Attensity partners with IBM

Published 18 October 2006

Companies, both leaders in managing unruly computer files, come together to improve the IBM Information Server; for Attensity, the deal is another success among many; for IBM, a way to attract customers interested in pulling relational information out of unstructured data

When we write about Palo Alto, California-based Attensity, we like to describe the company’s business as inventory management for information. In the same way that goods piling up in the warehouse hurt a company’s bottom line, the failure to successfully interpret and manage information can cause companies (and government agencies) to miss valuable opportunities — opportunities they will not even know they had. This is particularly true of unstructured text, such as e-mails, letters, and reports, that are not created using a template and are therefore unsortable beyond a simple word search function. According to Attensity, 85 percent of text in a company is unstructured in this way, one of the reasons why the worldwide market for natural language software is estimated to reach $1.84 billion by 2008.

The company has already achieved success marketing its software to government agencies — a strong pay-off as well for In-Q-Tel, which has invested $3-4 million — and has developed close relationships with such companies as Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. Now we hear that it is going into business with IBM to support the latter company’s IBM Information Server. As the Information Server purpose is to help companies integrate disparate enterprise data, and Attensity offers one of the industry’s leading text extraction and analytics suite, it is a natural fit, especially because the two share many of the same customers. “By collaborating with Attensity, we can solve some of the most pressing information management challenges faced by organizations today across the worlds of both structured and unstructured data,” said Pete Fiore of IBM.

How text analytics works

Attensity’s technology, which originated in research in linguistics done at the University of Utah, allows computers to understand and process free-form text, thus offering government and commercial organizations the opportunity to understand patterns in — and leverage — the vast amounts of information contained in nonstructured formats. The technology allows users to extract and analyze facts such as who, what, where, when, and why — and then allows users to drill down to understand people, places, and events and how they are related. The result is conveyed in XML and in a structured relational data format which can be merged with existing structured data. The data may then be analyzed using other Attensity applications such as Attensity Discover and Attensity Analytics, or through intelligence applications already installed in the organization.

Text analytics thus automates the transformation of unstructured text — from newspaper articles to e-mail messages — into structured, relational data, making it much easier, and much quicker, to spot trends, anomalies, patterns, and associations. An insurance company, for instance, might be interested in tracking fire-related claims in order to isolate areas of high risk. Attensity’s software not only would use advanced search technology to find all claim letters that mentioned the word ‘fire’ and all of its synonyms and related terminology, it would use linguistic assessment tools to give adjusters better information about who or what was causing the fires and whether there were any patterns in how they were being reported. There are critical homeland security uses as well. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for instance, once disrupted a drug-smuggling operation after exhaustive analysis of shipping manifests located a noun that was committing an unusual verb — a banana swimming or a light bulb reading, for instance (company officials, of course, would not provide the actual words used).

U.S. intelligence, security, and law enforcement agencies already use Attensity’s solutions to mine intelligence contained in freeform text, which comprises the vast majority of information collected. Attensity last year won IT Week’s award as one of 2005 Top 50 Technological Innovators.

-see more in this Attensity news release