ASSETS - Advanced Service Search and Enhancing Technological Solutions for the European Digital Library (ASSETS)

Published on: 20/09/2011

ASSETS is a 2 year project- co-funded by the CIP Policy Support Programme- which aims to improve the usability of Europeana by developing, implementing and deploying software services focused on search, browsing and interfaces. ASSETS strives also to make more digital items available on Europeana by involving content providers across different cultural environments.

ASSETS is notably addressed to: Museums/Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Research & Education Organizations, Cultural Portals, Publishers, Private companies active in digital libraries.

ASSETS will provide Europeana with software services, applicable to all digital libraries:

  • Ingestion for metadata cleaning, enrichment and classification;
  • Indexing and Ranking algorithms for improved result;
  • Browsing and Characterisation of multimedia objects;
  • Digital Preservation for planning and guaranteeing long-term access and usability of content;
  • Community for supporting user generated content.

Description of target users and groups

Main User Groups

  • Content Providers
    Cultural Heritage Institutions, Museums, Libraries, Archives, Cultural Foundations, Broadcasters and Audio-Visual Institutions. The content providers are warmly invited to join ASSETS and upload/share multimedia contents, enhancing object metadata and interoperability features, increasing traffic on their websites.
  • End Users
    Citizens and Tourists Digital artists, School students, General Users can be involved in a rich search experience by registering in ASSETS and contributing to the improvements of the provided services. Enriching and sharing content on Europeana and giving feedback on ASSETS services.
  • University/research centre
    Researchers from Universities or Research centres can be interested in the technical aspects of ASSETS and Europeana.
  • Public Administrations
    For educational institutions, government bodies or local authorities interested in enhancing tourism infrastructure, we offer high visibility for valuable digitised content. Europeana and ASSETS services are great resources for research and learning purposes. Europeana currently links to more than 14 million items!

Description of the way to implement the initiative

ASSETS will implement its services following the classical methodology, consisting of the cyclic execution of the following steps: requirements analysis, design, implementation, testing and evaluation.

Concerning requirements, ASSETS will assemble in deliverable D2.0.1 the functional and non-functional requirements produced by the EDLnet Network and the additional requirements that in the meantime have been produced by Europeana version 1.0. Some members of the ASSETS consortium (namely, EDL Foundations and CNR) have had an active role in this collection and specification, and they will use their knowledge to contribute to D2.0.1 which is an internal deliverable and will serve as a basis for the software production cycle in ASSETS.

Concerning the design of the artifacts that directly involve users (user interfaces, documents, results of operations, etc.), a user-centered approach will be followed, directly involving the user in all the design stages in order to understand their needs and test the underlying assumptions. These specific needs and assumptions are hard to state at the level of requirements, and for this reason they will be elicitated and tested during design, by capturing audience, purpose and context of the designed tasks and letting the user (audience) verify that the proposed artifact correctly serves its purpose in the given context.

Concerning the implementation and testing of the services, ASSETS will follow an open source approach. To this end, it has devoted a Workpackage (Service integration, testing and deployment) to the support of the software development activities. This Workpackage will follow the open source best practices and will use current state of the art tools for covering all phases of development: setting up of the development framework, documenting designs and code, defining and implement a run-time environment including all necessary packages and libraries, defining and automatically running tests. A standard, integrated tool from the open source community will also be used for communication within the development community of ASSETS.

In ASSETS Open Source means that Europeana can take over the ASSETS components without asking any permission to anybody. No special clause is needed. It is the busness concept behind ASSETS that Europeana will take  over the services in their farm guaranteeing their maintenance using the development practices as Europeana itself.

Concerning evaluation, two types of evaluations will be carried out: a technical and a user-centered evaluation. The technical evaluation will be aimed at verifying that the services delivered by ASSETS fulfil the efficiency and scalability requirements of European Digital Libraries and Europeana in particular. This type of evaluation will be carried out in the sandboxes of EuropeanaLabs. EuropeanaLabs is a facility set up and run by CNR within the Europeanav1.0 Network, in order to make available the data sets of Europeana for experimentation of services. Every sandbox is a virtual machine endowed with all the necessary components for: deploying the component to be evaluated and for executing experiments against the Europeana data set. The presence of the coordinator of Europeanav1.0 and of the responsible of the EuropeanaLabs in the ASSETS consortium will make technical evaluation possible with the best efficiency.

The user-centered evaluation will be aimed at verifying that the services delivered by ASSETS fulfil the expectations of the users. The EDL Foundation and the other content providers in the ASSETS consortium will carry out this evaluation by deploying the ASSETS services and managing evaluation campaigns of these services with their users. The outcome of these campaigns will be fed back to the respective developers for revision/refinement.

