February 13, 2013

Thomson Reuters' latest evolution of Eikon, its integrated market data platform, offers semantic search capabilities not found in other market data products currently on the market.

Most notably the new version, called Eikon 3.0, applies free text search capabilities to financial data, similar to Google's search functionality. "The latest version brings data into one place," says Philip Brittan, global head of the Eikon desktop platform at Thomson Reuters.

Traditionally, market data platforms hold a wealth of data, but users need to know specific commands or follow certain workflows to find the information. "Often, getting to the data is a challenge," Brittan adds. "Eikon brings semantic search to financial information."

For instance, users can type in basic questions or multiple commands in a single search and receive a chart that may have taken multiple steps on earlier platforms. "It is a very flat interface," Brittan says, noting there are no "file" or "open" menus. "The workflow is seamless and Eikon suggests answers as a user types in search criteria," such as auto-filling words or phrases.

Analysts who have seen Eikon are impressed by the search functionality. "We haven't seen a new interface in a number of years and this is pretty powerful," says Larry Tabb, founder and CEO of TABB Group, a research and advisory firm. "When you think of a traditional market data platform, you think of having to remember symbology and codes. This was more akin to a Google search box.

"You can type in a free-form query and get great results. It brings you to the information you are looking for. I found you could really do in-depth analysis very quickly," Tabb continued, noting that he had only seen a demo of Eikon and hadn't tested the platform extensively. "I was very impressed. It could have just been a really great demo, but I think it was much more than that."

Chart 1
Eikon's advanced semantic search allows users to enter text commands to find information. This user entered "apple samsung marketcap price MACD 2001 2012" to build this chart.

Eikon 3.0 also includes some fairly advanced geospatial analysis capabilities that allow users to enter text queries for weather events, locations of oil refineries or even the location of a particular oil tanker anywhere in the world. The interactive mapping capability is "available to all users" and "allows users to locate data on virtually anything," according to Brittan. "It really changes the way you look and interact with data."

"This is truly a platform for the future that brings all of the information in Thomson Reuters into one place," Brittan says.

During the demo, for instance, a particular oil tanker was located on the map just by entering the tanker's name. In addition to the location, the user could see its heading, speed, previous port of call, the tanker's next destination and the ship's draft (now low it was in the water, which indicates if the tanker is full or empty).

Chart 2
Semantic search allows natural language queries. In this search, the user entered the name of an oil tanker "Where is Anni Selmer" to find information about the ship and its cargo.

A Bright Future?
Eikon, which got off to a rocky start when it was launched two-plus years ago, has been gradually gaining traction -- and users -- in the marketplace. Today, Eikon has roughly 42,000 users, which roughly tripled from just 14,000 at the beginning of 2012, according to Thomson Reuters.

[For more about Eikon's history, read: Thomson Reuters Eikon: What Went Wrong?.]

Tabb agrees that Eikon's improved user interface is a major feature of the new platform and places it ahead of Bloomberg Professional when it comes to search. "Bloomberg does not have the ease of search yet," Tabb says. "Within Eikon, you can type 'IBM 2003 through 2012 EPS versus HP and Intel,' and it would be bring it to you in one screen. It seems pretty easy to use.

"We haven't tested it in depth yet," Tabb continues. "I don't know if the data integrity is there. But what they have demonstrated is very interesting and if people haven't looked at it, they should."

However, a slick user interface and enhanced search capabilities alone won't convince thousands of users to switch to Eikon overnight, Tabb cautions. "The big challenge in the market data space is around cost. The industry is going through a restructuring. How much will it cost to upgrade these platforms?"

Furthermore, moving to a new platform can be costly, especially considering the number of other systems that are connected to a market data platform. "How easy is it to integrate the existing infrastructure to the new platform? There has been a lot of work to integrate market data platforms to risk management, trading and other back-end systems," Tabb says. "The decision to switch will be based on a combination of cost, functionality and ease of use versus the pain in transitioning" to a new platform.

On the positive side, Tabb says, Eikon is a modern hosted platform that doesn't have some of the infrastructure and support costs associated with its predecessors. "It is a modern interface and you don't need a tremendous amount of infrastructure to get it up and running," he says, adding that Bloomberg Professional is also a hosted offering. "Most of the old Thomson Reuters infrastructure was enterprise." With Eikon 3.0, "you don't have to implement a battery of servers and you can transition from enterprise software to a hosted model. That is a big issue." Tabb also noted that his firm hasn't fully evaluated Eikon 3.0 yet, so he can't address specific costs or infrastructure needs.

Eikon's new functionality and powerful search certainly give it an advantage in some areas, Tabb says. "But there is a long way to go" if Thomson Reuters wants to win the market data platform war. "Bloomberg is not sitting still. They have a strong sales organization, and a platform that everyone knows. Eikon is not going to all of a sudden displace Bloomberg tomorrow.

"Eikon's powerful functionality and a new user interfaced will make this an interesting fight," Tabb adds. Using history as a guide, however, "Just because the have the best technology, doesn't mean you always win. There is a lot more than good technology that defines who wins and who loses."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology.