Expert System is a perhaps little known "semantic intelligence" company; but it has 15 years of experience in the tech industry, 115+ employees and is bringing in a very solid $12 Million a year in revenues from over 100 corporate and government clients (at 40% growth over the past two years). The Italian company's core technology is the Cogito platform, a sophisticated system which searches, extracts and classifies unstructured information and makes it into structured data. Cogito (which translates to "I think" in Latin) is bringing semantic technologies to the mainstream commercial world, including online advertising.
We spoke to Brooke Aker, CEO of the US subsidiary of Expert System, to find out more about the underlying technology of Cogito and its commercial applications. In particular we talked about how Expert System is using semantic technologies to power a new type of advertising.
The basic premise of Cogito is that it transforms unstructured information into structured data. Out of this process comes a "semantic network", which is much the same thing as what rival company Cognition called a "semantic map" in our September '08 interview with them. It's important to point out that Cogito isn't necessarily a 'Semantic Web' application, but it does use things like natural language processing and other semantic analysis. It can output RDF, but that isn't a fundamental part of Cogito.
Brooke Aker described the system to us as being like an "electronic dictionary". There are 350,000 words and 2.8 million "relationships" in Cogito. Cognition claimed 10 million "semantic connections" in its map back in September, but Aker suggested that it wasn't quite an apples and oranges comparison. According to Aker, Cogito's semantic network is "richer" than Cognition's.
Expert System's new semantic advertising solution, Cogito Semantic Advertiser (CSA), came about because the company saw that traditional contextual keyword advertising is resulting in a lot of inaccuracies and mistakes when matching ads to page content. The classic example is the jaguar one, where a story about a jaguar (the animal) is accompanied by a 'contextual' advert for jaguar the car. Expert System told us that this kind of scenario won't occur with their semantic advertising system.
Expert System claims to have come up with an advertising solution that understands "the real meaning" of words, based on theories of human comprehension. For example, their system analyzes the semantic meaning of words and their context. So in the jaguar example, Expert System would 'understand' that jaguar is an animal in the context of the story - and therefore it would not serve up ads about the jaguar car.
One feature of Cogito Semantic Advertiser that stood out for us was the granular categorization, which allows for very fine grained targeting of ads. Brooke Aker told ReadWriteWeb that their product has already created around 2 million niches for advertisers to target, which is something that many Long Tail publishers will find appealing.
We're impressed by the semantic software that Expert System is producing, not just with advertising but in other commercial and government applications. Let us know in the comments if you've come across this company before and if so, what your thoughts are.