From a strategic point of view, ASSETS aims at making the developed services available to Europeana first and to the other digital libraries in the ASSETS consortium in a second stage. This prioritization is due to the central role played by Europeana in the creation of the European Digital Library. This strategy dictates a very strict agenda and determines the scheduling of the activities of the ASSETS project, as it can be appreciated from the GANTT chart included in the Implementation section of this proposal.

In general terms, alignment with Europeana means inclusion of the basic services developed by ASSETS in Europeana.

In order to contribute to Europeana, the following schedule will be followed by ASSETS:

  • That first draft of the specifications will be issued at M7;
  • A first implementation of the services will be produced by month 11, evaluated until month 15, integrated into Europeana at month 16.
  • In parallel, from month 12 to month 15, the results of evaluation will be taken into account in order to specify, enhanced services.
  • The enhanced services will be implemented until month 19, evaluated until month 23 and finally integrated into Europeana and deployed by the other Digital libraries in the consortium until month 24, which is the end of the project.
  • This strategy combines a sound methodology with the effective contribution to Europeana.
  • The technical work to be performed by the project is described next.

Through the proposed project we aim to provide to Europeana the necessary ASSETS for becoming the reference point of Digital Libraries. We aim to make Europeana the most attractive, usable and effective gateway to free digital content worldwide. At the same time we aim to provide a self-sustainable platform which, utilising the same functionalities will be a central access point to professional content in a paid basis.

To realise this vision we have structured the foreseen work in three Streams:

  • Stream 1: Management and Networking
  • Stream 2: Foundation
  • Stream 3: Content and Users

Technology solution

ASSETS aims to improve the usability of Europeana (the European Digital Library platform) by developing, implementing and deploying large-scale services focusing on search, browsing and interfaces. These services are applicable to all digital libraries and include: Searching multimedia objects based on metadata and on content similarity; and Ranking algorithm for improved result display; Browsing multimedia objects for rapid navigation through semantic cross-links; Interfaces especially designed for interacting with multimedia objects; planning Long-term Access to digital information; Ingestion of metadata requiring normalization, cleaning, knowledge extraction and mapping to a common structure.


Search service based on Metadata 

A first version prototype of services that aim at improvement of metadata based search (Post Query  Processing, Metadata Based Ranking, Text Indexing and Retrieval) was  implemented  and integrated into the assets platform.


Search service based on Content

Related to the content based search functionality, we completed the important milestones regarding the implementation of the multimedia feature extraction and index structure management software.

The content based search was integrated into the Assets Portal and it is integrated into the Assets Portal.

We are currently working on integration of the 3D similarity search and Video summarization services into the Assets Portal. These activities will be completed before the first year review.

Two stand alone prototypes for the content based retrieval were implemented and deployed for testing in Europeana Thoughtlab. One prototype was build for image retrieval and the other one for the 3D model.

Another 2 prototypes for audio and video retrieval are available as stand alone demonstrations.


ASSETS Semantic Browsing

The creation of the semantic links in Assets is achieved through the semantic categorization of the objects, according to the Assets Taxonomy which was created within the scope of this task.

The categorization can be performed manually by using the characterization tool developed by INA or  by automatic categorization of the object based on the analysis of the media content.  More that 8.000 semantic links were created for 5000 image and 3D objects.

The implementation of the search based on semantic categories is under development.

An extended description of the semantic cross linking browsing process was included in deliverable D2.0.4.  The Assets APIs.


Advanced Interfaces

In the first part of the project, the Mockups for the GUI improvements proposed by the Assets project were created, under close collaboration with Europeana. The results of these activities are integrated in the D2.0.4.  The Assets APIs.

Afterwards, we concentrated on the integration of the Assets Services into the Portal in order to support the demonstrations needed for the first year review. The following GUIs improvements are now available in the portal:

  • Similar search  (images and 3D objects)
  • Video details window (flash-based video player, video summary and storyboard).
  • Audio details window (flash-based audio player)
  • Query suggestions
  • Semantic cross-linking ('Choose category branch')
  • 3D models search
  • Metadata based ranking: a new page has been created to compare the new ranking algorithm with the existing one.
  • Customization of the ASSETS "Thought lab" section, for presenting assets password protected demonstrations.
Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

Services outline

The unified ingestion toolset allows content providers such as museums, libraries and archives to contribute their content to Europeana in a standardised and effective way. This process will generate enriched, clean and classified metadata, thereby increasing search precision and improving the user's browsing experience. High quality results and enhanced object previews will increase the search recall and user satisfaction.

