We may live in the Digital Age but tracking down the right data can still be incredibly difficult. Cambridge-based AI knowledge management company iKVA has developed quickfire software solutions for complex industry needs, as CEO Jon Horden explains.
It’s estimated that we spend at least 20 per cent of our time at work or study seeking information – a fact that iKVA founder, Dr Liang Wang, knows all too well.
As a post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge University, he found it almost impossible to source the information needed for his research, thus sowing the seed of an idea for a new way of finding data quickly and easily.
Search techniques have obviously transformed the way we look for and access information, but everyone uses slightly different keywords to find the same things, making it all too easy to fall down the online ‘rabbit hole’. And if you need specialist information, traditional searches don’t work well at all.
Dr Wang and iKVA co-founders Prof Richard Mortier, also from Cambridge University, and Prof Jon Crowcroft, of the world-leading Alan Turing Institute, set about building a Deeptech software solution based on the whole context of information, rather than specific keywords.
The result is iKVA’s award-winning Discover Platform, which uses vector-based technology to convert information from a vast range of sources, whatever the format and language (including documents, images, video, social media and even chat) to find accurate, relevant data in real time.
It’s the product of over “25 ‘man-years’ worth of research” as Jon puts it, with very exciting implications for business, particularly in the engineering, legal, commercial and developer sectors.
“Our solutions are really useful for large complex organisations with information spread across lots of departments, teams and even individuals. They eliminate the risk of ‘silo working’ and help companies make better data-driven decisions at the right time.
“For example, engineers typically deal with complex information in the form of large product specifications, manuals, customer briefs, contracts or tender opportunities.
“A tender management team may get the chance to bid on a huge building project in, say, Bangladesh…but the tender document is 150 pages.
“Our solution enables them to run through the entire tender – or sections of it – and access all relevant company knowledge straightaway.
“There’s no need to try and guess relevant keywords, do searches in other languages or translate foreign documents. The bid writer can simply take the relevant section, drop it into our platform, and all the information needed to write the tender is then available in English.”
iKVA also has a next-generation solution for traditional knowledge management and enterprise searches. Jon explains: “A data clean-up traditionally takes a huge amount of effort before the search can be installed. All the data must be in a common format, in the right directory, with correct tags, titles, and so on.
“Our systems take away all the ‘heavy lifting’ involved in traditional data clean-ups. We recently indexed all the information held at Cambridge University Library so they could install our system – and it literally took two hours!”
While the company is still relatively young – launching in 2019 – its solutions are already being used by prestige organisations such as engineering giant Mott MacDonald and Cambridge University Library.
Earlier this year, iKVA took part in Europe’s first Deeptech demo day hosted by Deeptech Labs. This accelerator programme and venture capitalist fund has been established by Arm, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Martlet Capital, Ewan Kirk and the University of Cambridge for post-Seed, pre-Series A companies looking to develop their prototypes into scalable products and services.
iKVA was one of just six companies invited to join the cohort from 1,910 companies across Europe, with the chance to pitch to an online audience of over 75 investors from 60 investment firms.
Jon says, “It was a privilege to take part in the event. One of the challenges with Deeptech companies like ours is the long incubation phase before we can take a product to market.
“Over the 13-week programme, we had the opportunity to get advice from lots of different industry experts on areas like strategy, sales and product placement, which we would not otherwise have had access to. It was an excellent experience, which has really helped shape our direction.”
As with any company, Jon sees both opportunities and challenges ahead for iKVA. More people are working remotely, meaning that – ironically – access to knowledge within their companies is getting harder.
“Lots of knowledge and information is now being generated in non-traditional ways. For instance, imagine we’re lawyers having a Zoom call, with lots of decisions made but no minutes taken. This is an opportunity for us because our solutions can access information in any format and make it available to anyone who needs it.
“The challenge – as with any early-stage company lies in funding – as it is getting harder to access in the current economic climate, hence we are looking carefully at funding rounds.”
Such caution is understandable. However, it’s safe to say that iKVA (whose name includes a reference to the Norse God of Wisdom) has pioneered a new era of insight into knowledge sharing and decision making – and their incredible voyage into discovery is just the beginning.
For more information about iKVA and its knowledge management software solutions, visit ikva.ai.
iKVA is also hosting two webinars to discuss the technology underpinning their solutions. Registration details are as follows:
September 29: a-voyage-into-discovery-tickets
October 6: vector-searchthe-information-revolution