Semantic technology vendor TextWise is working at solving some problems for the enterprise, from reducing the cost of customer service to more efficiently monetizing patents. Basically, its technology is used to match something to something else, whether it’s an ad to a web page, a news article to another news article, a blog to an internal document, and so on.
Right now, one of its focal points is helping businesses better enable customer self-service. What’s the problem there? Typically the knowledge bases that normally would be able to answer customers’ questions online are silo’d in different content management systems, explains TextWise CEO Connie Kenneally. That makes it hard for customers to be sure that self-service systems are getting them all the information they need. Companies can save a lot of money by letting customers answer their own questions, though, considering that it can cost a call center $20 or more a minute to answer questions using human employees.
“By tagging all that content with our semantic signatures, you can relate information that’s similar to what people are asking questions about,” she says. “It puts all the content management systems on the same lingua franca, so these walled silos can be opened up and people can get into them without actually going into them.”
The vendor, whose roots are in contextual advertising, defines its semantic signatures as providing a granular way to match content by accurately describing the ‘aboutness’ of the text. The result aims at making it easier for enterprise users-or their customers-to find things online or on a corporate network by identifying what concepts are unique about a document and then finding other documents that that data is related to. To match one thing to others, “we represent text in a way that provides deeper meaning of it than either keywords or entities, so the documents or form entries can be used as queries or exemplars for finding other similar information,” Kenneally says.
Take, for example, an article about Microsoft’s return to digital rights management – the text itself may never use the words “intellectual property” or “copyright,” but TextWise’s technology understands that that is, in fact, what the piece is about. So, it would return a semantic signature that lists and weights all the concepts reflected in the text. “The signature lets you see what concepts in this article are important and which are not,” she notes, and then use that to make more connections.
TextWise thinks there are ways to take its technology further to benefit business. For example, it’s addressing intellectual property issues by having put semantic signatures on the full U.S. patent database, “so larger companies looking to monetize their patent portfolio can match [that] to [patents] that are similar even though may not appear to be so in the patent classes provided by the U.S. PTO [Patent and Trademark Office].”
Letting developers play with API
That project is currently in a seed state, with plans to go into beta testing with some larger businesses that have very large patent holdings. “That just shows the depth of the technology,” Kenneally says. “A lot of people can go into general content and tag that with something and be able to match it, but when you are talking about something as deep as patents, that’s hard. But signatures do a really good job with it.”
She also sees opportunity in the medical infomatics and pharmaceuticals research areas, given the depth of data in these spaces and the difficulties traditional search tools have dealing with queries.
At the same time, TextWise doesn’t think it knows all the problems businesses are trying to solve, which is why it’s put the SemanticHacker API out on the web for developers to play around with themselves. The API is on the TextWise Semantic Cloud to let developers engage with its semantic signatures.
“We felt that by putting the API out we would get a lot of interesting ideas and feedback as to where this best plays,” Kenneally says. “We don’t have a monopoly on what the winning ideas will be.”
Recently, for example, she noticed that someone put up a video matching application on the web using TextWise’s technology-not something she would have thought of doing at all. “You just don’t know where these things will lead,” she says.
Putting the API out there helps build the ecosystem for the semantic web, she believes. Any developer can use it at up to 20,000 queries a day at no charge to bring their own ideas to fruition. Once they get above that, with the application already having been designed, tested and running, they can enter into a licensing agreement and a matching program with TextWise to tag all their own content with TextWise’s semantic signatures.
“The reason for our cloud is that we host those signatures so we can then match them to your content,” Kenneally says. “Our technology is computationally intensive, and rather than requiring a company to purchase and configure a large number of servers, we put it in the cloud and price on a per million query basis.”