KM technologies

KM technologies

The most advanced of the technologies which are enabling KM is called the "knowledge server". Two examples of this are Fulcrum Technologies' Knowledge Network (KN), and Insight Technologies' Knowledge Server (IKS). The main functions of both are to simplify the way knowledge is presented. The traditional IT approach is to group data files in a directory structure according to where they are stored. The knowledge server creates a more intuitive interface that is based on what the files are about, and allows the user to ask normal questions to a familiar Web-style search engine. The server can monitor the pattern of a particular user's requests, and build a profile, which allows agents to seek and return new pieces of information according to that user's prefernces.

As an example, an existing icon in a knowledge server folder might say "New Marketing Ideas", and contain five items. Alternatively, a user might enter a query like "Tell me what new marketing ideas have been suggested", and get shown five items. The ideal is that even though these items might be stored on five different servers, in five different formats, and would need five different filters to be read, the user will be shielded from the IT complexities and be presented with an homogenous interface to view each of those five files.

Fulcrum's Knowledge Network presents a unified interface to multitudes of different types of formats.

Behind all of this lies a great deal of intricate back-end programming. In the case of Fulcrum's KN, this means a three-tier network, with the databases and other information sources at the bottom, object request brokers (ORBs) called Knowledge Activators in the middle, and a Knowledge Server at the top. In addition, one of the Activators, called SearchServer, allows developers to customise data mining applications by building a table of so-called "meta-metadata" for a particular set of database sources.

While the KN is up to version 2.5 after launch in early 1997, the IKS from Insight is due to be released later this year. Technical details are sketchy, but Insight promises to include all of the features of existing systems. Information is presented as icons, the company says, which can be "selected and dragged to pertinent areas to retrieve information, expand or narrow a search, or establish links with particular colleagues".

Neither package is without its proprietary limitations (or advantages, if you're a legacy user). Given that Fulcrum was acquired by PC DOCS last year, it was inevitable that the KN would be integrated with the latter's DOCS Open. Also, the KN is built on DCOM, the ORB technology which is tied to Windows NT, making it less suitable for Unix-centric networks. The IKS, too, is designed to work with Insight's document management, workflow, storage and imaging components.

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