Excalibur Tech targets complex retrieval apps

The concept of the Joint Intelligence Virtual Architecture a brainchild of the Defense Intelligence Agency has fired up imaginations at Excalibur Technologies Inc. a company specializing in the kinds of search and retrieval capabilities JIVA requires.

The details of JIVA itself discussed publicly for the first time earlier this month are still forthcoming [FCW Sept. 16]. DIA however has made one thing clear: The agency wants vendors to explore ways of sifting through large amounts and wide varieties of data very quickly in a widely distributed - in fact global - environment.

That is exactly the kind of vision Excalibur has been pushing its federal customers to explore. The company has moved from marketing shrink-wrapped document imaging and retrieval software to providing advanced tools for uncovering information in complex environments.

"I am real excited " said Tom Polivka Excalibur's director of federal operations in Vienna Va. "I see a critical mass forming. We have been out there preaching this saying `Here are the kinds of things you can do.' "

Whatever shape it eventually takes JIVA is certain to go beyond what Excalibur or any one vendor can provide with off-the-shelf technology. Still DIA's working vision of JIVA is not unlike that of other agencies that deal with large amounts of data including other Defense agencies and the Energy Department which number among Excalibur's customers.

Such agencies are seeking "the ability to tie together disparate sources to create knowledge and make complex decisions in a timely manner " Polivka said.

EFS Leads Product Line

The company is best known for its flagship Excalibur EFS client/server-based document management and retrieval application which can automatically index and file retrieved documents. EFS is used in numerous agencies including the Army's Gulf War Document Management Initiative which supports research on the Persian Gulf War syndrome.

The product is also available on the Navy's Supermini contract through Litton/PRC Inc. and the National Institutes of Health's ImageWorld contract through six vendors including BTG Inc. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Unisys Corp.

Excalibur EFS is based on Excalibur's core technology called Adaptive Pattern Recognition Processing. APRP involves dealing with data visually - that is searching and matching information based on binary patterns.That means for example that APRP-based software does not "read" documents for a word like "network" instead it searches for the word's bit-mapped image. That makes it possible to apply APRP to any form of digitized data whether text images video or sound.

For example the technology makes it possible to search a video clip for a particular matching image. APRP provides the capability for "fuzzy" searches so users can get results even where there is not an exact match.

Excalibur expanded its offering last year when the company merged with ConQuest Software Inc. Columbia Md. ConQuest had developed a sophisticated search engine that understands language semantics a feature that significantly improves search capabilities. Rather than searching strictly for the occurrence of a particular term ConQuest's Semantic Network software can recognize other terms or phrases that express the same idea.

Excalibur has brought these technologies together with its RetrievalWare product family. RetrievalWare includes a software developer's kit for building applications based on Excalibur's various search capabilities including APRP Semantic Network and Boolean logic.

The RetrievalWare suite also includes EFS for managing digital documents Visual RetrievalWare for managing digital images Profiling Server for filtering information in real time such as electronic mail or file transfers and Web Server for searching and managing large volumes of documents over the Internet.

Taken together the company is trying to build a technology that can handle virtually any form of data - whether structured or unstructured whether text or multimedia - from virtually any data source.And rather than just manage that information Excalibur aims to pull it together and "focus on the distillation of that information into knowledge " Polivka said.

That is what DIA apparently has in mind with JIVA he said. DIA officials need the ability to pull in information from across the globe - whatever its form -synthesize it and have it ready when they need to make critical decisions.

"RetrievalWare would be a good technology for that kind of program " said Jeff Mershinsky vice president of sales and marketing at Intrafed Inc. which has partnered with Excalibur on a number of projects. The technology already is proving itself on such projects as Persian Gulf War declassification which allows researchers to access and query information through the World Wide Web that has been gathered from 17 million documents generated during the war.

At the National Drug Intelligence Center and other intelligence or law enforcement organizations the same technology is used to drill through large amounts of data in situations where agency officials need very quick turnarounds Mershinsky said.

APRP "is a good sound concept and good technology " he said.

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