Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Business Intelligence and Google

Business Intelligence is celebrating 50 years since conception in a paper by Hans Luhn, and Google turned 10. Upon re-reading A Business Intelligence System from 1958, I see a great many parallels with Google and indications of their future.

The essence of Luhn's idea is a super-librarian who knows the details of all the books and documents in the library, knows the concerns and preferences of all the people with library cards, and plays matchmaker.

The first concept is an auto-abstract, essentially a summary of the document (not unlike the little blurb under a search result). With advances in natural language analysis, search engines like are focussing even more on content and relevance than pagerank.

Next, Luhn mentions that after new documents are analyzed, parties who might be interested in them should be notified of their existence. I love Google Alerts, because they help me stay abreast of the latest mentions of my name, my company, and my industry.

Then there is the ability to query the librarian, which is just a search. According to the 50 year old article, the request for information should yield a list of abstracts ordered by relevance to the user. The user can then request the complete documents they choose.

Where will Google go from here?

The system that Luhn defined has profiles of its users that are more abstract and change over time based on feedback. Imagine a search engine that learns that when you refer to "fencing" you mean the sport instead of the building supply, by tracking which results you click. Google can already capture your web history.

Also, the article talks about "internal documents", which are user created. Google owns Blogger, and YouTube, and offers services for creating web sites, documents, and spreadsheets. They could leverage this information to help develop user profiles and even connect users with similar interests.

I don't know if Hans Peter Luhn was reincarnated as Larry Page or Sergey Brin, but Google is pretty close to his vision of A Business Intelligence System.


Byron Igoe said...

I thought I was the only one to notice BI's 50th anniversary, but Seth Grimes noted it in Intelligent Enterprise with BI at 50 Turns Back to the Future.

Timo Elliott said...

The full text of his famous BI document here:
Hans-Peter Lund