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What is Taxonomy? Beyond the simple definition

Expert.ai Team - 9 May 2017

What is a taxonomy? A simple taxonomy definition that I like is the following: A taxonomy is a system that describes how different concepts are related and organized within a specific hierarchical structure.

If you’re looking for a taxonomy definition that’s a bit more visual, we’ve got the perfect example for you. This infographic of London’s coffee shops by hipster shop name is an excellent example of how you can organize or classify information of any kind. Here, they’ve organized the domain (coffee shops) into different taxonomy nodes (coffee shop type and geographical area) based on the shop’s name.

Why humans need taxonomies

When you think about a taxonomy, you tend to think biology, botany or zoology. In these areas, taxonomy has always been a very important system for organizing knowledge. In the same way, taxonomy also helps businesses maintain order of the growing amount of documents, news, emails and all of the internal and external information that organizations have to manage daily.

Taxonomy software classifies documents according to their content on the basis of customized criteria (established based on the organization’s business, industry and more), which are run against the documents themselves. Without a taxonomy to properly classify text, information that organizations manage could easily be a burden rather than a benefit.

Why taxonomies need cognitive technology

Based on our taxonomy definition we know that a taxonomy must be able to organize information into a hierarchical structure. To do so effectively requires an understanding of the topics and concepts contained in content, no matter how they are expressed. This is why taxonomies need cognitive technology that integrates artificial intelligence features.

Cognitive technology exceeds the typical keyword and shallow linguistics that other approaches employ. These approaches don’t understand language. Cognitive technology adds a depth and dimension to the content driven not by word frequency, but by relationship in meaning. Cognitive technology allows deep analysis, including classification, on large structured and unstructured datasets. It identifies and associates content to the relevant categories and classes, generating available data for more effective search and analysis.

Over automatic classification, cognitive technology can be useful for taxonomy development: it helps organize the category trees and automatically creates the classification rules. Rather than a standard taxonomy for generic use, cognitive technology allows users to configure a customized semantic engine that effectively categorizes the information.

Behind any taxonomy definition, the most important thing is that a taxonomy is correctly designed. We explain how in this blog post. Here isn’t one single best solution; the solution for you depends on your organization’s business, as well as your preferences and goals. Depending on your unique business and scenario, cognitive technology can help you develop a customized taxonomy that best fits all of your requirements.