SWRL, a worst case selection of variables
while offering a sound and complete inference pro- can be assumed in order to obtain an upper bound for
cedure for asserted temporal intervals. Furthermore, complexity. Nevertheless, retaining control over the or-
computing the rules has polynomial time complexity der of variable selection and application of rules yields
since tractable sets of relations are supported [24,41]. an O(n3 ) upper bound for path consistency [37].
Because any time interval can be related with ev- Both 4D-fluents and N-ary approaches can be used
ery other interval with one basic Allen relation (basic for representing dynamic properties, and both of them
Allen relations are mutually exclusive), between n in- suffer from proliferation of objects. On the other hand,
tervals, at most (n 1)2 relations can be asserted and N-ary relations representation is more compact than
this also holds in the case of temporal instants. Fur- 4D-fluents since fewer additional objects are required
thermore, path consistency has O(n5 ) time worst case as illustrated in Figure 4 and Figure 3. A detailed com-
complexity (with n being the number of intervals or parison of these approaches is presented in [11,32] il-
instants) and is sound and complete [30]. lustrating the disadvantages of 4D-fluents compared to
In the most general case, where disjunctive relations N-ary approach because of the additional required ob-
are supported in addition to the basic ones, any interval jects.
(or instant) can be related to every other interval (or in- The required expressiveness of the proposed repre-
stant) by at most k relations, where k is the size of the sentations is within the limits of OWL 2 expressive-
set of supported relations. Therefore, for n intervals or ness combined with SWRL and date/time datatypes.
instants, using O(k 2 ) rules, at most O(kn2 ) relations Thus, reasoners such as Pellet and HermiT can be used
can be asserted into the knowledge base. In the case of for reasoning. Reasoning mechanism is tractable since
temporal instants (point algebra), qualitative relations it consists of date/time comparisons and/or path con-
on time instants form a tractable set [41] (i.e., a set of sistency using SWRL [24]. Orthogonal to the problem
relations applying path consistency on this is a sound of representing dynamic properties using 4D-fluents or
and complete method) if the relation 6= (i.e., a temporal N-ary relation is the representation of points and in-
instant is before or after another instant) is excluded. tervals. A summary of all proposed representations is
Thus, the proposed reasoning method can be extended presented in Table 3.
with disjunctive relations such as denoting that an Notice that quantitative only approaches dont need
instant is after or equals to another. Applying the clo- to perform consistency checking since date/time as-
sure method over temporal Allen relations the minimal sertions represent a valid instantiation of such values,
tractable sets containing the basic relations consist of while qualitative assertions my impose restrictions that
29 relations [6]. For this set the required number of cannot be satisfied. To the best of our knowledge, Her-
OWL axioms and SWRL rules is 983 [6]. Reasoning miT and Pellet are the only reasoners currently sup-
over basic point algebra relations does not require ad- porting SWRL, while only Pellet currently supports
16 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

Table 3
Comparison of Point and Interval Representations
Representation P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 I1 I2 I3 I4 I5
Qualitative No Y es Y es Y es Y es Y es No No Y es Y es
Quantitative Y es No No Y es Y es No Y es Y es No Y es
Reasoning Support: HermiT (H), Pellet (P) P H, P H, P P P H, P P P H, P P
Consistency Checking N/A Y es No Y es No Y es N/A N/A Y es Y es

