SOURCE: VantageWire.com - 2013 promises to be a good year for WordLogic (OTCQB:WLGC), a Vancouver-based firm specialising in enhanced predictive text. The firm, which enjoyed its first licensing revenues last year, is courting the business market with its "word chunking" technology, and has already sold it into the utility market.
Nothing is quite so frustrating as pecking out a long email on a smart phone screen, only to fumble and have the device’s text correction misinterpret your entry. Whole websites are devoted to SMS text conversations where a smart phone has misinterpreted what was typed. www.damnyouautocorrect.com has lots of them.
That can be funny in a personal context, but potentially catastrophic in a business one. For years, WordLogic has been providing software that helps people to input text correctly on mobile devices and PCs, while also speeding up the process with enhanced text prediction. Recently, it launched a business-specific version of the technology, designed to save people valuable time entering complex, industry-specific language.
In 2002, when WordLogic's technology was originally launched, touch-screen smartphones were still a dream. The industry was full of personal digital assistants (PDAs) like the PalmPilot, with cumbersome styluses. WordLogic sought to commercialize software technology that would revolutionize PDA interfaces, making it easier to enter complex series of words and phrases quickly. It launched a QWERTY-format software keyboard with enhanced word prediction technology that predicted what letter the user would type next.
WordLogic went further than existing predictive text products by developing a proprietary database format to store vast dictionaries of words more efficiently, increasing its ability to predict text entries properly. Today, it can store over 90,000 words and phrases in just 800 kb, which CTO Mark Dostie says is a quarter of the competition's size.
"We use nuances in language to avoid storing every single combination of words and letters," he explains.
Instead of storing an entire set of words, the database will store the root of a word only once, and will then store suffixes individually. For example, the words "headed", "heads", and "heading" all begin with the same word root: "head". That word need only be stored once in a smart phone's memory, and WordLogic's software can then use it to create many other words.
"Because that whole thing is patented, our competition can't do that. They have to go with a larger database," explains Dostie.
WordLogic originally launched the technology in 2002 for the Compaq iPAQ PDA, along with a PC version. The company sold the software to disability associations that in turn made it available to staff and clients.
The company began introducing new capabilities into the software, including phonetic analysis, which was useful both for disabled clients, and for children who were using phonetics as a way of writing. It also produced a version or a USB stick that could be taken to any computer (such as one in an Internet cafe), and used to provide a predictive keyboard.
There was also a version for the Windows Tablet PC, which Microsoft produced in the early 2000s, and which experienced some success in vertical markets before Apple revolutionized the market with its own iPad tablet.
During this development, WordLogic continue to innovate, introducing more capabilities into its technology. This included support for full phrases, enabling its software to predict whole sentences and even paragraphs, rather than simply words.
"It got to the point where you didn't have to type anything – you could just keep selecting things to build an entire phrase," Dostie explains. "We call the technology 'word chunking'. It enables us to build phrases based on their roots, leading to a complete paragraph."
The company’s main source of revenue to date has come from licensing, explains CEO Frank Evanshen. In 2011 it reached a deal with RPX, a license broker that represented larger companies wanting to protect themselves against patent claims. RPX paid $5m in license fees for its members, enabling them to use the technologies patented by WordLogic, which contributed to WordLogic’s Q1 2012 revenues.
The RPX deal proved the value of WordLogic's patents. It has six issued patents addressing data entry techniques for personal computing devices, and has another five patent applications under way. However, patent licensing isn't the only way that it hopes to make money in the future.
WordLogic also hopes to expand its revenue base through partnerships. “We will have some partners wanting to put our applications on their phones,” Evanshen says. “The input app is the most important app on the phone.”
Some partnerships will be OEM agreements, which promise to be among WordLogic’s biggest opportunities. When it first launched its technology, there were relatively few devices that could use it. Since then, the number of device formats has proliferated, to the extent that analysts regularly talk about the post-PC era. WordLogic’s technology could be used on tablets, smart TVs, and even GPS navigation systems, he predicts.
