Sopheon (http://www.sopheon.com) and Northern Light Technology, Inc. (http://www.northernlight.com) have announced a strategic alliance that provides access to Sopheon's Intota scientific and technical expert network through Northern Light's search engine. Searchers on Northern Light can select the specialized Power Search or Business Search forms option, and limit a search to "expert biographies" for access to the new co-branded Web site (http://nl.intota.com).
Once on the site, a user can do additional searches to locate someone by expertise, or browse by any of 33,000 subject areas in science and technology. Selecting the Advanced Search option will allow limiting by a number of specific criteria—including education, work experience, and language—and permit phonetic and fuzzy-search options.
Intota provides access to experts in specific areas of science, technology, engineering, and industry who are available to answer questions through confidential telephone or e-mail consultation, and to provide extended consultation on projects. (Customers and experts don't see each other's phone numbers or e-mail addresses.) Service costs can be paid directly online by credit card. Searching is free—customers incur a charge only after choosing to engage an expert. This is the same as Northern Light's transaction-based model for its premium-content collection.
"Our alliance with Northern Light represents the future of knowledge access and management," said Andy Michuda, Sopheon's CEO. "Print-based information and human-based knowledge have distinct, complementary value, and today's businesses need immediate access to both. Intota brings a significant technology-oriented human element to one of the world's premier business research engines."
"Northern Light is delighted to be able to deliver top technical expertise to the desktops of millions of business researchers," added David Seuss, Northern Light's CEO. "The Intota alliance gives our clients the major value-add of immediate answers to pressing scientific and technical questions. It demonstrates our commitment to offering Northern Light users the exact information they need, when they need it."
Teltech Resource Network Corp. (now known as Sopheon since a merger last year) created the expert network in 1984, and it has been available to its enterprise clients. The network then evolved from a brick-and-mortar enterprise into a Web-based resource. Sopheon launched Intota on its own site (http://www.intota.com) in December 2000, and it's now also available through Northern Light and four other affiliated sites.
Intota can be freely searched on the Net by anyone, without a commitment or subscription. Its transaction-based model gives access to small businesses and individuals who wouldn't be able to afford a research-service subscription. It may also prove to be an attractive resource for intermediary researchers and information brokers who wish to locate experts for their clients.
For Northern Light, which integrates access to Web content with high-quality proprietary sources, adding access to human expertise seems to be the logical next step. In the future, Northern Light and Sopheon plan to expand their service offering to Northern Light's growing enterprise client base.
The partnership with Northern Light is Intota's fifth affiliate agreement in 5 weeks. Sopheon recently announced relationships with AptusNet's EnviroXchange.com, a global marketplace for manufacturing byproducts; yet2.com, the first global online intellectual property exchange; eFunda, an online destination offering engineering design solutions; and BioSpace.com, a specialized provider of Web-based products and information services to the life sciences sector. A company representative said Sopheon is carefully selecting affiliate partners that target vertical industries and that additional agreements would be announced very soon.
According to information on the site, the typical expert in the Intota network has an advanced degree (approximately half have earned Ph.D.s) and more than 20 years of technical research, applications, and management experience. A Northern Light spokesperson said there are now well over 1,500 experts in the network, and this number is growing all the time as the company actively recruits key people in specific areas.
The cost for consulting an expert is the same on the Northern Light co-branded site as on the Intota site. Here's how Sopheon describes the transaction: "We define your telephone or e-mail interaction with one of our experts as an ‘event.' An event is a discussion that may include multiple telephone discussions or e-mails over a period of 5 business days on a single subject. On average, an event will last approximately 1 hour in length, inclusive of any ‘off-line' time that the expert may require for research to effectively answer your specific question. The fee for each Intota event is $250."
Of this, the experts receive $100 per event. If the contact leads the client to engage the expert for extended consulting projects over the next 12 months, the expert must pay a referral fee to Intota, ranging from 10 to 20 percent of gross revenues and based on a sliding scale of the contract total. However, Intota promotes the Web site to a targeted audience of business professionals. In addition, Intota manages all billing, automated phone and e-mail systems, Web site security, and confidentiality issues, as well as customer service functions and the administrative work behind each transaction. Experts can also use the Intota Web site to self-publish papers and articles, for which they receive 40 percent of the net revenue from any sales.
Besides the developments with Intota, Sopheon has been very busy in the last year since its merger with rolling out new products and agreeing to new strategic partnerships. Just the day before the Northern Light news, Sopheon announced the commercial release of Teltech.com 2.0, an enhanced version of its Web-based research portal for technical and business professionals in enterprises that are subscribers to Sopheon services. According to the announcement, enhancements include interface redesign and content infrastructure changes.
"We have taken advantage of a year of client-usage data and feedback to help tailor our product to make it faster and easier to use, and to provide additional capacity for customization," said Michuda. "Teltech.com 2.0 is a virtual research solution that can be shaped to fit an organization's specific needs, cutting through growing information overload to simplify and speed the search for relevant information."