Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tredix IFS - Information retrieval done right

The Tredix Internet Find Store (IFS) is a custom framework developed for just one purpose: Search. Or to be more specific: Find.

IFS results are all about quality, relevance, and speed. Let's take a closer look at some of the IFS search services:

Full text search - The royal league of search

So the user enters some free text - but what does it mean? The IFS knows, because it understands linguistics: Language form, language meaning, and language in context. It works multi-lingual with language-specific stemming, lemmatisation, stop words, and normalisation. Distributed words as well as phrases are recognized and contribute to the quality rank. Synonyms and decomposed compounds provide additional hits. In case of literal errors, the IFS suggests language-independent phonetic similarities aka "Did You Means". Custom filters allow for flexible result manipulation.

If this is technobabble to you, here's a real world example of the IFS result quality. We recently built a demo for German fancy foods distributor "Bos Food". They have tens of thousands of special delicacies on stock. Since the goods originate from all seven continents, of course the product names are mostly foreign-language - and sometimes even made-up. French and spanish names might still sound familiar to the mainly German Bos customers, but what about those African or ethno food names? Clients simply couldn't spell the products, so Bos' classic SQL-based search failed continuously. People couldn't find the products and Bos lost massive business on his web shop.

When we replaced their SQL with the Tredix IFS (which by the way never got rolled out on their web site), search worked perfectly: Salsa Fumy would find Sansai Fumi, general queries like poultry or pastry would deliver both duck and chicken or cookie and pie; fishing would also find fish; and a solid German compound like Holzboot would even find Schiffchen aus Holz. Finally, just for the records, users of keyboards without diacritics would still be able to find Öl or Rougié, of course.

Selling is all about finding in the first place, isn't it?

Suggestions - Instant dynamic feedback

Unlike with a full text search box where you have to type a full search term and hit return, results in a suggest box will appear instantly as you type, helping you see where you're headed, every step of the way. The IFS Suggester supports pretty much all the search logic like its full text sibling, however quality and weight of the suggestions need to be calculated in a more "predictive" way. Since suggestions appear while you still type, we prefer to call them predictions as they actually help guide your search. So result ranking is vitally important.

Now apart from the different levels of match quality, usually popularity makes one of the most important ranking factors. However, under certain circumstances popularity can be misleading. Think about our casa.keru map application where you can jump to a geographic location by entering a location's name into a suggest box. In Portugal, many towns have the same name; for example, there are more than a dozen places called "Luz" all over the country. Imagine you are currently navigating around Faro on the southern coast of Portugal and want to zoom into the Luz area in the Eastern Algarve. If the IFS Suggester would simply rank the most popular (most searched for) city of Luz best, you would be taken to the city of Luz north of Lisbon.

Fortunately, the IFS framework exposes plugin interfaces to further customize each service. Since we are not searching for the best text match but the best location match, we added geographic distance calculation to the ranking algorithm in casa.keru. You guessed it: The IFS would now suggest to take you to the city of Luz in the Faro neighbourhood, which is usually the desired effect for people hunting for homes on casa.keru. This is a good example on how to transform a simple text suggestion into a smart location prediction.

Geologic - More intelligence for maps

Talking about location, the IFS provides native search on maps, too. The IFS Geofinder usually returns a set of coordinates for a given filter set and map section. In this context, result representation poses the biggest challenge. Geo point density must be adjusted in relationship to the map dimensions and zoom level. So the IFS Geofinder combines stacked coordinate pairs into clusters where necessary. This way, a perfect representation on the map is always guaranteed. For more non-technical information on the advantages of clustering, please see my post "Clustering is key to map application success".

On top, the IFS Geofinder also provides all the necessary geopolygon logic to identify area relationships, distances, proportions etc. on the server-side. Geo points can be allocated within areas like city limits or administrative divisions. Apart from providing the parent subnational entities like parish, district, etc. for any given coordinate, geopolygon logic is also extremely useful for tagging the Geo points. If, for example, you got a polygon of a nature reserve or a polyline of the coastline, the coordinate could automatically get tagged with "Ria Formosa" and "beach-front". Tags are supported in any IFS search service.

Today we have learned about some key features of the IFS search services. But how about reusability, integration, scalability, and customization of these services? I'll talk about the design of the IFS framework in one of my next posts. So keep following - further blog updates are on their way.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Improxy and Keru sign partnership agreement

Porto, Feb. 14, 2011:  Improxy, Lda (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) and Tredix Keru, Lda (Arroteia, Portugal) have signed a partnership agreement which will allow all real estate companies using Improxy's solutions to export their properties into the Keru portals. Besides feeding, Improxy will be the charter data supplier for, Keru's upcoming portal for long-term rentals in Portugal. Additionally, will provide deep links into Keru's map applications.

About Improxy

Improxy is a software house founded in 1998 with headquarters in Portugal. The company focuses on software and Internet solutions for the real estate business. Considered a main player in the Portuguese market, Improxy is now also serving countries like Brazil, Angola and Mexico. 

Improxy - Tecnologias de Informação, Lda
Paulo Alexandre
Tel.: +351 223 749100

About Tredix Keru

Tredix Keru, founded in 2011, is privately owned by Tredix GmbH and Mr. Felix Schormann. The company specializes in maps based consumer portals, utilizing innovative search technologies provided by Tredix GmbH, Germany.

Tredix Keru, Lda
Felix Schormann
Tel.: +351 289 798041

Five pretty cool features in casa.keru

Have you already discovered these usability features?

1. Even in list view, the map is alive - move around just like in the big map:

2. Navigate faster with the Drag & Zoom feature - just click the magnifying glass icon:

3. Narrow your result set by setting tags - just click the Tags button:

4. Some statistics will help you learn about the area - just click the number of properties:

5. Use your browser's history to navigate back - it works for areas and property listings:

... and now try for yourself at !

