How DARPA's Memex search engine could help your business

Researchers' search engine for the "Dark Web" might be useful in many areas

DARPA's crime-fighting Memex program gets its name and inspiration from a hypothetical device described in “As We May Think,” a 1945 article for The Atlantic Monthly.

DARPA's crime-fighting Memex program gets its name and inspiration from a hypothetical device described in “As We May Think,” a 1945 article for The Atlantic Monthly.

A "Dark Web" search engine developed by U.S. defense researchers is in the spotlight this week for its use in combating human-trafficking activities, but it could play a role in business, too.

"There's huge potential," said Jeff Schneider, a research professor within the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science. Earlier this year, Carnegie Mellon was awarded a $3.6 million contract to collaborate on the project at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is known as Memex.

The Memex program -- a three-year research initiative to develop software for domain-specific indexing of open, public Web content and domain-specific search capabilities -- was highlighted on Sunday by a segment on 60 Minutes and an article in Scientific American.

"The program right now is focused on human trafficking -- that was chosen as the target domain," Schneider said. But the technology can be applied to other fields. "Any algorithms we can use to study human trafficking can easily be retargeted at other domains of people's interest."

We're all familiar with what's known as the "surface Web" -- that set of Web pages that get accessed when we do searches through engines such as Google. The reason those pages are accessible is that they're connected to other public pages and are widely visible to search engine crawlers, also known as spiders.

What's different about the so-called Dark Web is that it's the set of Web pages that are not ordinarily accessible to Web crawlers because they're too fleeting, for example. By many estimates, mainstream search engines like Google index just 10 percent of what's actually on the Web; the rest are those pages that fall into the "dark" domain.

The potential of the "dark" side of the Web, however, could be considerable. Not only is it fodder for crime-fighting efforts such as the one being conducted with Memex, but it's also home to the majority of the electronic information out there.

Stock analysts might use Memex to search the Dark Web for information relevant to the stocks they cover, for example. Wine experts could use it to help them find the latest information in that realm.

"These technologies could be used to uncover fraud and other illicit activity in the business world," said Emily Kennedy, CEO of Marinus Analytics, a Carnegie Mellon offshoot that's also involved in the Memex effort.

"Machine learning algorithms can help find patterns in massive amounts of data, and Memex takes that to an even deeper level," Kennedy said.

One of Memex's advantages in this area is its ability to poke around the Web and find pages not indexed by Google, Schneider said.

Another is its ability to tune its knowledge to specific domains of interest. With user feedback, it can keep refining those domains, he said.

"Users can tag pages as having certain properties of interest," he said, "and the tool learns those patterns."

Law enforcement already uses technology developed by Schneider's team, he said. Asked about what's coming next, he said, "this is a three-year research program that started six months ago. ... It's really just at the very beginning."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags DARPAinternetsearch engines

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?