Inxight takes search tool farther

Inxight Software Inc., which was spun out from Xerox PARC in 1997 to focus on content management and information retrieval, says it has a "next-generation" search tool for businesses struggling under information overload.

The company, which offers a range of search and content management products, on Monday introduced Smart Discovery 3.0, which combines technologies such as automatic categorization and the display of search results in a hierarchical view that previously had only been available separately. The product is aimed at managing unstructured data such as Microsoft Corp. Office files, Web pages, e-mail messages, research reports and news feeds.

A new product that expands on Inxight's MetaText Server, which automatically categorizes and classifies content, Smart Discovery also adds features such as taxonomy management and guided information retrieval, says David Spenhoff, vice president of marketing at Inxight.

Smart Discovery "combines all these elements of unstructured data management - taxonomy management, classification, data visualization and MetaText extraction - and combines them into a single product that helps companies organize, analyze and deliver information out of any unstructured data source," he says.

Inxight competes in the flooded search market with vendors such as Verity Inc., Autonomy Corp., Inktomi Corp., Divine Inc. and ClearForest. Inxight uses so-called natural language technology, which means its software can understand words in context. So, for example, it knows that 'San Francisco' is not two separate words, but is the name of a city. It would recognize 'San Francisco Giants' as the name of a sports team.

In addition, Inxight gives users a visual map of its search results, enabling them to drill down in certain categories, including those they may not have considered before searching for their information. Inxight also supports about two-dozen languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

Search vendors are focused on combining multiple capabilities into a single product, and the market, which has hundreds of vendors today, is seeing consolidation as a result, analysts say. Inktomi, for example, recently acquired Quiver, which makes categorization and taxonomy software, to enhance its search product.

Inxight, which also announced a US$22 million round of funding on Monday, says it is looking at possible mergers or acquisitions to enhance its search technology.

Sue Feldman, research vice president content management and retrieval software at IDC, says Inxight is providing one of the most complete search offerings with Smart Discovery. She says there is growing demand for comprehensive tools such as Smart Discovery because of the increasing amount of digital information within businesses. She estimates that knowledge workers spend anywhere from 15 percent to 33 percent of their time digging for information, coming up empty about half the time.

Feldman says that a company with 1,000 knowledge workers loses about $6 million a year due to time spent on unsuccessful searches. What Inxight is doing with Smart Discovery is providing businesses with an integrated method of managing information for the easiest retrieval, she says.

"What happens with adding all of these modules is you improve the accuracy and your ability to forage around and find the right information. And that cuts down on all of the cost that is bleeding away from the enterprise," she says.

Smart Discovery, which uses Java and XML, integrates with portals and content management systems, Spenhoff says. The software runs on Windows NT and 2000, as well as Sun Solaris. Pricing is determined on a per-server basis and starts around $250,000.

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