The world’s largest science experiment has paved the way for the UK to develop the next generation of internet search engine.
Two high tech start-up companies from Cambridge are utilising the massive global computer grid, designed to analyse the unprecedented amounts of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The companies – Imense and iLexIR – have created a joint venture – Camtology – to use their individual expertise and products together to search both text and images online.
Dr Liz Towns Andrews, director of knowledge exchange at STFC said: “This is an excellent example of what happens when the possible wider applications of new research and technologies are considered. In this case, the Grid, that addresses the computing challenges faced by physicists analysing the vast amounts of science data generated by the Large Hadron Collider, is also solving the problems faced by Imense and iLexIR.”
Both companies are using GridPP to test and enhance their software. Funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), GridPP was built to be able to handle and analyse the UK’s share of the petabytes (one petabyte is one quadrillion bytes) of data that will be generated by the LHC annually, requiring huge data storage and processing capabilities.
With the aim of becoming the ‘Google’ of image searching, Imense has developed a search engine that will make sense of the huge numbers of pictures on the World Wide Web. Rather than relying totally on text descriptions of images entered by hand, the software can literally look at a photo and recognise the colours, shapes, objects and scenes.
iLexIR, is focussing on natural language processing. Current search engines present pages of results in order of expected relevance to a query, based on key words typed in by the user, resulting in vast numbers of irrelevant pages being returned and some important results not being presented. The use of natural language can help with both interpreting the query and also with interpreting the pages with the potential answers.
The joint venture will now look at using both products together to search text and images, and has started work on bringing together their expertise into a demonstrator model.