Cloud technology translates into success for veteran of localisation

Tony O’Dowd’s machine translation system is transforming the growing sector

Tony O’Dowd of KantanMT.com, which is based in the Invent Building at DCU, says the resources and expertise provided by the Invent team were instrumental in getting the concept off the ground

Tony O’Dowd of KantanMT.com, which is based in the Invent Building at DCU, says the resources and expertise provided by the Invent team were instrumental in getting the concept off the ground

 

“It’s not widely known at home but Ireland has developed an international reputation for research in statistical machine translation. Trinity, DCU and UL are all recognised worldwide and 120 PhD students have graduated here with skills in the field in the last five years. That’s more than in any other country in Europe, ” says Tony O’Dowd the man behind KantanMT, a new scalable, high-speed machine translation system based on the Moses decoder and the Amazon Web Services and Cloud Computing infrastructure.

O’Dowd has spent almost 30 years in the software localisation sector with companies such as Lotus Development Corporation and Symantec. Xcelerator, the company behind KantanMT, is O’Dowd’s second start-up, but he was also involved in the formation of FIT, a training organisation set up in 1998 to provide IT skills and training for the long-term unemployed.

Economics of the cloud

“Traditional SMT systems are slow, expensive to deploy, time-consuming to customise and complex to manage. In short, not for the faint-hearted. I wanted to harness the economics of the cloud to solve these problems. Using hundreds of high-powered cloud-based severs to convert training data into data models also accelerated the process of customisation and the development of SMT engines.”

O’Dowd points out that in addition to the cost factor, traditional SMT solutions can produce translations of dubious quality. By focusing on advanced natural language processes and data processing algorithms, KantanMT also addresses these quality issues.

“Because of the costs involved, SMT tends to be used by large organisations with big budgets and plenty of people available to work on the system. The KantanMT platform removes this expense and complexity and makes it a far more practical and usable tool for businesses both big and small. Our clients can customise, improve and deploy their own engines in a matter of days,” O’Dowd says.

Software localisation

Prior to setting up Alchemy O’Dowd was technology manager for Symantec Corporation Ireland and responsible for establishing the organisation’s Asian localisation hub in Japan. He was also executive vice-president of Corel Corporation and spent three years as a lecturer in Trinity College Dublin teaching microprocessor design and assembly language programming.

O’Dowd began working on the idea for KantanMT in 2011 while on a year “off” to retrain himself on cloud-based technologies. He employed an MBA student to do detailed research into the barriers preventing companies using SMT and says the major leap forward in computing and storage capacity provided by the cloud enabled him to build a platform for SMT systems that would have been inconceivable without it.

Xcelerator recently raised €1.1 million in seed funding from venture capital company Delta Partners and the Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up fund. Early versions of KantanMT were given away free to kill competition and grab market share but first revenues (based on a usage pricing model) began flowing this time last year and O’Dowd says it is now profitable. A second round of funding is planned for later this year.

The company currently employs 11 people in its offices in Dublin and Galway, but this is expected to rise to 20-25 by the end of 2015. Its focus is the export market and its biggest customers are independent software vendors from industries such as ecommerce, finance and electronics. The company also provides MT services to the language industry.

School of hard knocks

KantanMT is based in the Invent Building at DCU and O’Dowd says the resources and expertise provided by the Invent team were instrumental in getting KantanMT.com off the ground.

“KantanMT.com is the fastest growing SMT platform in the localisation industry today. So far over 80.5 billion words have been uploaded to the platform as training data and more than 750 million words have been translated by our clients. When you consider this has all happened in the last nine months, the company is rapidly becoming one of the biggest translation hubs in the market,” O’Dowd says.

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