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hola España

Sometimes we just go there for a real good Spanish coffee or a sherry, depending on the time of the day; Spain is just a half an hour drive from the Tredix Cube. A visit to a tapas bar is always a good reason to go, too ... little things that sweeten your day.

On a much bigger mission, an increasing number of Spanish come to the Algarve to buy property on the South Western coast of the Iberian Peninsula. To allow for a more convenient localized property hunt, today we have published a Spanish clone of casa.keru. You can find the Spanish version at

Currently, the website has more than 23.000 properties on offer in the Algarve alone.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Clustering is key to map application success

In view of rising smartphone demand, new Location Based Services (LBS) are being introduced almost on a daily basis. If you share your position with these services, they will connect you with friends or recommend businesses that are physically located nearby. In most cases LBS are all about social geolocation and navigation.

A map view is the natural way to visualize the matching POIs (points of interest) around you. Now imagine looking at the restaurants in your town from a distance (e.g. from an aeroplane): Depending on the zoom level and service, an app can easily deliver hundreds or even thousands of POIs.

And, unfortunately, lots of applications really do ... they clutter the map with hundreds or thousands of markers. In this scenario, markers overlap. Users run into problems trying to select the POI they want on the map and end up accidentally selecting the wrong one.

Other apps artificially limit the number of results and ask users to either narrow their search or zoom in further until results are within a range that displays well. This sounds decent in theory but, in reality, is confusing and frustrating to analytical users.

Both approaches limit usability without a reason. Even when there are dynamic components (like yourself driving in a car) involved, the mayority of POIs like shops etc. are static: You are moving, not the bricks and mortars.

The solution is very simple: Just combine overlapping static markers until you get close enough to see the details. This concept is called clustering. So from the plane we would only see some restaurant clusters distributed within the city limits, but when we get closer e.g. on a quarter or street level we see single markers for each and every restaurant located nearby. Data represenation feels smooth and clean while the user always receives the perfect information level: An overview from the distance and the full details from the next-door location.

So if clustering is key for any map based application - why don't we see more clustering in the wild?

The reason is trivial: Developing clustering solutions is not trivial. It's actually quite a challenging task.

Client-side solutions don't make much sense; a browser would need to receive all the marker data and do some heavy clustering calculations, just to finally render a minimal subset of the original coordinates on the map. Note well, this expensive computation needs to be done every time search parameters are redefined.

So clustering must happen on the server-side. Some RDBMS do support GIS data but lack flexibility, extensibility, and often performance.

Clustering on casa.keru is provided by the Tredix Internet Find Store (IFS). The framework stores all POI data and offers comprehensive search support for map based applications.

In the clustering scenario, casa.keru simply requests the POIs for a given map dimension via HTTP GET and receives a standard JSON response containing the perfect cluster and marker selection - done! No, it's not even necessary to specify a zoom level. And yes, it works cross-domain.

IFS services are highly customizable. In the case of casa.keru, besides geometric clustering there was a need for editorial clustering. We provided the IFS with fixed cluster points marking the centers of districts, counties, and parishes. These should dynamically mix with geometric clusters or under certain conditions even merge with them - no problem.

Clustering is just one out of many forward-looking IFS search service features that made their way into, providing the website with a significant competitive advantage. We'll follow up on other key services of the framework on this blog, so stay tuned.

IFS services can be rented from Tredix GmbH.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Location. Location. Location."

The cliché "Location. Location. Location." has been tossed around in the real estate industry quite often. There is a reason for that – Location is the single most important factor that determines the value of a piece of real estate. You can always change the house, but you can't change it's position. A seafront property is typically more expensive than a similar place upcountry. So the location mantra is really all about the vendor's price tag.

But what does location mean to the buyer?

Most of today's real estate websites seem to cut location down on some geographic position. The client is prompted to first select some county or parish before he can even see a list of properties for sale. Now what if the perfect match would sit just 10 meters outside of the selected administrative area? Can we expect the client to search the neighbouring parish next, and does he even know the parishes' name? Probably not. So reducing the "Location" aspect on locking the client into some administrative areas like counties is not always a purposeful and target oriented approach.

Granted, knowing that the client is looking for a property in the Lagos area is important information - but actually not much more than a starting point. It's just one aspect of location. What about lifestyle, neighbourhood, distance to the sea, etc.? How would you make such kinds of parameters findable?

With casa.keru we have developed a combination of different techniques to achieve a most flexible search path.

Location (in the literal sense)

Most importantly, casa.keru is displaying all properties on a map. The map view is way superiour to a list view because it frees the user from being caged in the boundaries of an administrative area. Navigation is fast and easy as the user can go straight to his starting point by typing the name of his favourite neighbourhood (e.g. "Lagos").

Neighbourhood analysis

From there, the neighbourhood can be explored on the map. The user walks along the coast line and sees all properties that match his budget and other criteria. Satellite imagery, Street View (where available) and photos of the surroundings give a solid impression of the area. Furthermore, statistics on average sales prices, the types of properties for sale etc. provide important social information on the current viewport.

Lifestyle segmentation

So called "tags" allow for narrowing your selection by as many different characteristics as you like. The possibilities go beyond flat filters like "pool" or "elevator": Geographic tags such as "nature reserve" combined with activities tags like or "watersports" allow for better property preselection. Adding some location tags like "golf course" and "Resort" on top will lead to perfect lifestyle segmentation.

Maps and "Location. Location. Location." seem very complimentary to us. Plus, at, we got "Location. Location. Location." to work for the buyer, too.