LexisNexis looks to simplify search capability

Lexis-Nexis Group hopes to broaden the use of its RedBooks.com and Corporate Affiliates online products by incorporating iPhrase Technologies Inc.'s natural language search technology to make searching more simple.

LexisNexis' RebBooks.com, containing advertiser information, and Corporate Affiliates, listing company relationships, currently use a form-based query page to access a large, complicated structured databases. This week, the Dayton, Ohio company announced it is integrating iPhrase's One Step product that will allow nonpower users to use the products by typing in a question, such as "Who are the affiliates of General Electric?"

"iPhrase gives us the ability to allow the casual user to go into the site and not worry about being a trained researcher," says Tom Derry, general manger of LexisNexis. "They will be able to phrase a question in a normal, conversation way and still get highly relevant results."

LexisNexis' typical user is a corporate librarian or researcher trained in complicated searches. By adding a natural language search feature, Derry says a business development manager can quickly get background information for an upcoming client call without having to launch a big project.

The two companies are now working on customizing iPhrase's knowledge base by providing industry-specific synonyms and potential questions. This helps make the query results more accurate. A team of five LexisNexis employees are working part-time on refining the query translation process with a goal of rolling out the technology to users during the first quarter of 2002, Derry says. One Step will be installed on existing servers in LexisNexis' server farm in Dayton. The company had enough hardware to accommodate the iPhrase technology without the need for new equipment.

If this implementation is successful, Derry says they may integrate natural language search in to other LexisNexis products.

Terms of the deal between iPhrase and LexisNexis were not disclosed. However, LexisNexis parent, Reed Elsevier PLC, is an iPhrase investor.

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