Information Management Online – Here, Now & The Future
So how is information management online progressing? What are we doing to ensure information retains usefulness to those that have access to it and how is the commercial influence on the industry shaping the tools we use today to access information?
Predictive Search – Search is Learning: As users have become subliminally accept of using short string based queries to search, various search technologies have taken steps to enhance the usefulness of so few words. Video sharing website YouTube’s popularity has lead to an influx of content from its users. The popularity of content submitted to YouTube is often circumspect to current cultural and social interests and affairs. This results in large user groups placing search queries that often contain similar words or characters within the search string. YouTube’s search algorithm has been developed to recognise certain words or word combinations and to predict a users next input or entire entry as they type it in real-time. A visual list of results is illustrated below the search field; users are able to select these links via keyboard or mouse in order to display content. This highlights a key progression in search technology, in that it provides an example where the search algorithm responsible for returning search results from explicit user entries, is adapting to provide more useful results based on the number of times certain words within the string are used in combination. Such technologies may help ensure that as the amount of information contained online grows, that users search queries provide results that are likely to be most appropriate, up to date and popular. Search is learning!
Information Mash Up – Location Aware Search: The next step for search is combining this ability to predict and learn from user input with other information such as our location to provide results that are far more context specific and relevant to our everyday lives. The internet is often perceived as an archive of static information. However, the web is used by the second to distribute up to date information that we make use of in innumerable ways. As the use of mobile media devices and telecommunications becomes common place, it is clear that location specific search is going to become increasingly technologically viable, accessible for its users and ultimately impact the type of information we wish to be made available. Location specific results are made possible by mobile devices relaying their location to search technologies via satellite technology. Location aware search has been a possibility for years, but like many things until the technology is broadly accessible, progress is often halted. The next extract from .NET magazine highlights this;
“It’s much harder to provide a good mobile search experience on phones that don’t have the same level of browser.” Douglas (2009, p. 39)
Real-time Localised Search: Now search technologies are in a position to provide searches making use of far more contextualised information variables, such as our location, our personal details and so forth, we can begin to expect that accessing useful real-time information will become far more common place. The webs big three; Google, Yahoo and Microsoft now all offer real-time traffic information based on your mobile location;
“Google Maps has caught up with Yahoo and Microsoft in adding live traffic reporting for the United States to their online mapping service…How about live traffic on the move? Google has offered live traffic data on their mobile version of Google Maps since July 25, 2006, and Windows Live also has traffic on their mobile version.” (Search Engine Land, 2007)
When you consider the companies involved in developing the technology and the current progress of mobile devices, it provides another lucid example of the relationship between commercial and corporate competition and accessible user technology, resulting in progressive products for consumer use.
Multimedia Search: Until now the way we search information has been reliant upon the written word and links between groups of words. However sophisticated search becomes at providing useful results based on search strings and text based information, it is undeniable that an increasing quantity of information is represented by multimedia content; images, video and sound. Will words remain the most appropriate way to search for such content in the future? For example; why can’t users submit search queries as a picture of Barack Obama and the search engine tell them who he is? Why can’t users upload an audio file and the search engine identify the song? Well it is apparent that many technologies are in the early stages of making such things a possibility.
“You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. TinEye is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks.” (TinEye, 2009)
This route to information is unique in that rather than relying on explicit input from a user and providing them with a match, it allows users to submit a query with no prior knowledge of what it is that they are looking at and allow the search engine to provide them with information. It assumes no prior information of knowledge is required on the user’s behalf. One can assume the same techniques are applicable to video based searching in the not too distant future. With regard to audio search, this is already a mobile reality;
“Back in 2002, Shazam launched a unique technology, enabling music lovers to identify tunes anywhere – using just their mobile phone. Now six years on, Shazam has been used by more than 20 million people in over 60 countries deployed by leading industry handset manufacturers and more than 75 carriers. Earlier this year it passed a key milestone of over 100 million iDs and continues to go from strength to strength.” (Shazam, 2009)
Author: Simon English – Purple Coffee Interactive, Guernsey, Channel Islands.