Posted on Saturday 9 April 2011 by Ulster Business

Alan Watts - Halo

Sophia Search CEO Dr David Patterson has taken a global approach

Halo Director Alan Watts gives the first in a regular series of updates on the companies and initiatives supported by the twin programmes of the Northern Ireland Science Park - Halo and NISP CONNECT.

Sophia Search is a great example of the new breed of companies in what is known as the 'knowledge based economy'. This is a great sounding phrase but what does it really mean? Well for a start it means that there are no articulated trucks loading up with goods. Sophia exports, but not in crates and cartons. It is a local high technology company who have developed revolutionary new search engine technology which makes it easier to find information within organisations. It is an 'intelligent Google', specifically designed to search Organisational information, providing a better means for companies to discover what information they have and where they have it - especially if that data is unstructured in nature, ie stored in documents such as word, pdf, email etc.
"One of the first things the company did was to open an office in San Jose, Silicon Valley, staffed by experienced sales people. This is quite an aggressive step for what is still in effect a start up."
As one example of why this is important, in these litigious times, deleting old files and data can be problematic, especially if a court later questions why it was deleted. Companies often have a data destruction policy - routine deletion of project data a certain time after project completion. But then how do you find all old versions of these files to be sure they are deleted? Sophia products have a unique ability to automatically understand the meaning of information and present it in context to users, in this example for potential routine destruction. The opportunities for growth in this sector are vast, which helped attract a record investment of over half a million pounds through the Halo business angel network to fuel the company's aggressive plans. Finding relevant information is a big problem for organisations who are frustrated with the limitations of current tools. Research shows that people are far less satisfied when searching within their organisations than when searching the web. So the Sophia products are software tools and their markets are global. One of the first things the company did was to open an office in San Jose, Silicon Valley, staffed by experienced sales people. This is quite an aggressive step for what is still in effect a start up. They also had the vision to attract a world class chairman in Dr Chris Horn, the founder of Iona technologies. Now add to this a team which includes some very experienced players and core technology spun out of the University of Ulster with the State University of St. Petersburg in Russia and the 'knowledge economy' package is complete. And it is this package which can deliver rapid growth, employment for our graduates, attract world class engineers to the country and deliver good financial rewards for the NI economy. Sophia is partnering with a number of technology companies in the increasingly important US market - both on the East and West coasts. Sophia's global approach is focusing initially on strategic sectors such as Life Science, Publishing and Legal Discovery. It has already developed important partnerships with companies such as IBM, Accelrys, Arcivate, ACS Systems, BarrachD, Correlation and The Thinking People Group. The appealing thing about the Sophia technology is that it isn't just stand alone, it has been designed with flexibility and integration in mind and as such it can be used to augment any existing application with the advanced capabilities it offers. Many partners are utilising this capability and delivering Sophia powered applications to the desktops of their customers. There is an entrepreneurial eco system developing in Northern Ireland to grow successful, aggressive companies like Sophia with worldwide ambition. Sophia came through the 25K Awards, Seedcorn and Halo, with additional support from Invest NI and is now positioned to emulate the success of its Chairman in his first company Iona.

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