date/time comparisons needed for SWRL rules used by

150 I1 - HermiT
quantitative approaches.

Time in seconds

5. Evaluation
Measuring the efficiency of the proposed represen-
tations requires temporal intervals and points as de- 0
fined in Section 3, containing instances. Evaluation of 0 100 200 300 400 500
Number of intervals
quantitative representations was done by asserting ac-
tual dates/times and reasoning using Pellet11 . Qualita-
tive approaches required qualitative assertions which Fig. 11. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of in-
were extracted using dates from quantitative represen-
tations and retaining n such extracted relations for
Measurements illustrate that there are major differ-
datasets of size n. Thus, datasets of various sizes con-
ences in performance between various approaches, and
taining points and intervals, both qualitative (using re-
reasoners. Interval representations can be used for rea-
lations) and quantitative (using dates) or both were
soning over 100 intervals, while qualitative represen-
used for the experimental evaluation. Reasoning re-
tation combined with HermiT reasoner (representation
sponse times of the temporal reasoning rules were
I1 with HermiT, presented in Figure 11) can reason
measured as the average over 10 runs. HermiT 1.3.8
over 500 intervals in 149.07 seconds when using Allen
and Pellet 2.3.0 running as a Java library were the rea-
relations directly (representation I1). For 100 intervals
soners used in the experiments. All experiments were
corresponding time using I1 and HermiT is 2.03 sec-
run on a PC, with Intel Core CPU at 2.4 GHz, 6 GB
onds respectively (see Figure 11), clearly outperform-
RAM, and Windows 7.
ing all interval representations (I2-I5 and I1 with Pel-
let) of Figure 10. Notice that the direct representation
I2 - Pellet using Allen intervals (I1) is faster using both Pellet and
I3 - Pellet HermiT than the qualitative representation involving
Time in seconds

60 I4 - Pellet
I4 - HermiT points (I4), while I4 is more complex than I1 and sup-
I5 - Pellet ports both points and intervals.
40 I1 - Pellet

20 30

Time in seconds

0 P1 - Pellet
P5 - Pellet
0 20 40 60 80 100 20 P3 - Pellet
Number of intervals P3 - HermiT

Fig. 10. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of in-
tervals 5

0 100 200 300 400 500
Number of points
11 Dates were extracted from the dataset represent-
ing marriages at freebase (Retrieved in March 2015): Fig. 12. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of points
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 17

70 P4 - Pellet
An interesting case is the representation based on
60 P2 - Pellet Role Inclusion Axioms (P3) that can be used for rea-
Time in seconds

50 soning over 100K points in less than 3 seconds when

40 using Pellet (see Figure 15), but not when using Her-
30 miT (see Figure 12), being orders of magnitude faster
20 than all other approaches. This illustrates that there is
10 clearly room for optimization on SWRL implementa-
0 tions of current reasoners.
0 20 40 60 80 100 This result indicates that when inconsistency de-
Number of points
tection is not required (i.e., assertions are guaranteed
to be correct, thus only inference and not inconsis-
Fig. 13. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of points tency detection is required) the implementation based
on OWL axioms is faster and can be preferred. Opti-
mizations employed in reasoning engines such as Pel-
300 let over OWL axioms result in faster reasoning times
P2 - HermiT than reasoning using SWRL when the two approaches
Time in seconds

are directly comparable (i.e., when inconsistency de-

tection is not required). Also, the OWL axioms-based
150 approach applies on the TBox of the ontology, thus
100 on implied anonymous individuals and concept defini-
50 tions, and is not restricted to asserted named individu-
als as the SWRL-based reasoning mechanism.
0 100 200 300 400 500 In conclusion, experimental evaluation indicates
Number of points that there are differences in performance between rea-
soners such as Pellet and HermiT (see for example
Fig. 14. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of points Figures 10 and 11), which means that the proposed
representations will directly benefit from future opti-
Point representations can be used for reasoning over mizations in rule engines. This is also illustrated by
500 points efficiently (see Figure 12), except the qual- the fact that the OWL axiom based representation can
itative representations using SWRL -P2 and P4- and support fast reasoning over 100K points (see Figure
Pellet, which can be practically used for at most 100 15). An alternative approach instead of optimizing rule
points. Reasoning time over these two representations engines of reasoners such as Pellet is to build spe-
is presented in Figure 13. When combining represen- cialized standalone temporal reasoners that offer in-
tation P2 with HermiT instead of Pellet reasoning over creased performance over existing SWRL based ap-
500 points can be achieved in 279.47 seconds (see Fig- proaches. CHRONOS reasoner [2] is such a standalone
ure 14). This is slower than all measurements for rep- reasoner based on path consistency. CHRONOS can
resentations presented in Figure 12. reason over 10K Allen interval relations in less than 10
seconds [3].
P3 - Pellet
2.5 6. Applications
Time in seconds

1.5 Ontology editors, such as Protg12 are particularly

1 well suited for crafting (creating, editing) static on-
tologies with binary relations, but have no means for
dealing with temporal entities and temporal (ternary)
0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000
relations. In [26,27] we presented CHRONOS-Ed, a
Number of points Tab widget plug-in for the Protg editor that facili-

