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Solcara: Human Language Technologies Transfer

Solution Overview

Industry & Country
Knowledge Management Solutions, UK

Related Links

? Solcara

? The Metropolitan Police



? EPSRC: The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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?We use PressBureau to ensure that we consistently communicate the right information, to the right people, at the right time?

?.... This provides users with a 'thread' through which they can track an incident from start to end ....?

?.... They can also easily search and retrieve previous records quickly and efficiently should there be renewed interest in an old story.?

Bob Cox
Chief Press Officer, New Scotland Yard

?The SMART award will enable Solcara to develop non-proprietary tools that will lower the cost of effective Knowledge Management ....?

?.... increasing returns on investment and enabling small to medium enterprises to reap the benefits of this discipline ....?

?.... Advanced text mining, document navigation and the application of linguistics will take KM into a new league?

Charlie O'Rourke
Sales & Marketing Director, Solcara Ltd


This success story illustrates how Solcara, a supplier of knowledge management solutions, can act as an enabler for technology transfer in the UK, and how its key product, 'PressBureau', has been adopted by 6 key police forces in the UK. It also shows how this has led to the development of their new InTheNews product, which takes advantage of state-of-the-art computational linguistic tools.

Solcara Ltd was established in March 2001, and the management team evolved from Dataware Technologies (UK) Ltd. It is owned by its directors, and has over 130 clients ranging from government departments to law firms and from oil companies to police and other security services. Solcara focuses on the development and deployment of solutions that address complex information management and knowledge sharing requirements using the latest technologies and development platforms.

In October last year, the company was awarded a SMART grant from the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to fund research into the use of new techniques, using linguistic and natural language processing tools to significantly improve the searching and retrieval of structured and unstructured information.

The Police Force's Press & Information Management Problem
The police force press liaison task is a clear example of an information management hotbed. Every large incident generates hundreds and thousands of press enquiries for information, and there is a need to provide timely, consistent and accurate information to the press both for the successful conviction of criminals, and for police force relations with the media and the general public.

New Scotland Yard, headquarters of the UK's Metropolitan Police, operates one of the busiest press offices in the country, handling 500 to 600 enquiries and at least one major incident every day. Their information management problem is clear.

A few years ago, Sir John Stevens, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, set out his plans for a more proactive relationship with the media and general public, concluding that a cautious approach can breed suspicion and contempt, while an open approach will breed confidence and respect.

Bob Cox, Chief Press Officer at the New Scotland Yard, outlines his policy, "We are open and honest in dealing with the media and respond to their enquiries within their deadlines as far as possible. We will tell the media things which:

  • are in the best interests of the public to know about;
  • help to show the public the way in which the police go about their work; and
  • help to build public confidence in the police.
However, in doing so we need to balance the policing benefit against protecting the rights of any individual or victim and ensuring the successful conclusion of any investigation."

Solcara PressBureau
Solcara PressBureau was first developed to tackle the information management task of providing a clear and consistent information line to the press at times of major incidents for the Metropolitan Police. It has since been installed by five other Police Forces, with numerous others expected to install the system over the next year or so. PressBureau is designed to help Press Officers manage communications with the Press around an incident and, depending on how one defines an incident, can apply to a wide variety of markets, e.g. airlines, oil & gas, pharmaceutical, automotive, etc.

Police customers for PressBureau use the software throughout their press and public relations branch. This not only allows the press officers to log all incidents and enquiries, it also keeps both the press and PR sections of the Branch in touch with what their colleagues are doing. More importantly it also enables them to have an accurate, timed record of exactly what has been asked by journalists and what has been released to the media. This released information may have to be legally disclosed later when court proceedings are taking place.

Bob Cox has said, "we use PressBureau to ensure that we consistently communicate the right information, to the right people, at the right time ? PressBureau allows us to easily record specific events and then link enquiries, responses and all subsequent developments. This provides users with a 'thread' through which they can track an incident from start to end. They can also easily search and retrieve previous records quickly and efficiently should there be renewed interest in an old story."

InTheNews: The 'Information Extraction' Add-on
Recent enhancements to the PressBureau type system include Solcara's development of a new product: InTheNews. This tool, which was launched in April 2002, allows an organisation to automatically track press coverage of the 'incident', enabling the press officers to see exactly what the press has said about them as a result of communication.

Solcara has integrated advanced topic extraction tools. These NLP methods allow for relevant articles relating to an incident to be found quickly and easily. This product automatically delivers breaking news from authorised and trusted sources based on subjects, topics, and keywords that an individual user can set and control. The product searches multiple, online content repositories, and distributes the results to specific users, or groups of users.

The SMART Grant and Technology Transfer
Smart is the Small Business Service (SBS) initiative, run through the DTI, that provides grants to help individuals and small and medium-sized businesses to make better use of technology and to develop technologically innovative products and processes. Solcara was awarded a grant of ?45,000 to carry out a feasibility study to discover how they can make use of the state-of-the-art linguistic technologies coming out of Universities to enhance their knowledge management solutions.

The feasibility study has involved them identifying which UK universities are undertaking research into computational linguistics, to examine the applications of the research in detail, and to consider possibilities for packaging and commercialising research results. The study results have shown that there are a number of commercialisation possibilities coming from University research.

Industry and University Collaboration: The SOCIS Project
SOCIS stands for Scene of Crime Information System, and is an EPSRC-sponsored R&D project between the Universities of Sheffield and Surrey, being run in collaboration with 4 UK Police Forces and software systems houses Motion Touch and Solcara Ltd.

The aims of SOCIS have been:

  • to explore links between language and vision, to develop a method for automatically generating representations of digital images from spoken descriptions,
  • to build, integrate and use domain ontologies and terminologies for knowledge acquisition and information extraction (IE), and
  • to develop strategies for adapting IE systems for different subject domains.
These aims have been pursued in the environment of scene-of-crime (SOC) information collection. In particular, knowledge acquisition and information extraction approaches are being combined with a visual information system to store digital photographs. Off-the-shelf digital camera and speech recognition technologies are being used to gather images along with verbal descriptions of their contents articulated by scene-of-crime officers and captured by a hands-free microphone.

Solcara has collaborated with the Universities of Surrey and Sheffield to evaluate the SOCIS system for commercial exploitation. Solcara's involvement is to determine how the system reduces investigation time, dramatically reduces costs and increases successful conviction rates.

In conclusion, Ray Jackson, Solcara's Managing Director, states that Solcara are keen to pursue links with key HLT research groups in the UK to provide further beneficial tools, such as PressBureau and InTheNews, to alleviate the information and knowledge management problem. He recognises that extracting knowledge from information in the knowledge economy is vital, and that linguistic technologies bring added benefits to this.

A further conclusion is that it is important to the UK, from a policy point of view, that the Department of Trade and Industry are committing effort and resources to the transfer of Human Language Technologies for enhancing established knowledge management solutions.

Full text versions of the success story are available for viewing or download in MS Word [44 KB] or PDF [20 KB] formats.

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