Software 'measures online emotion'
Technology scientists claim they have created world-first software that can measure how people express a wide range of emotions online.
The Belfast-based experts say their internet gauge can detect 24 specific emotions, from trust and admiration to rage and terror, conveyed through 60,000 news and blog sources, including social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
It has been designed to enable companies to assess exactly what the public think about their brands and, significantly, benchmark that against competitors.
The software has been developed by tech start-up Adoreboard with support from Belfast's Queen's University.
Entering a specific brand name in to the online platform generates an Adorescore, which essentially quantifies its perception in the format of an index rating from minus 100 to 100.
To demonstrate how the new technology works the team at Adoreboard assessed the huge volume of online data generated on home-grown golfing superstar Rory McIlroy in 2014.
The result was a graph of Adorescores that charted how the media and general public viewed the highs and lows of McIlroy's eventful year, from the break-up of his relationship with tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki through to double Major success in the summer and a Ryder Cup victory with Europe in September.
Chris Johnston, founder of Adoreboard, said the innovation presented a major opportunity to revolutionise how businesses can understand and improve customer relationships.
"Brands currently spend billions of dollars every year trying to influence how people feel," he said.
"Yet there is no single metric to understand the impact of this on consumers. Adoreboard aims to measure what really matters, the human factor of online emotions and in doing so aims to revolutionise how brands interact with customers."
Adoreboard's chief technology officer Dr Fergal Monaghan, who previously led a business intelligence research team at German software giant SAP, said the state-of-the-art technology had created a simple way to communicate layers of complex data.
"We are taking the emotional pulse of the online world in the same way people communicate in everyday life," he said.
The Adorescore factors in the authority of the source of the information, so a global media outlet carries more weight than a single Twitter user's comment.
Adoreboard has already won Best Tech Start-up at the Silicon Valley Global Technology Summit.
As well as financial support from Queen's, the company has received funding from Stormont business promotion agency Invest NI.
Due to the sheer scale of the volume of data processed, Microsoft and Amazon have also let it use free server space.
Mr Johnston added: "The opportunity for firms to fundamentally change how they operate based on previously unobtainable insights is truly exciting.
"What we've created is the ability to measure important elements like trust. The potential for this is significant given that human emotion drives a large part of decision-making and behaviour. So decisions we make every day, be it what music to listen to, the things we buy or the politicians we vote for, depend on an emotional connection. If we can measure we can definitely improve."