iAnywhere upgrades natural language interface middleware application

iAnywhere Solutions Inc. has released an upgrade to Answers Anywhere, a middleware product for building application interfaces where users can submit queries using natural language, the company said this month.

In a cell phone application, for example, a user could send a query such as “Where’s the nearest restaurant?” via SMS. Working in conjunction with a wireless operator’s location-finding system, the software translates the request into machine language It then queries back-end systems and sends a response back to the user.

It can usually work around spelling errors and grammar mistakes, according to iAnywhere.

The software is designed for enterprise use as well as by carriers. It works with cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and desktop PCs.

Users can submit queries using voice commands or via e-mail, SMS, WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) and other formats. Responses can come back in the same format they were sent or a different format.

iAnywhere, a subsidiary of database vendor Sybase Inc., acquired the Answers Anywhere technology when it bought Dejima Inc. early last year. The latest upgrade release is version 4.0.

It includes an improved context engine that helps applications figure out what related information a user might want. For example, if a user queries a sales application for contact information, the application will also dig up other information related to that account, such as past purchases.

Also new is a “hint engine” that suggests related information that a user might want. For example, when a person searches for a company contact, Answers Anywhere can recommend follow-up searches on directions to the location or background information about the company, iAnywhere said.

The software works with most of the world’s languages, according to an iAnywhere spokesman. The company worked with a Chinese service provider, Xiamen Xiangtone Information Technology Co. Ltd., on the version for the Chinese market, he said.

The price for the software remains unchanged at US$100 per seat, where a seat refers to the end user of the application. For carriers, iAnywhere will negotiate revenue sharing deals instead of per seat pricing.

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