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February 26, 2012

How many gigabytes of memory on your printer?

I read an article originally tweeted by @nickpatience newly of search firm Recommind. In the FT article, HP's Mike Lynch talks about plans to introduce printers with embedded Autonomy IDOL.

At first, I had to chuckle. We've seen big systems brought to their knees indexing content with IDOL, and I imaged steam coming out of my HP laser printer as I print a long contract. (Maybe it was smoke... you know, printers need smoke to make them work. No, really. Ever seen a printer work after smoke came out of it?)

Then I realized that hundreds of companies bundle copies of IDOL with their products, and most implementations are quite successful with a relatively small footprint. And honestly, in another recent engagement, IDOL did provide the best 'out of the box' relevance. This is probably because of the way IDOL breaks documents into smaller units for indexing, and then reassembles them in the result list for human consumption.

But hang on for a minute. A printer with a search engine? I know IDOL is well known in eDiscovery applications; and I've also heard of cases where one team of lawyers will subpoena the disk drives from opposing client's printers. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I'm printing a document, isn't there a good chance it exists on file servers that are already indexed with IDOL (or one of its competitors)? I'd think there is an audit trail back to the original document... no?

And what is the interface, do you suppose? Federated results in from an index within the printer? Traffic from the printer back to IDOL central servers to index the document as it passes through the network? I can imagine a way to reconstruct the document from the IDOL index; but that seems a bit extreme.

Anyway - it may just be that I'm too old-fashioned to understand this sort of thing. It feels to me like a technology - pardon me - in search for a market. I'd just as soon keep IDOL on my servers where I can understand what it's up to - and where it does a pretty darned good job!

What do you think?



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