Blog, search engine

Semantics and Enterprises

When you search for something on the Internet, you always know which search engine you are using (Yahoo!, Bing and Google are the most popular), but when you search for something at work, sometimes you have no idea where the information comes from. You really don’t know which system you’re using, you just limit yourself to typing your request in the search box provided and hope to get the answer you were looking for.

The strange thing about this is that searching for information is a key activity in every company. Still, this market has not yet been tapped by the multinational software giants because it seems like they just can’t get their act together. Autonomy, the leading producer of company search solutions, is practically unknown to non-specialized personnel. Oracle and IBM play a small role and Microsoft actually had to purchase the Norwegian company, Fast, in order to try to grow in this sector. Google has a good share of the market thanks to its brand name, but its product does not provide results to top the competition. Not only, but users are also giving negative feedback (this goes for all of the key players) on result quality and search times. Thus, we have a complete picture of a situation which must be addressed if we want to try to beef up companies’ efficiency.

The most promising technology is semantic technology. Although it hasn’t yet reached its maximum potential, it is already able to better “understand” content and identify the most important concepts and relations. We must also take note of the fact that it is impossible to have totally automatic solutions which magically know how to program themselves (an idealistic goal). The search engines must be developed around the knowledge and terminology used within the companies; if done in the right way, the task won’t be too complex, but its value will be priceless.

Change must occur in the technology used to analyze the content in the various types and forms of company documents. All of the above-listed search engines still use the old keyword technology, which has been strengthened throughout the years by statistical elements. This technology has the advantage of being stable and easily adaptable to different languages, but it also very limited because it cannot, in any way, understand the language nor the actual context of a text.

Different companies, such as mine, already offer search solutions based on models which I’ve just described (as in technology and methodology) and the results are quite interesting. It is probably just a matter of time before the big names decide to move in the same direction.

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