What does Google's Hummingbird project have to do with my search system?

Google recently discussed a number of search enhancements that they have made to Google Web Search for desktop and mobile users. A number of these capabilities are finding their way into a new wave of enterprise search applications known as...

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Google recently discussed a number of search enhancements that they have made to Google Web Search for desktop and mobile users.

A number of these capabilities are finding their way into a new wave of enterprise search applications known as Unified Information Access (UIA) platforms. IDC is predicting that many of these UIA platforms will replace traditional search systems at most organisations over the next several years.

Amit Singhal, Google's senior vice president of search, recently spoke to reporters about the company's latest search project, known as "Hummingbird". "Hummingbird" is Google's latest search algorithm that improves contextual awareness of search, taking elements from Google's Knowledge Graph and Google Now.

Hummingbird uses Google's Knowledge Graph to help expand query terms into their related concepts rather than simply matching keywords in documents. Google's Knowledge Graph uses the Semantic Web and linked data as a starting point and then builds on top of it with more than 500 million objects and 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these objects.

With the addition of Hummingbird, Google is expanding the use of search on the web for desktop and mobile users. For example, a blog post about Google's search enhancements discusses how Google Search now expands and improves the results when used on a mobile device. Specifically, a voice search "Tell me about Impressionist artists" will display who the artists are and as well as additional information about the artists provided via related links. All of this information is available through Google Knowledge Graph.

Many of the capabilities and tools that Google has been developing are also finding their way into a new class of tools known as Unified Information Access platforms. These platforms are being offered by large vendors like IBM, Dassault and HP, Attivio, Sinequa, Coveo, Smartlogic, BA Insight and several others. They use text analytics, semantic networks, taxonomies and other clues to enhance and expand the role of the traditional enterprise search system.

These platforms are changing how users will interact with their organisation's search systems. With the advent of these Unified Information Access platforms, we expect to see the emergence of applications that embody trends that we are beginning to see today in web search systems like Google Search. These trends include:

  • The growth of Google Knowledge Graph-like content analytics analysing unstructured information, adding value via metadata, linkages to structured data and overall organisation
  • The pervasive presence of search as a core interaction pattern within organisations and on the Web
  • The shift to unified access technologies and the convergence of search with business intelligence
  • The increased usage of voice recognition, machine translation and machine learning technologies into a comprehensive set of tools for creating "virtual assistants" like Siri and Google Now
  • The emerging development and use of role-based unified information access applications (called InfoApps) for mobile and tablet based audiences

As Google Search continues to improve its search capabilities, expect to see these changes coming to your organisation's search system sometime soon.

Posted by Dave Schubmehl, Research Director, IDC

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