IBM buys LAS for name recognition analytics

IBM buys LAS for name recognition analytics

IBM will buy Language Analysis Systems, a multicultural name recognition specialist.

IBM has agreed to acquire multicultural name recognition specialist Language Analysis Systems (LAS). The move builds on previous IBM's purchases in the analytics software market, notably last January's acquisition of identity resolution vendor Systems Research & Development (SRD).

The vendors didn't disclose the financial details of the deal. All 20 of the staff at LAS are expected to move over to IBM, according to worldwide marketing manager for IBM's Entity Analytics Solutions division, Andrew Friedrich. Established in 1984, LAS is a privately held company.

LAS specialises in applying business rules to data to determine the origin, cultural variations and meanings around names, including first and last names, nicknames, titles and company names. The vendor's software enables companies to work out whether two or more names spelled in different ways refer to a single individual or to a number of different people. LAS had undertaken more than 20 years of linguistic research involving nearly one billion names to develop its analytics, Friedrich said.

IBM is keen to widen the use of LAS software away from its traditional focus on government including homeland security applications, according to Friedrich.

Other areas in which LAS software could be employed include helping retailers to better verify the names and identities of individuals who steal products and then return them for store credit or cash without a receipt. Typically, such scammers produce identification that uses some variant or piece of their real name.

Combining LAS technology with IBM's identity resolution software from the SRD purchase could allow a cashier to run a fuller identity check while the scammer is still at the returns desk. Other usages include the travel and healthcare industries as well as local and state law enforcement, according to Friedrich.

Friedrich joined IBM with the purchase of SRD and said that his former company and LAS had done a lot of joint work in the past. "This is as good a fit as it gets," he said of the LAS acquisition.

While the LAS software focuses on name or identity management, the SRD software concentrates on resolving somebody's identity through the use of analytics to find relationships between different pieces of data.

IBM will continue to support existing LAS products while also integrating them into its Entity Analytics Solutions software and its WebSphere Customer Centre and WebSphere Information Integration middleware.

The vendor would probably replace its current Name Manager enhancement to its identity resolution software with LAS technology, Friedrich said. "We're just scratching the surface now," he said, adding that the uses for LAS software within different IBM divisions are numerous.

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