IBM says it has acquired a maker of linguistics software that law enforcement and other agencies can use to detect aliases frequently used by international terrorists and other criminals. The software, developed by Language Analysis Systems of Herndon, Va., can also be used by health care providers and other businesses to better manage lists of customer names and avoid costly duplications. IBM disclosed the deal Thursday, but didn't release financial terms.
The LAS software works by comparing a name in a database to known variations of the name, aliases frequently associated with the name, alternate spellings, and other attributes. Beyond law enforcement, it can also be used by banks to help spot money launderers, by airlines that wish to weed out duplicate reservations, and by retailers wanting to identify serial refund seekers that use slightly different versions of their name in different stores.
One feature of the software is its ability to determine when a name that's spelled different ways in different countries is, in fact, the same name. For instance, the first name of former German Chancellor Schroeder is spelled Gerhard in some countries, Gerhardt in others. LAS' software also determines in which instances Gerhardt Schroeder is the same individual as
Gerhard Schroeder, and in which instances it's a different person. This feature could help international law enforcement agencies that share data across borders determine when a person wanted in one country is the same person that's been arrested in another country.
Analysts say software products like those made by LAS will increasingly become "must have" items for companies as more business becomes international. "Business suites must include complete, multicultural identity management solutions as the global operations and outsourcing trend continues," says Technology Business Research analyst Stuart Williams. LAS represents IBM's seventeenth acquisition in the information management market since 2001.