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EC & BT Develop Faster Net Searching

Posted: 15th Mar, 2004 By: MarkJ
The European Commission is funding a project, which is led by BT Exact, that aims to make Internet searching faster by giving such services context capabilities:

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FUNDS PROJECT TO MAKE INTERNET SEARCHES FASTER AND EASIER

The European Commission (EC) is funding a project to develop a way for search engines to work out the overall subject matter of a web page and tackle the growing problem of finding the right information from the masses of unstructured text on the internet.

For example, the term ATM is used in both the banking industry as an abbreviation for automated teller machine, and in the communications business as an abbreviation for asynchronous transfer mode. Today, a search referring to ATM would produce information on both topics.

BT Exact, BT's research, technology and IT operations business, will lead the team of twelve European partners who will work on the Semantic Knowledge Technologies (SEKT) project. The team will develop technology that will revolutionise search engines and other knowledge management systems. Currently, such tools cannot conduct searches in context, which means that the user is presented with a long list of randomly mixed relevant and irrelevant web pages. The only way to distinguish which information is relevant is for the user to manually look through results returned by the search engine.

Project SEKT will develop technology that will emulate the human ability to assess the context of the information presented, omitting any irrelevancies before delivering the results. The technology will automate the extraction of details such as the author's name, his/her affiliation and address, or a product code and price from online content. This information can then be used to make searching more productive, enabling a new generation of internet search engines that will make the web as a tool for finding knowledge rather than just for finding information.

The project will also develop tools that proactively deliver information to users based on their current interests and type of device they are using to browse the web or other knowledge repository. For example, if an important new report is published of interest to two users (as predicted by the system), one with access only to a mobile phone could receive a short summary of the information via an SMS alert, while the other might be sent an email with the report as an attachment.

SEKT is one of the first of a new breed of larger European collaborative 'integrated projects' run by the EC, which aim to develop several related technologies towards a common business objective. The project consortium includes BT Exact, Empolis, iSOCO, Kea-pro, Ontoprise and SIRMA AI and brings their experts together with Europe's leading academic researchers in areas including the semantic web, human language technology and knowledge discovery.

Stewart Davies, BT Exact's chief executive, said: "Having to wade through reams of irrelevant and disordered information to find what you're looking for is frustrating. It undermines the internet's promise of immediacy and its potential as a tool for knowledge. SEKT is a project that will significantly shape the future of the internet and BT Exact is very happy to be leading the research".

Daniele Rizzi of the European Commission, said: "Today's software makes us information rich but insight poor. People are overloaded and overwhelmed by the information they're bombarded with. Channels that were supposed to make our lives easier, such as the internet, have only added to our plates in some cases. It's wonderful to have so much information available to us but we have to learn how to harness it. The work that we are doing through project SEKT will help move us from information to a knowledge society, and this is very exciting."

Initial case studies from which SEKT will be more widely executed include libraries in the legal, media and telecommunications industries.


It's certainly a challenging idea, although whether the end product lives up to the founding ideal remains to be seen.
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