Infrastructure software firm Autonomy today announced a major new initiative designed to expand and extend its meaning-based Idol technology to databases.
The Idol Structured Probabilistic Engine is a new product which Autonomy chief executive Mike Lynch claims will add a new level of intelligence to the database market.
The systems has been designed to understand "shades of grey" in structured data by applying the same Baynesian techniques Autonomy uses to process unstructured data, he said.
"The problem with database technology is that it's inherently about coming up with black and white ideas," Lynch explained. "But we can now get a database to be much more intelligent, and look at the world in shades of grey."
Lynch gave the example of booking a flight to New York. If the corresponding data in the relevant databases indicates that there are no flights available on the chosen day and time, a customer will be forced to search again using different values.
However, a travel agent would be armed with knowledge of the pattern of usage for a particular user, and would therefore ask whether they were prepared to fly to a nearby airport. The new Idol SPE has been designed to perform a similar task, making connections and suggesting results even when an exact match does not exist in the database.
The technology could be used in e-commerce applications by returning suggestions which are a close match if a customer's original choice is not available, Lynch said.
Sue Feldman, an analyst with IDC, suggested that the technology could be a major step for Autonomy on the road to providing customers with unified information access.
"There is a great divide between the data and the content side and unifying these is precisely what needs to happen," she argued. "Now we have another tool to help get at and understand information in a new way, and it's a really important development."
However, Feldman warned that the sophistication of the market has not yet caught up with the promise of tools such as Idol Structured Probabilistic Engine, so it could be a while before firms are able effectively to tap the potential of the technology to help transform their businesses.
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