IBM Buys Identity Company to Nail Down Whos Who

By acquiring identity resolution company SRD, IBM aims to integrate the company's products for melding together data from multiple sources and analyzing non-obvious relationships.

You have a Richard Smith of Maple Street who once ripped off your casino. Now, Dick Smith of Maple Avenue wants a job as a cashier. Is there a connection, should you worry, and do you have the software that even suggests a possible link?

Thats the type of scenario IBM hopes to address with its acquisition of the privately owned identity resolution company SRD, announced Friday. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

IBM is already marketing SRDs products, which include ERIK: Identity Recognition Software, to be renamed IBM DB2 Identity Resolution, and NORA: Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness Software, to be renamed IBM DB2 Relationship Resolution.

The Identity Resolution product accepts data from multiple sources and databases and melds it together, using built-in heuristics techniques such as name stemming and address variations, to compare disparate renditions and let you know whos really who.

NORA, on the other hand, analyzes non-obvious relationships to identify whos associated with whom or with what other organizations. For example, if your felonious Richard Smith of Maple Street shares an address with a job applicant named Mary Smith, NORA is designed to point out the potential relationship and its potential risk to an organization.

According to Richard Wozniak, IBMs director of BI (business intelligence) marketing, the ability to draw records from, say, a Department of Motor Vehicles database and compare it with a database of parolees names is vitally important for a wide variety of businesses.

That list includes any business that must concern itself with fraud and/or that needs to know exactly who its customers, clients, employees or visitors are, such as those in the sectors of government—particularly national security—financial services, health care and insurance.

With this newly acquired technology, as users add more and more data sources, accuracy goes up, Wozniak said. "Once you have a database of resolved identities, it can find people across multiple layers of separation," he said.

"It might say that Joe Smith has the same phone number and address as Susan Kelly, and if Joe Smith is a known casino cheater, then its very important to know that if Susan Kelly comes in to apply for a job as a card dealer, you get a match. … As a hiring person, youd be interested in knowing she was living with someone who was a convicted casino cheater."

In terms of IBMs overall BI strategy, this is just one piece of the puzzle, according to Dan Vesset, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Mass. The acquisition will extend the analytic capabilities of IBMs Information Management software portfolio, which it has been bolstering with acquisitions as of late. For example, it acquired Alphablox Corp., a maker of analytic tools, in July.

Next Page: How the SRD acquisition fits in.