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New Frontiers in Business Intelligence

Nari Kannan

Online Price Intelligence for Companies with Real-Time Changes!!

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Have you ever wondered where exactly you can get a 46 inch LED Samsung TV for the lowest price? Did it change last week, last month? How much did it go down by? (have you ever heard of it going up?!!)

These are questions that are of interest to people shopping online for such products but it appears that what these products retail for in various parts of the globe and within the US, various states and cities is of greater interest to the manufacturers of these products also!

Real-time prices on the web for such products help companies adjust their margins and in electronic products like LCD and LED TVs, it's a relentless push downwards anyway! With margins getting squeezed, real-time price intelligence like this is invaluable to them, it appears!

Extracting these prices automatically from various web sites periodically and keeping the backend database updated is a chore anyway!!

About ten years ago, we had a contract with a site called C2B Technologies that was building a shopping engine (like Shopping.com or Nextag.com today). C2B was subsequently bought and folded into Inktomi. Our contract was to write Java drivers that can access the public website and extract Product, Photo and Price information and stuff the store and product URLs along with all this information into an Oracle database. Then when you were shopping for something, it just queried this database and gave you an ordered list of stores and links for the product, just like what Shopping.com does.

I had a very interesting chat with Christian Koestler, CEO of Lixto. Lixto is a Austrian company headquartered in Vienna, Austria but Christian spends a lot of time in Silicon Valley since a lot of his customers are in the U.S.

Lixto's approach is very innovative I thought. It works just like some Interactive Demo creators where you pull up a software client or an interface on the web and click through a whole set of screens. The Demo Software creates a script and records the whole session while you are talking. This becomes the interactive demo.

Lixto does something similar. You just start Lixto (this is a SaaS, cloud-based software - so nothing local to install), and go through the web site, clicking on products and price information, while Lixto creates a script for automatic extraction later on. Something like this:

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Once the script is recorded, it can be scheduled to run periodically and you can get your reports like this:

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Very interesting product! I asked Christian about how many sites have a Captcha to test for a human being logging in instead of a computer. He claims to have some workarounds for that also.

I knew how difficult it is to keep Java drivers updated because online websites keep changing all the time and everytime it changes, you will have to change your code. Seems like that problem may have been solved to some extent!

Real-time changes in prices, especially in highly competitive consumer products are a challenge to companies. Lixto seems to have a solution for it!

Information is not Knowledge - Albert Einstein

 

6 Comments

Is the more you search online for a flight,the more the price will rise.Is this true?

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Yes. Airline tickets do use what is called Dynamic Pricing to adjust the price of tickets upwards or downwards based on demand on certain flight sectors, days and times. For example, Friday evening flights are always in demand from business folks returning back home from their travels. That's why Saturdays and Sundays take sudden dips in prices for the same flights.

I am not sure that anyone has the technology to track which sites you have been to and what you have been searching for although they are nearing that with Behavioral Targeting at least with ads that remember that you visited Toyota's website. When you then go to CNN.com or some other completely unrelated site, the Toyota ad may pop up!

I guess it's only a matter of time before that happens!

I am looking to set up a system that continuously provides background and data to a portable.Something that allows a continuous flow of intelligence on either companies or competitive products. What systems have people implemented using open source or free tools out there.

I am unable to give him any practical advantage. Can any one give me some real life scenario that I discuss him in order to give him more insight and convince him to use Data warehousing.

Friday evening flights are always in demand from business folks returning back home from their travels.

Something that allows a continuous flow of intelligence on either companies or competitive products. What systems have people implemented using open source or free tools out there.

Nari Kannan's blog explores how new approaches to business intelligence can help organizations improve the performance of business processes--whether these processes are creative or operational, internally-focused or customer-facing, intra-departmental or across functions.

Nari Kannan

Nari Kannan started and serves as the CEO of appsparq, a Mobile Applications development company based in Louisville, KY with offices in Singapore and India. Nari has over two decades of experience in computer systems development, translating product and service strategy into meaningful technology solutions, and both people and product development. Prior to this, he has served as both Chief Technology Officer and Vice President- Engineering in six successful startups, two of which he co-founded. He has proven experience in building companies, engineering teams, and software solutions from scratch in the United States and India. Prior to this, Nari started Ajira Technologies, Inc., in Pleasanton, CA, where he served as Chief Executive Officer for more than six years. While at Ajira, Nari was instrumental in developing service process management solutions that modeled, monitored, and analyzed business processes, initially targeting the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Telecom, and Banking verticals in India, and Finance, Insurance, and Healthcare verticals in the United States. Prior to this, he served as VP-Engineering at Ensenda, an ASP for local delivery services. He also served variously as Chief Technology Officer or VP-Engineering at other Bay-Area venture funded startups such as Kadiri and Ensera. He began his career at Digital Equipment Corporation as a Senior Software Engineer. Nari has a long involvement with Customer Support and other customer facing processes. At Digital Equipment Corporation he was involved with their 1800 person customer support center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was tasked with coming up with innovative tools to help customer support people do their jobs better. He holds a U.S patent for a software invention that automatically redirected email requests for customer support to the right group by digesting the contents of the request and guessing at which software or hardware support group is best equipped to handle it. At Ensera, he led a 45 person team in developing an internet based ASP service for handling auto insurance claims, coordinating information flow between end-customers, Insurance companies, Repair shops and Parts suppliers. Ensera was acquired by Mitchell Corporation in San Diego. Nari holds a B.S. degree in Physics from Loyola College, and an M.B.A degree from the University of Madras in Madras, India. He graduated with a M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1985. Contact Information: Nari Kannan. Email: nari@appsparq.com Mobile: 925 353 0197. Website: www.appsparq.com View more .

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