Semantic search set to brush aside old hat tech

Semantic search set to brush aside old hat tech

Semantic search pioneer Fact-Finder is targeting the UK after Thomas Cook German subsidiary Neckermann Urlaubswelt started using the technology.

The German online travel agency went live with the search technology yesterday (Thursday February 16) joining weg.de, which has been using it on its homepage since January 25 after a two month test.

Carsten Kraus, Fact-Finder founder, said he plans to take the technology international beyond its European core in the next few months with the UK and US on his radar.

He said following exhibiting at WTM in London last November he has 200 leads to follow up and that he was already in discussions with some major players.

A tie-up with a leading UK travel technology specialist was forged at last week Travel Technology Europe show and Fact-Finder is already working with Amadeus leisure arm Traveltainment.

“With our search as soon as the consumer has been explained to how it works and that they can really type in what they want, it takes them one third of the time to find the right holiday compared to conventional search,” said Kraus.

Semantic search is an intelligent tool that uses a powerful algorithm to determine what the true intention of a search is rather than the literal meaning.

This has been adapted to cope with mis-spellings, local language nuances, abbreviations and slang and allows a user to type in all their requirements to find the best match.

“We understand what people mean from the words they use and we will learn from customer behaviour what new words mean.

“Conventional search is maybe intelligent but does not understand what people are looking for, it just matches keywords. But travel requires searching for things which are not necessarily the keywords in the text.”

As an illustration, Kraus said the system will interpret any search using the word toddler, to mean that the customer is likely to be looking for things like babysitting services, a family room or a childrens’ pool.

If the user simply types in Christmas rather than a defined period it will know what dates that refers to and what range of dates the customer is likely to be interested in.

Fact-Finder has the details of the 30,000 most popular hotels for Europeans in its own database and it will also cross reference this with the data held by its tour operator partners.

The database also contains data about weather and other local tourist information and properties are geo-coded so results can be served relevant to location-based searches.

The firm currently does not have any UK travel clients but Television shopping channel QVC is using the technology.

Kraus said he expected if the roll out with Neckermann Urlaubswelt goes well it will be rolled out across Thomas Cook in Germany and possibly in other markets.

“What you get on the internet with OTAs today is 20-year-old search technology. We think people will move from standard search to the kind of search we offer and people will stop using OTA sites which do not have this kind of search.”

Fact-Finder works on a profit share model and can integrate its search into partner sites in a matter of days.

The system does not require greater computing power provided by the sites that use it as all the additional capacity required is provided by its own 200 servers. These can handle 300 million queries per month, said Kraus.

In Germany it already works with 53 of the top 100 e-commerce websites and it has a strong presence in Italy and Poland and customers in France, Spain and Scandinavia.

Some customers are using the technology for sites aimed at the Chinese market because it can decipher all Chinese dialects and pick up optical similarities between Chinese characters.

The key focus is currently on the OTA and tour operator sectors, said Kraus, and it also has plans to target airlines.

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