Expert System provides semantic software that discovers, classifies and interprets text information. They have been operating successfully in Europe for 15 years and have been establishing a larger US presence through their semantic search tool, COGITO. I first wrote about them in 2008 (see Expert System Puts More Meaning into Semantic Search).
COGITO can determine the meaning of words thanks to its recognition of the context and the richness of its semantic network or set of rules. It uses four methods to uncover meaning. First, there is a morphological analysis – what words are related. Then there is a grammatical analysis – what part of speech. Third, there is a logical analysis of how words relate to each other. Finally, there is a semantic analysis to understand the context of the words.
The heart of semantic technology is the quality of results derived from the complexity and richness of the network. The semantic network is a map of associations and meanings of words that includes definitions for and relationships among all words. When it comes to analyzing text, this network enables both high precision and recall in search, and automatic categorization and tagging. See the diagram below for a visualization of these ideas.
I recently spoke with Luca Scagliarini, partner and vice president of strategy and business development at Expert System to get his take on the semantic technology market in 2011. Luca said that the issue of monitoring unstructured information on the Web has become increasingly important over the last several years. I would certainly agree. The amount of unstructured information has dramatically increased through social media and other means. In fact, in 2008 there was more content produced on the Web than the entire history of content. This effort was again repeated in 2009.
With this explosion of content, business intelligence is increasingly important. Semantic technology can go beyond standard search to increase the value of this intelligence. One area of increased adoption that Expert System mentioned is in the publishing industry. Publishers are looking for ways to increase revenue from their online efforts. The new hardware devices, such as iPad and other mobile devices, are opening new markets here.
One way to compete is to provide a better user experience and provide content that is more targeted to the user’s context. One way to provide this context is to gather contextual information from users. However, people are often too lazy or concerned with privacy issues to get much input through this means.
Semantic technology can help here as it can provide a better understanding of the users’ context through their actions, as well as their geographic location and time of day. This better understanding can then drive more relevant content to increase time spent on the publisher’s site and increased revenue. Luca said we are just at the beginning here and this capability will grow over time.
Another area for growth in semantic technology applications is providing a more comprehensive understanding of what people are saying about brands on the Web. There has been a first wave of sentiment analysis tools. Now the market needs to go beyond these initial capabilities to provide a more robust understanding of sentiment and not simply look at volume-based measures.
Luca said that Expert System is moving ahead on three fronts to address these emerging market opportunities. First, it is continuing to develop scalable, useful semantic applications. There is a special focus on advanced knowledge management in niche markets where the value of information is quite high, such as pharma, oil and energy, and financial services. Second, they are looking at customer care applications. Third, they are working with business partners to embed semantic technology capabilities into other applications such as online consumer apps. I agree that there is a robust market here and it is one that will continue to expand. Expert System is taking some good steps to address these opportunities.