Two Developers Reborn as InQuira

Answerfriend, Electric Knowledge hope for success in the natural language arena as a combined company.

Two software developers in the natural language search space have merged to form a new company, InQuira Inc., which will launch Monday.

InQuira, which will be based in San Bruno, Calif., combines former rivals Answerfriend Inc. and Electric Knowledge Inc. On Monday, it will roll out three new applications that are a repackaging of those companies technologies for customer self service, corporate search and call centers.

The InQuira 5 product line combines natural language processing with the information retrieval of search engines. The software is designed specifically for the financial services, technology, telecommunications, automotive, utilities and government verticals, as it has vocabularies geared to those industries.

Company officials said InQuira 5 requires no maintenance or separate database and can answer questions without the creation of specific question-and-answer pairs. They also said the software has an accuracy rate of 85 percent.

Bank of America uses Electric Knowledge for search, a product repackaged as InQuira 5 for Search, according to Patricia Harris, vice president of e-commerce and customer care at BOA, in San Francisco.

"Im expecting theyll have greater resources now that they have funding. That should help the stability of the company," said Harris. Bank of America contributed to the $12.9 million funding round that launched InQuira.

"They should be able to do more [research and development] and improve their products," she said.

Bank of America uses the technology to answer consumer and small business customers questions about its financial services on its Web site. The search service is currently under the help section of the site and is only used by about 16 percent of customers visiting the site, though Harris said the bank plans to make the service more visible on the site.

"It gives them an answer in words and the most relevant answer, not just a page title and maybe the first sentence of the page," she said.

InQuira 5 is available now with pricing starting at $150,000 per CPU.