Fig. 15. Average reasoning time as a function of the number of points 12
18 S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2

tates handling of temporal ontologies such as defini- ment suggested in the clinical practice guidelines as-
tion of temporal classes and of temporal properties. It serted into the system, using the N-ary representation
is portable and easy to use (i.e., handles temporal on- for the implementation of a dynamic ontology encod-
tologies similarly to the way static ontologies are cre- ing experts knowledge for the management of patients
ated and handled in Protg) and does not require the along with a SWRL reasoner for inferring recommen-
user to be familiar with the peculiarities of the underly- dations for best treatment of patients based on their
ing representation model of temporal information (i.e., current condition and examination tests.
the N-ary relations model). Temporal ontologies, can
still be exported in OWL and handled (i.e., viewed or
modified) by standard OWL editors (although much 7. Conclusions and Future Work
more difficult to handle in this case). CHRONOS-Ed
interface is consistent with the layout of the default We introduce a framework for handling temporal in-
Protg Tabs. We have made CHRONOS-Ed available formation in ontologies. The proposed framework han-
on the Web13 . dles both, time instants and time intervals (and also
CHRONOS-Ed supports adding restrictions on tem- semi-closed intervals) equally well using a sound and
poral properties, classes and individuals (e.g., an em- complete inference procedure based on path consis-
ployee cant work for two different companies at the tency. Two alternative representations based on the 4D-
same time). Notice that if there are inconsistencies fluents and the N-ary relations respectively are pre-
within a set of defined temporal relations, normally, sented. It is compliant with existing Semantic Web
these will not be detected by a conventional OWL rea-
standards (OWL 2) and W3C member submissions
soner (i.e., a reasoner for static ontologies such as Pel-
(SWRL) which increases its applicability. Being com-
let in Protg) or, an OWL reasoner might not com-
patible with W3C standards and member submissions
pute all temporal inferences. The problem is that prop-
the proposed framework can be used in conjunction
erty restrictions defined on temporal classes now refer
with existing editors, reasoners and querying tools
to the new classes introduced by the N-ary relations
such as Protg and Pellet without requiring specific
model rather than to the classes on which they were
additional software.
meant to be defined. Dealing with such issues calls for
Directions for future work include: Addressing scal-
reasoning rules capable of handling temporal informa-
ability issues by applying optimizations tailored for
tion in OWL with the N-ary relations model as the one
specific datasets in large scale applications. Optimiza-
we presented in [7], where we proposed a mechanism
tions (e.g., parallelization) can apply on both reasoning
for handling OWL property restrictions and semantics
and querying process. For example, indexing mecha-
over temporal representations in conjunction with the
nisms for quantitative datasets can be applied in certain
4D-fluents and the N-ary relations approaches. Prop-
applications following the example of [39,28].
erty semantics are expressed by a set of SWRL rules
Also, proposing extensions on the OWL specifica-
defined over temporal relations (rather than by OWL
tion (e.g., by combining them with Temporal Descrip-
axioms as it is typical in DL ontologies). To the best of
tion Logics) that will increase expressivity and com-
our knowledge, this is the only known solution to this
pactness of temporal representations is a direction for
future work. An example of this approach is TOWL14
CHRONOS-Ed plug-in was used for the develop-
[10] which handles only quantitative defined temporal
ment of SybillaTUC [40], a recommendation system
information by means of concrete domains. Integrat-
for monitoring the condition of patients suffering from
ing expressions such as always or until into OWL
the Bipolar Disorder. It is designed to represent and
syntax and semantics will offer direct representation
manage the information about patients medical record
and the modelling of the disease evolution. Combin- of qualitative temporal information. Finally, develop-
ing the clinical guidelines for Bipolar Disorder with a ing tools for providing reasoning and querying support
patients medical record, SybillaTUC can predict the for such extensions is a direction for future work.
evolution of each patient, alert the clinician on the pos-
14 TOWL (IST-STREP FP6, No. 026896): Time-determined on-
sibility of a critical incident and propose the best treat-
tology based information system for real time stock market anal-
ysis (2006 - 2008), Project Coordinator Euripides G.M. Petrakis,
13 Available at:
S. Batsakis et al. / Temporal Representation and Reasoning in OWL 2 19

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