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EXPERT SYSTEM: THE LANGUAGE OF SUCCESS DEVELOPED IN ITALY
From a garage in Modena to a listing on the Italian Stock Exchange: this is the way in which Expert System can celebrate its 25 years of existence.
The company is a leader in the development of semantic software, used by companies for the efficient management of information.
It has even managed to win over Microsoft, which has integrated the company’s language software into the world’s most common office applications.
Expert System will close its books for 2013 with a turnover which, according to analysts, should total a little over 13 million Euros. We asked the Managing Director, Stefano Spaggiari, to tell us how the company came into being, and how he aims to expand the business, both in Italy and abroad.
What was the origin of Expert System?
It all started in a garage in Modena in 1989; we were three friends at university, and little more than twenty years old. We would arrive at 9 a.m. and work until 6 p.m., programming software on commission: an “alternative” job that helped support us. At 6 p.m., the real work began: the development of a grammar correction system, which we subsequently sold to Microsoft. This represented the biggest turning-point for our business. Our basic intention remains the same as it was 25 years ago; we wanted then, and we still want, to create software which is unique in the world, and to show that we Italians are also capable of producing (and exporting) cutting-edge technology.
How is your team made up? How many employees are there in the company?
It seems incredible, but we started with just three people, and now there are over 130 of us and we are thinking of expanding again. Our team is very skilled and specialised because we have concentrated on the relationship between language and computing. It is this unique combination which allows us to develop very advanced language software.
What is Cogito, and what is semantic technology?
Our cutting-edge product is the Cogito platform. We developed it in the early 1990s, and it forms the basis for all our products, designed to support all the activities related to information management - ranging from intelligent search engines to the analysis of Big Data, and from interfaces in natural language to the monitoring of social media. In practice, Cogito can understand any type of text, automatically and with great precision, enabling more efficient management of the enormous quantity of information available online and within organisations. In practical terms, semantic technology allows one to pick out the strategic facts, processing data and transforming it into information of value to companies. Cogito is also available in an English version, and in recent years we have also developed it in German, French, Spanish and Arabic. It is composed of an algorithmic element and of a basic semantic network of concepts, and therefore acts as an independent language. This means that it is not tied to any specific language and so provides an excellent basis from which to start when analysing any sort of idiomatic language.
Who are your main clients? Do you have clients abroad?
We now have some very important Italian and international companies among our clients, including Eni, Ansa, Chevron, Rcs, Telecom Italia, Il Sole 24 ore, Ing Direct, and many more. In general, our technology can be used to assist any business – public or private – which is facing challenges in relation to information management.
How do you see the company expanding and growing?
The fact that we are now listed on the AIM Italia exchange provides a further opportunity for growth for our company. The purpose of this move is to attract capital to maintain our process of internationalisation, but also to continue the evolution of our technological platform and to develop the company as a whole: both in terms of size and at organisational level. We already have offices in the USA and we would like to open more, including in Great Britain. Also, we are looking towards the German-language market, and to the Middle East.