IBM tool to help users search through e-mail

Big Blue has rolled out new search software from its research labs that’s aimed at allowing users to find information that may be buried in the vast amount of e-mail many people now store on the desktop.

The new IBM OmniFind Personal Email Search (IOPES), which can be downloaded for free, is a semantic search tool aimed at bringing the search mechanisms made famous on the Web by Google Inc. to the desktop, said Douglass Wilson, distinguished engineer and chief technology officer of IBM’s Lotus Development Corp. unit.

“One problem that many people have is they have tons of e-mail,” he noted. “They are using e-mail as their file management or document management system on their desktop. Search technology that is adaptive to the context in which you are working is fundamental. There is a lot here [in IOPES] about using simple language constructs to help the search system identify the context in which you are asking a question.”

The tool can interpret incomplete queries and find information such as phone numbers, people, meetings, presentations, documents and images, IBM said.

For example, it could help a user search for a person’s phone number even if the e-mail database doesn’t contain the words “phone” and “number” in the search. Users also can create, save and share personalized searches to be used later.

Available for Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, the tool has built into it common search term concepts such as dates, times and phones numbers. Additional search parameters such as meeting requests or specific locations also can be defined.

The new IOPES is part of IBM’s AlphaWorks program, which makes technology fresh from IBM’s research labs, but not fully formed into final products, available to users.

IOPES was created through a collaborative effort spanning IBM Research Labs in California, Israel and India. The software uses the Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA), an open-source software framework aimed at helping companies incorporate unstructured data such as like e-mail and call center notes into their analysis projects.

Originally developed by IBM, UIMA is now an open-source project at The Apache Software Foundation. UIMA is used in other IBM products including OmniFind Enterprise Edition, OmniFind Analytics Edition and OmniFind Yahoo! Edition.

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