Next IT Corp., the young Spokane company that develops artificial intelligence technologies for government, commercial, and educational uses, has nearly doubled its work force in the past year, to 50, and has tripled its revenues, says CEO Fred Brown.
About 70 percent of Next ITs revenues currently come from its ActiveAgent Web-based software, which uses virtual guides to interact with Web-site visitors and customers, says Brown.
Brown declines to disclose Next ITs revenues, but says, I expect more rapid growth in the company, with the number of employees to at least double every year for quite awhile.
The majority of Next ITs employees specialize in software technology, he says.
Launched in 2002 and located in the Paulsen Center downtown, at 421 W. Riverside, Next ITs other major products include a network security software tool used to protect sensitive information for banks and health-care operations, and another software tool currently used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to monitor Internet traffic for possible criminal activity.
Technology is a very dynamic, changeable industry that empowers the customer, Brown says.
Currently, Next ITs only customer in the education sector is Gonzaga University, which for the last year and a half has used Next ITs software to place its bulldog mascot, Spike, as a virtual guide on the schools alumni Web site to make it easier for visitors to navigate the site. That has been so successful Gonzaga plans to expand use of the software this summer to pages on its Web site used by its admissions office, says Joe Poss, Gonzagas associate director of development. On those pages, Spikes role will be to interact with prospective students, Poss says.
Spike, Gonzagas interactive mascot, has greatly strengthened our communication with GU alumni. Our online giving in 2005 was up almost 90 percent, with nearly 50 percent more alumni participating than in 2004, he says.
The virtual guides responses to questions are audible, and also are displayed on the Web pages response window. Poss says 70 percent of all alumni polled on use of the site say the virtual guide makes it easier to navigate the Web site.
Artificial intelligence can be defined as computer programs developed to mimic human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, problem-solving, decision-making, and speech, says Hamilton Computer Service, of Hamilton, Mont.
An example is Gonzagas mascot, which normally answers Web users questions in one or two sentences. Even if those answers dont address the specific question, a related Web page pops up that normally supplies the answer to the question, or gives the online user a direct link to that answer. Poss says that if Spike is unable to provide the answer after two additional rephrased queries, a 1-800 number is provided to connect a Web user with an on-staff individual whos knowledgeable about a topic.
Brown says about five other companies currently sell artificial intelligence technologies roughly comparable to those sold by Next IT, but adds, I think we are the ones who put a big emphasis on natural language searches, making it easier for a user to communicate with the virtual guide.
Brown previously launched and owned another software company called LineSoft Corp., which he sold to Spokane-based Itron Inc., for $42 million in 2002.
Contact Rocky Wilson at (509) 344-1264 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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