“Companies are competing for a piece of that mobile pie need something that separates them from the pack,” says Evanshen.
Market events bear this out. The market is eager for alternative input technologies. Swype, which offers a technology enabling users to type without removing their fingers from a virtual keyboard, was purchased by Nuance for $102.5 million.
Evanshen is confident enough to put the firm’s own money in - he initiated a stock buyback, which will conclude this August.
Now, WordLogic is targeting businesses with its technology. WordLogic for Business will incorporate several features to create an attractive package for vertical sectors.
One early WordLogic development was the use of personalization technology, which would learn a user's writing pattern over time. This enabled the technology to configure itself to the user, remembering commonly used words and phrases and suggesting those first, making the process of typing longer passages even faster and more intuitive.
As WordLogic increasingly targets the business community, it is tailoring this capability to appeal increasingly to specific industries. The personalization technology will be used in conjunction with multi-dictionary support, which allows for industry-specific collections of words. For example, a company might want to provide dictionaries for the healthcare industry that will focus on specialist terms.
Dostie recalls a prototype that WordLogic tested with cardiothoracic surgeons. “They found themselves writing ‘cardio’ and an ending. Now they just type the letter C, select ‘Cardio’, and pick a common ending which is specific to the user,” he says.
The company has identified many other verticals in which it can apply the technology. "Lawyers might access legal databases to get precedents for cases on their phones," Dostie says. The information dictionary could also be a compete database of who works at a company, along with addresses and phone numbers.
SAMSix, a geospatial tools company based in New York, is among the first users of the product. It is integrating the solution into its Emergency Management Suite (EMS), which utility companies use to respond to natural disasters such as extreme weather events.
SAMSix’s application is a good example of a situation where language needs to be accurate and clear. The more industry-specific and complex the language is, the more benefits word-chunking technology can bring. Phrases used by the utility sector when responding to emergencies might include: “crew to cut-in breaks on bank pole so station can be energized,” or “tree blocking road on top of primary”. These are not the kinds of phrases to mistype.
Complex phrases and words can often be misspelled. Predicting and filling them in correctly can help companies to use the correct language in communication. This can help to make them more compliant with regulations, for example, says Dostie.
“The other thing people have told us is that they might type a phrase, only to have the system suggest a better way of saying it,” he says. “So you see grammatical improvement.”
WordLogic for Business complements its dictionary and personalization support by using cloud computing technology to store that data, synchronizing them across different devices.
The cloud-based technology enables workers in vertical markets to switch between different devices such as smart phones, tablets, and PCs, while still using the same dictionaries and accessing their own personalized text predictions.
This technology can also be used inside a company to help tailor predictive text based on what users are inputting. If, for example, new terminology begins emerging in a company, the cloud-based technology will begin suggesting it to different users as others use it. In this sense, WordLogic's technology becomes a form of collective intelligence, percolating new terminology through an organization.
The technology will help specialist businesses, but it also has potential in the consumer space too. "One area that we want to step into next is social media," Dostie says. "We already have some clients providing access to their Facebook accounts. We could connect the dots to their friends, creating a social dictionary that tracks what's trending in your friends clouds and reflects that when you are talking to them."
In the social realm, this collective intelligence could also be used to de-emphasize phrases related to topics that people are no longer discussing. All of this helps to gently tailor predictive text behind the scenes, making it more appropriate to users on an individual basis and increasing the product’s appeal.
The cloud computing capability opens up still more opportunities for the technology, Evanshen explains. He envisages clients using the predictive text engine to search deep into the Internet, accessing information from multiple databases at once to create highly-personalized searches that span a person’s business and personal preferences. Google can produce highly tailored search results with its knowledge of what a user normally looks for, and its vast base of indexed online knowledge. WordLogic will produce results that know what the user wants to type before they have finished their typing, based on information embedded in a broad array of specialist and generic data sets online.
What’s next for the company? It has another patent in the works for a technology that Evanshen describes as ‘game changing’. WordLogic still won’t discuss it, but expect to hear about it soon.
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