During the process of developing the POR.COM business search, a lot of insight was gained on the desired functionalities of an online business search, as part of the PortofRotterdam.com portal. PortofRotterdam.com is the central Internet gateway for the PortofRotterdam.com. The development of PortofRotterdam.com was started in 2000 by the Rotterdam Municipal Port Management and the Port Industries Association SVZ (now Deltalinqs), representing the interests of the private companies in the Port of Rotterdam. In developing the new POR.COM business search a lot of contacts were established with both port companies and trade organizations. A lot of discussions were held, both bilateral and in workshops, around the desired functionality of a business search on PortofRotterdam.com. For instance, the desirability of free text and categorized searches and the different ways of adding extra content and descriptions of the companies involved. This input will be used in the first phase of a redevelopment of the existing PortIndex business search, starting in the first months of 2003.
Involving usage of the revised STEPS methodology to gain new business in evaluation of field trials and other tests of technologies. Interaction Design Ltd has adapted the STEPS methodology for the interaction between humans and interactive technologies including web services. There is little research done or literature written on the topic of the usage of search engines, let alone stochastic-natural language input search engines for a specific environment. The current literature provides standard answers on return rate efficiency and coverage, but not on usage.
In the POR.COM project, a new kind of business search was developed, using state of the art technology for information access and filtering (in this case Autonomy software) to match businesses searching for products and services in the Port of Rotterdam with SME’s in the Port of Rotterdam providing these services. In order to achieve this, Autonomy software was trained in the context of port services and transport and logistics, and an existing database of SME’s was enriched with a large amount of extra content regarding the products and services delivered by these SME’s. For this, the websites of SME’s were "spidered" and an upload tool was created to enable SME’s to add extra relevant data in all kinds of digital formats. The user interface enables users to describe the products and services they are looking for in natural language. They are then guided to links of the companies that match their query. In this way, a rather simple and straightforward method to build a business-to-business portal for a large number of SME’s was developed. Although the POR.COM project was done in a port environment the POR.COM project partners think this method will very well work in other business environments, where there is some kind common denominator (for instance a regional development authorities). Presentations to these regional development authorities during the project have learned that they see quite some possibilities to use the method developed.
During the project the perceived enormous value of regional taxonomies enabling search engines to find relevant information in distributed sources was confirmed. We tested a number of tools to automatically generate taxonomies. We found content domains where the Bayesian method of creating taxonomies were applicable and those where it was not. We found dedicated categorization tools which operated best in an open regional SME-environment.