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Search Tool Relies On 3-D Color-Coded Visuals

Motorola gains a better understanding of its tech investments
Motorola Inc. is using an unusual search tool to better leverage the technology produced by companies in its Motorola Ventures investment portfolio. The venture-capital arm of the wireless communications equipment maker has turned to Thinkmap, an information-visualization tool from Plumb Design Inc., one of Motorola's portfolio companies, to create a 3-D representation of Motorola Venture's 45 majority investments.

The application went live on Motorola's intranet portal last month. It uses type sizes and colors to indicate the relationships among portfolio companies based on types of investments, technologies, potential markets, and Motorola business objectives. The tool also includes processes related to investment decisions, such as executive sign-off, competitive and financial analysis, and due diligence. The goal is to make sure that Motorola gets as much value from the investments as possible, says Matthew Growney, managing director of Motorola Ventures.

The company is planning next month to launch an extranet version that will give venture partners access to the application. A more limited view of the portfolio will be available to the public.

Conventional search engines don't serve users who don't know exactly what they're looking for, says Carsten Wierwille, VP of client services for Plumb. Displaying the metadata that defines content can help.

Visualization technologies have been around for several years, but they've been too exotic to have an impact as business tools, says Jupiter Research analyst Matthew Berk. He wonders whether Motorola can overcome the learning curve that users will face with the application, but he applauds any approach that goes beyond the typical search-and-find paradigm: "It's certainly an interesting use of that type of technology."

Pricing for Thinkmap starts at $20,000 per server.

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