AMI: From Albert Search to Market Intelligence
July 10, 2014
Editor’s Note: This is information that did not make Stephen E Arnold’s bylined article in Information Today. That forthcoming Information Today story about French search and content processing companies entering the US market. Spoiler alert: The revenue opportunities and taxes appear to be better in the US than in France. Maybe a French company will be the Next Big Thing in search and content processing. Few French companies have gained significant search and retrieval traction in the US in the last few years. Arguably, the most successful firm is the image recognition outfit called A2iA. It seems that French information retrieval companies and the US market have been lengthy, expensive, and difficult. One French company is trying a different approach, and that’s the core of the Information Today story.)
In 1999, I learned about a Swiss enterprise search system. The working name was, according to my Overflight archive, was AMI Albert.The “AMI” did not mean friend. AMI shorthand for Automatic Message Interpreter.
Flash forward to 2014. Note that a Google query for “AMI” may return hits for AMI International a defense oriented company as well as hits to American Megatrends, Advanced Metering Infrastructure, ambient intelligence, the Association Montessori International, and dozens of other organizations sharing the acronym. In an age of Google, finding a specific company can be a challenge and may inhibit some potential customers ability to locate a specific vendor. (This is a problem shared by Thunderstone, for example. The game company makes it tough to locate information about the search appliance vendor.)
Basic search interface as of 2011.
Every time I update my files, I struggle to get specific information. Invariably I get an email from an AMI Software sales person telling me, “Yes, we are growing. We are very much a dynamic force in market intelligence.”
The UK Web site for the firm is www.amisw.co.uk. The French language Web site for the company is http://www.amisw.com/fr/. And the English language version of the French Web site is at http://www.amisw.com/fr/. The company’s blog is at http://www.amisw.com/fr/blog/, but the content is stale. The most recent update as of July 7, 2014, is from December 2013. The company seems to have shifted its dissemination of news to LinkedIn, where more than 30 AMI employees have a LinkedIn presence. The blog is in French. The LinkedIn postings are in English. Most of the AMI videos are in French as well.
Advanced Search Interface as of 2011.
The Managing Director, according to www.amisw.com/fr, is Alain Beauvieux. The person in charge of products is Eric Fourboul. The UK sales manager is Mike Alderton.
Mr. Beauvieux is a former IBMer and worked at LexiQuest, which originally formerly Erli, S.A. LexiQuest (Clementine) was acquired by SPSS. SPSS was, in turn, acquired by IBM, joining other long-in-the-tooth technologies marketed today by IBM. Eric
Fourboul is a former Dassault professional, and he has some Microsoft DNA in his background.
Mike Alderton joined AMI Software in 2002. He started his career with Marshall Land Systems. He has 20 years experience in international enterprise software markets specializing in infrastructure, information retrieval and content processing. His background fits well with the French approach to content processing because search in France usually means “infrastructure” and other functions not described as “enterprise search.” (The guts of AMI, in my view, is search and retrieval.)
AMI’s Web site says:
The main core of AMI solutions is based on our own patented technology recognized for its many advantages:
- Fully-automatic operation, particularly in terms of content analysis and detection of trends
- High performance, particularly in regards to the management of large volumes of data and Big Data
- Flexibility in terms of integration, architecture and extensibility
With over 150 clients, AMI contributes to the success of many international organizations. The company has offices in the UK, enhance and Morocco with partner offices in the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia. (See http://www.amisw.com/en/company/about-us/)
AMI’s line up of services includes market intelligence (scraping, analyzing, and searching), social media monitoring (scraping, analyzing, and searching Facebook- and Twitter- like services), and sales intelligence (scraping, analyzing, and searching content on the Web and content available to a licensee).
AMI’s tag line is “enterprise intelligence software.” Its competitors range from Spotter (www.spotter.com) to Dassault Exalead, Sinequa, Antidot, Polyspot, KBCrawl, and dozens of other companies that have shifted from search to allegedly higher value services. The evolution of AMI is interesting because it, according to my notes, began as a search system called Albert. Over the years, AMI has morphed to follow market trends and work around the resistance pure search products began to encounter in 2005. At that time, search morphed into customer support solutions, business intelligence solutions, predictive analytics systems, and content governance systems, among others.
AMI’s Web site lists a number of organizations as customers. These include SNCF, Reed Exhibitions, the Mairie de Paris, La Poste, and Air France. The list is skewed to outfits that are French or have a Francophone anchor like Canadian government entities.
The company provides a timeline that shows the inject ion of about $30 million US from Swiss sources in 1999. The key point is that AMI has been in business for 14 years. Most search systems have long gestation periods, so AMI’s plumbing dates from roughly the same era as Endeca. By 2013, AMI was offering “cloud intelligence.” The company lists four patents. When I last looked at AMI, I was unable to match the patent identification umber to a patent. The inventions focus on language independent grammar, customer support, natural language interfaces for search, and natural language for customer support. I would like to compare the AMI NLP inventions with those of Google and a handful of other companies. I remain skeptical about NLP interfaces. Nuances seem to be difficult for Fancy Dan systems to figure out. I keep reminding IBM Watson that a live online demo of the open source3 and proprietary code approach that won Jeopardy would give me some jerky to gnaw.
AMI suggests that it is investing in financial data analysis, a field that struggling Digital Reasoning is pursuing, and image analysis, a field that LTU Technologies in Paris and Dassault Exalead have been chasing for a number of years.
Ami, like MarkLogic, is holding user conferences. This is good and bad. The good is that AMI can market to those who either have licensed the software, those who support licensees, or organizations considering the AMI system. The bad is that these product specific conferences pound nails in the coffins of generalized search and business intelligence conferences. The conference business, like the old school enterprise search sector, is fighting for survival. Some investment firms keep pumping money into companies with decades old technology. The likelihood of these astounding cash injections paying off decrease with each passing day. Elasticsearch and other open source options give outfits like Hewlett Packard and Microsoft headaches that no home run cure makes go away.
The AMI Web site promises that white papers will be available “soon.” There are some links to videos and a handful of case studies available. Will AMI tackle the US market? Will AMI become the primary provider of information access at the expense of Polyspot, Sinequa, and Dassault Exalead? Will AMI continue its trajectory of growth?
I don’t know. AMI has been changing to match what the market is buying. That’s one reason monitor the company.
Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2014