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Enterprise Portals Gain Contextual Interaction Capability
Posted On July 1, 2001
It's a familiar problem to most of us in the information industry. Businesses of all kinds and sizes struggle with how to manage and share both internal and external information across internal departmental boundaries as well as with external customers and partners. We're seeing the increasing use of taxonomy systems, automatic text categorization, and metatagging, in an effort to make information easier to find and use. And companies are turning to portal software vendors for solutions to providing access to diverse information through a single interface.

Recently, Epicentric, a provider of portal solutions to businesses, announced a strategic alliance with NewsEdge Corp., a provider of syndicated content and electronic publishing technologies for business. Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will work to create a "Contextual Interaction" capability for the Epicentric Foundation Server platform.

Using the combined technologies of Epicentric and NewsEdge, Contextual Interaction aims to enable businesses to deploy smart portals with intelligent Web services that dynamically generate contextually relevant content to business users. According to the announcement, Epicentric chose NewsEdge as its premier news-content solutions and electronic publishing partner for the Contextual Interaction initiative because of its breadth and depth of industry content solutions. NewsEdge was also chosen for its ability to seamlessly tag, categorize, and retrieve internal and external information sources that may be leveraged by intelligent Web services within Epicentric solutions.

I talked with David Scott, vice president of marketing for NewsEdge, about this partnership. He said that NewsEdge has had technology and content relationships with other portal vendors for the last 12 to 18 months-including Autonomy, Plumtree, Viador, and IBM. NewsEdge also works with customers who have Corporate Yahoo!. While these other vendors receive structured news feeds from NewsEdge, the Epicentric deal is unique in that it will extend the NewsEdge categorization and tagging to a company's internal content. With this deal, Epicentric and its customers gain a valuable and dynamically maintained taxonomy structure. NewsEdge customers who choose the Epicentric platform will gain integration of content across their applications and services in a portal interface.

Epicentric and NewsEdge will jointly market the combined solution for use within intranet and extranet deployments across key vertical segments, including pharmaceutical, telecommunications, automotive, government, and financial services. News feeds from NewsEdge are currently available on Epicentric and the full Content Integration capabilities will be available in the fall.

"Contextual Interaction allows Web services to recognize their relationship to each other and continuously deliver the right business information to the right person at the right time," said Ed Anuff, Epicentric's co-founder and chief strategy officer. "Epicentric and NewsEdge will offer our customers the industry's most powerful resource for effectively utilizing every piece of strategic information, both inside and outside the firewall."

Scott feels that users aren't satisfied with simply having news fed to them. The trend will increasingly be to deliver and logically integrate news and information within other applications-and preferably in context, or at the exact point of need. Following the NewsEdge implementation, Epicentric plans to develop other contextually interactive Web services for its portal platform users.

The Epicentric platform supports and can provide customers with access to a range of Web-based software and hosted applications. The applications include content management, customer relationship management (CRM), collaborative work tools such as calendars and document sharing, and more. Epicentric also offers other syndicated content, including stock quotes and weather, and news from iSyndicate and Reuters.

An example of Contextual Integration in action is an enterprise portal user who is accessing a CRM application in preparation for a sales meeting with a client. The user would see contextually relevant NewsEdge information about that client, such as company and industry news and stock prices, as well as internal information, such as notes about a previous meeting.

NewsEdge serves thousands of sites and companies with content solutions from the NewsEdge Refinery, including industry-specific topics, wireless services, outsourced editorial capabilities and live news feeds and applications. The NewsEdge Refinery combines its technology with human editorial review to deliver highly targeted news on more than 2,000 business topics from more than 2,000 sources. NewsEdge is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts, with offices and distributors throughout North America, South America, Europe, Japan, and the Middle East. For more information visit

Founded in 1998, Epicentric, Inc. has provided Internet business solutions for customers such as General Electric, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Lockheed Martin, U.S. Postal Service, Hartford Life, AutoDesk, Altra Energy Technologies, and ChemConnect. The company now has 165 clients with over 325 deployments. Epicentric, Inc. is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC. International operations include offices in the U.K., Germany, and France. For more information, visit

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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