ASSETS provides the possibility to exchange information between portal users and the digital library, offering advantages to both. Users can enrich the library's resources with the results of their work and the libraries will improve the description of their objects. The added value of these services consists in the creation customised content, knowledge extraction and recombination, and information presentation in line with user preferences.

Indexing and Ranking
ASSETS offers advanced indexing and ranking techniques for the efficient and effective retrieval of multimedia objects. Indexing functionalities are provided for image/ video/audio/3D formats, which offer the possibility to perform multimediamedia-based similarity searches. The feedback from Europeana users improve the quality and precision of the retrieved results.

Browsing & Characterization
This allows users to search, browse, navigate and view media content with the aim of enriching the user experience and offering customised search results. Semantic links are established between the different media objects in order to improve access to interesting information. The users' behaviour is exploited to enhance the presentation of search results

Digital Preservation
ASSETS provides a set of services which prepare the ground for digital preservation:

  • Risk Management: identification and monitoring of potentially occurring events;
  • Notification: track, report, notification, communication and management procedures for events that could impact on long term content access;
  • Normalization: enacts preservation plans.


Expected Results

The results of ASSETS project concern the improvements on the services offered by Europeana:

  • Improved usability of Europeana, through value-added search, browsing and long-term access services;
  • Promotion of the standards and specifications addressed in Europeana through clear recommendations, guidelines and best practices for technology adaptation;
  • New multimedia digital content available and accessible on Europeana.

Resulting components:

  • help the acquisition, dissemination, management, discovery, accessibility and integration of large bodies of digital objects, endowed with rich multimedia indexing, searching and retrieving and advanced interface;
  • provide heritage and scientific institutions willing to be part of the European Digital Library with knowledge and applications for semantic-based discovery, cross-fertilisation and access;
  • are loosely coupled so that they can be used by all interested institutions, as well as in any combination where institutions require only a specific subset of their overall functionality;
  • enable more specialised forms of data search and retrieval;
  • support the development of more personalized and collaborative services through the implementation of Community services.



ASSETS aims to develop and deploy new technology in 3 vital areas to radically improve the user experience in Europeana:

  • Multimedia search and retrieval - ASSETS will enhance in quality and widen in scope the search and retrieval service of Europeana. The quality enhancement will be produced by improving ranking of simple search through the utilization of techniques developed in web search, such as the analysis of the query log and the usage of sophisticate weighting and scoring schemes.
  • Semantic Browsing - annotating the Europeana resources with categories from the Europeana semantic layer as well as with user-defined categories representing user interests, ideas and social interactions. Navigating through these categories will allow users to explore the Europeana information space in an interactive way leading to the discovery not only of the Europeana content but also of the interests, ideas and vocabularies of other communities.
  • Interface improvements - deploying interfaces specially designed for browsing multimedia content. There will be developed interactive search interfaces, besides textual queries ASSETS will enable other types of query formulation such as visual queries or audio queries.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The ASSETS services source code is open source and it is available on the EuropeanaLabs. After the end of the project the services will be available for future investment. All Digital Libraries in each domain can be potential adopters of the ASSETS platform.

Lessons learnt

The ASSETS three main lessons learnt involve innovation, implementation and user involvement:

1. INNOVATION. To involve all the stakeholder value chain: After one year of execution, ASSETS is now starting to demonstrate its value by validating its services as a result of the joint effort of 24 ASSETS Consortium partners coming from 10 different European countries and Japan, offering their multi-disciplinary dimension, including all the significant stakeholders in the Digital Libraries value chain (cultural institutions, research organisations, ICT players and user-innovators).

2. IMPLEMENTATION: To implement concrete results: A first set of services of the ASSETS platform have already been released, with demos and story-boards now available in the ASSETS web site ( The services currently available include: Metadata ranking, query suggestion, image similarity search, audio search and recommendation, video indexing, 3D search, manual annotation and semantic browsing.

The demos will allow users to understand how ASSETS will enhance in quality, and widen in scope, the search and retrieval service of Europeana. This will improve the usability of Europeana, giving the user a sets of results with meaningful ranking and assurance of the quality of the service.

3. USER VISION: User involvement: Users evaluation will now start in three different European countries, with user-innovators participating actively in the innovation process.

Starting from the above preliminary results, ASSETS activities will now proceed with the integration of ASSETS services into the Europeana platform, including text processing, metadata editing and semantic cross linking and community services such as content creation by re-use, personalisation and notification.


Now in its second year of execution, ASSETS is in the position to concretely improve the usability of Europeana portal. and contribute to Europeana global mission to enable people to explore the digital resources of Europe's museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections, and to promote discovery and networking opportunities in a multilingual space where users can engage, share and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europe's cultural and scientific heritage.

Scope: International, Pan-European