GlobalSpec, a specialized online resource for engineering, has launched a new interface, added more powerful search functionality, and has introduced a specialized search engine it is calling "The Engineering Web," which it says provides "engineering context and relevancy" and access to hidden Web resources. The newly introduced engine searches more than 100,000 engineering and technical Web sites and provides searching of specialized content the company says is not available on any other search engine—application notes, patents, material properties, and standards.
In announcing the enhancements, Jeffrey M. Killeen, GlobalSpec chairman and CEO, said: "We have built the specialized search engine and content repository for engineers and technical buyers—everything of relevance, expertly classified and indexed in one place. In fact, we believe we have built the definitive search platform for the engineering community."
John Schneiter, president and co-founder of GlobalSpec, said: "Extensive research of our online community, as well as our own engineering experiences, told us that engineers and technical professionals are frustrated with general search engines and having to wade through pages of irrelevant results. We have built what they asked us for—and what we frankly wished we had ourselves as practicing engineering professionals—The Engineering Search Engine."
The company's proprietary SpecSearch allows users to search by specification more than 60 million parts in 1,000,000 product families from more than 10,000 supplier catalogs. GlobalSpec says it now has more than 1,000,000 registered users for SpecSearch (registration is free). Suppliers of the catalogs pay annual fees to GlobalSpec so that searchers can discover these products for free.
New with this launch is the ability to compare products in suppliers' catalogs in tabular form and even compare specific parts across suppliers. SpecSearch is proprietary technology that has been developed by GlobalSpec over the last 8 years. Schneiter said that the company built its own extensive taxonomy as well, and continues to expand it organically as needed.
The company also developed its own engine to search "The Engineering Web," though the results page looks and feels very similar to a results page at Google. However, a feature that offers suggestions to "Refine your Results" presents terms and topics that are generated on the fly from search results.
As a feature of The Engineering Web engine, users have the option of searching specifically for information in companies' notes about their applications. An application note is a document that describes the use of a product, and may contain quite detailed information and drawings. It may list detailed design specifications, as well as data describing how the product functions in different situations and with different variables. GlobalSpec uses an automatic text classification system to identify candidate application notes from all of the sites identified for inclusion in The Engineering Web.
To provide the other specialized content—patents, material properties, and standards—from the Hidden Web, GlobalSpec has partnered with other content companies. Abstracts of patents are available for free online and complete documents are available for purchase from its partner, MicroPatent. Patent information from the following sources is included:
- USPTO (U.S. Patent & Trademark Office): Granted patents from 1982 - present; Applications from 2001 - present
- EP (European Patent Office): 1982 - present
- WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization): 1982 - present
Access to standards is available through a partnership with IHS (Information Handling Services), which provides "the world's largest file" of active and historical standards, specifications, drawings, handbooks, and related technical documents. Users can search and see abstracts for free. Complete copies of technical standards are available for purchase, as hardcopy or as electronic downloads. IHS specializes in enterprise subscription sales, so this represents an additional distribution network for its products.
Corporate customers of MicroPatent and IHS run the risk of their engineers paying piecemeal to obtain patents or standards via GlobalSpec that the company already has access to through enterprise subscriptions. GlobalSpec admitted this could be an issue, with companies paying twice for the same information when employees were unaware of available resources. But, thinking on the spot, Killeen said it was conceivable they could work with their partners to get the ISP addresses of customers and then send a notice if this was about to occur.
GlobalSpec users can also search and get free abstracts of material property information for industrial materials, specifying attributes such as flexural modulus, flexural strength, hardness, density, deflection temperature, electrical resistivity, conductivity, heat capacity, etc. for any given material. The full text can be accessed for free by clicking a link over to the MatWeb site (http://www.matweb.com). MatWeb is a free searchable database designed by engineers. (The advanced features and tools on its site are available to those who register and to Premium users, who have full access for $49.95.)
Killeen said GlobalSpec plans to add Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to the site sometime in the second quarter of 2004. The company is also in active discussions with key engineering publishers to add full-text journal content. Many technical articles, tutorials, and white papers are now included in the section of the site called "Tools & Useful Links," which also offers research and reference links, calculators, and links to other engineering and technical sites.
GlobalSpec, founded in 1996, is a privately-held company with about 130 employees based in Troy, N.Y. (near Albany). While GlobalSpec's management feels that its search platform really has no competition, engineering professionals will continue to use other complementary resources as well. Engineering Village 2 provides comprehensive database searching and linking to full text, for example. Other sites, such as Engineering.com (which offers software, services, news, directories, etc.) will continue to fill a niche as well. Scirus, the science-only search engine includes engineering as a subject.
But, given the accelerating rate of new user registrations on GlobalSpec, the growth in numbers of searchable parts, and the number of online visitors to the site, the company is obviously filling a need in the engineering community and has found a business model that is working.