Hummingbird flies away with upgrades

Markham, Ont.-based Hummingbird Ltd. is betting the nest that customers will flock to its recently upgraded portal and collaborative technologies.

Portal 5.0 now offers tighter integration between document management, business intelligence, knowledge management and content management. It also features additional functionality such as Hummingbird Messaging, a messaging system that allows for communication with applications integrated in the portal as well as other users. Also, mobile users are now able to connect to the portal, according to the company.

“There is an upgraded user interface. We wanted to take advantage of (the) modern browser features and make it as simple as possible. From a portal specific feature, we added the ability to support wireless devices,” said John Bellegarde, director of product strategy for Hummingbird in Markham, Ont. The product is upward compatible from version 4.0 and supports short message service (SMS), he added.

Development of the offering’s wireless element posed an intriguing technology challenge, as the major carriers operate on varying standards. A separate infrastructure was created to ensure the devices would be compatible.

The company’s next release, Collaboration 5.0, now includes a Meeting feature which provides the ability to schedule single or multiple meetings on a project. Also added: a new calendaring feature which allows users to create events and invite users to participate in group events. The product also supports the W3C consortium’s Web Services standard for interoperability between Internet-enabled applications.

“The collaboration framework allows you to take content and information from the portal and to be able to securely communicate with your customer. One of the big aspects (of the offering) is the security architecture,” Bellegarde said, adding that the entire repository is 128-bit encrypted.

As data continues to flood most organizations, the true benefits of a portal implementation are that traffic on the network is minimized and the overall maintenance of data and databases is also simplified, one analyst said.

“The nature of the portal is that it consolidates access to specific information. In doing so, it makes navigating to relevant information much easier and therefore less navigation needs to be done,” said Phil Cohen, director of Internet research for IDC Canada in Toronto.

For a portal user, one advantage Cohen pointed out was that it allows for two pieces of data to be viewed either simultaneously or side by side so that the information can be compared – an element that could benefit companies that deal with sophisticated data management scenarios.

Centennial College in Toronto installed a portal in December 2000, but didn’t stop there. Shortly after, officials at the school’s main campus decided that they wanted to offer students the wireless option and initiated a pilot projection that is now in its second year.

While the pilot is being limited to one location, Lan Nguyen said that all four Toronto-based campuses will offer wireless connectivity to laptops and to Compaq’s iPAQ pocket PC once the pilot is complete.

“It’s going to be rolled out for students, faculty and staff so that they can go anywhere on the four campuses,” said the vice-president of innovation and IT partnerships for Centennial College. Within the portal, students can access course material, schedules and grades via the wireless devices.

Both of Hummingbird’s offerings are available now. For more information, visit the company on the Web at