When Search Takes Us Outside the Search Box
Every day, millions of us scour travel websites for searching, comparing and eventually booking restaurants, flights and hotels at destinations across the world. Thanks to apps and mobile devices, access to such information is easier and faster than ever before. While some of the most well known tourism portals (such as Booking.com or Expedia) provide detailed information about various accommodations (hotels, B&Bs, apartments, etc.), they are also living examples of how search can be long and exhausting.
Imagine looking for a hotel in London for a couple plus child, within 10 minutes from the nearest Tube station, close to a park and on a quiet street, with vegetarian restaurants and shopping within a certain distance. You would like to visit during the Christmas holiday period, but your dates are flexible. How can you find the hotel of your dreams?
Today, the search process on any of these sites takes you through a long selection of filtering options, for everything from the kind of room, to the price range, etc. And here’s where you hit a hurdle: while you can select the part of town where you’d like to stay, some of the other important elements (distance from a Tube stop, restaurants, parks) are not part of any filter menu. Instead, you have to take a further step to comb through individual hotel websites or online reviews to discover some of these details.
At the end of the process, hopefully you have found the right hotel for you, but in how many steps? How many consulted pages? How many minutes, hours?
What if you could type your request right into the search box, writing it in natural language, and obtain the list of results to choose from in just one click?
Thanks to a deep analysis of text and a rich conceptual network, semantic technology understands the meaning of words in context, which means that requests can be written in a way that mirrors how we speak, and accurately understood by the system. In this scenario, we could simply write our full request in the search box and the system could retrieve information from its knowledge base to support the query. In one click. Today, we expect to be understood when we enter terms into a search box. But without a base understanding of meaning, traditional technologies will only be able to approximate a true comprehension, leaving us to sort the useful from the useless.
As semantic technologies become more dispersed in consumer applications, it won’t be long before we’re able to not just quickly access multiple information sources, but also to effectively manage the information to which we have access.