Jack Hermansen – Fast 50 2003


Jack Hermansen and his colleagues at Language Analysis Systems have developed super-smart name-recognition software that sifts through massive amounts of data to find specific people–and that generates highly accurate matches. The company collected, classified, analyzed, and extracted statistical patterns from almost 1 billion names from every country in the world before launching its product in February 2001. Seven months later, after the attack on the World Trade Center, Hermansen’s software was the right technology at the right time.


Jack Hermansen
CEO, Language Analysis Systems Inc.
Herndon, Virginia

Additional Team Members:
Dr. Leonard Shaefer, President and Chief Technology Officer


Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE MORE THAN 300 WAYS TO SPELL MOHAMMED? American computer systems are Anglo-centric when it comes to processing names. However, names from other cultures often don’t follow our conventions. Some names may have as many as eight parts to store and compare; others put the “last” name first. Variant spellings, nicknames, titles, and other cultural name information fundamentally confuse American computer systems.

GLOBAL NAME-RECOGNITION SOFTWARE – LAS offers break-through name-recognition technology at a time when America struggles with tracking terrorists, safeguarding civil liberties, and encouraging global business expansion. LAS’s patent-pending approach substantially improves results, by expanding searches while reducing “false positives.” Name-recognition technology substantially improves: Security applications such as watchlists; anti-money laundering; anti-credit-card and insurance fraud; and employee background checking, etc. Business requirements such as employee tracking, medical- record processing, and phone lists, etc. And Marketing applications such as improved customer relationship management; and culture-specific sales campaigns, etc.

What was your moment of truth?
TRUTH IN NAMES–A 100-YEAR-OLD PROBLEM – For decades, government agencies and commercial organizations have innocently relied upon 100-year-old technology (Soundex) for finding personal names in databases. In 1984, Dr. John C. (“Jack”) Hermansen proved this archaic method to be critically flawed in matching names from other cultures. His research demonstrated conclusively how terrorists could easily slip into the country using alternate spellings of a name. What’s more, valuable business customer transactions were being lost due to similar Anglo-centric processing of names.


BARRIERS TO ENTRY: TIME AND PROCESSING POWER – Jack and his subsequent partner, Dr. Len Shaefer, realized it could take decades to accumulate enough multi-cultural data to produce an effective system for the government. Additionally, the processing power required would overwhelm the computers available then. They bet that computer processing power would catch up with their requirements and founded Language Analysis Systems, Inc. (LAS)

BREAK-THROUGH TECHNOLOGY FOR GLOBAL NAME-RECOGNITION – Over two decades, LAS collected, classified, analyzed, and extracted statistical patterns from almost 1 billion names from every country in the world. In February 2001, LAS released the first line of software products ever produced for global name-recognition. The moment of truth occurred just after 9/11, when this vision was put to the test of tracking the 9/11 terrorists… (The exact date? 9/13/2001)

What were the results?
On 9/11, LAS immediately volunteered personnel and technology to help the government track the terrorist suspects. LAS was notified that a Special Agent in Denver had used LAS technology to find multiple ways to spell the same Arabic name. The expanded search helped track the terrorists to their Florida connections. Recognition of this prompted Congress to enact the Enhanced Border Protection and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, designed to help agencies use name data more effectively. LAS technology now improves American security while helping global corporations improve bottom-line results by reducing fraud and improving customer relations.

What’s your parting tip?
Don’t be afraid to innovate. America needs innovators to keep our country safe, fair, and competitive on the global market.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2003