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IBM Asks: What's In A Name?

IBM last week acquired a maker of linguistics software used by law enforcement to spot aliases assumed by international terrorists and other criminals. Health care providers and businesses also use Language Analysis Systems' software to better manage customer lists and avoid costly duplications.

The software compares a name in a database to known variations of the name, aliases frequently associated with it, alternate spellings, and other attributes. Beyond law enforcement, banks can use it to spot money launderers, airlines to weed out duplicate reservations, and retailers to identify serial refund seekers who use slightly different versions of their name in different stores.

One feature of the software is its ability to tell when a name spelled different ways in different countries is, in fact, the same name and when an individual is using differently spelled names.

Analysts say software products like those made by Language Analysis Systems will increasingly become must-have items for companies as commerce becomes more international. Says Stuart Williams, analyst at Technology Business Research: "Business suites must include complete, multicultural identity management solutions as the global operations and outsourcing trend continues."

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