Beverly Pierson of Thousand Oaks has a spider that has been running through her home-office computer since December.
Spider is the term for the computer program Pierson created for the ExperTelligence company of Santa Barbara. It has been crawling across the massive World Wide Web searching for all kinds of databases to incorporate into ExperTelligence's WebData.com database search engine.
WebData.com can access more than 2,000 databases representing a variety of subjects, including government, medicine, travel, reference and science.
"There's so much information out there, there's always been a lot of information since we started having [Web] pages," Pierson said. "That drove the development of conventional search engines. This is an adjunct to that. Now, the question is, 'How can I go out and find a database for the question I've got?' "
Whereas traditional search engines such as Yahoo locate pages and Web sites, Pierson's spider has found databases of sites.
"We're always looking at really good fits with companies that have data available and need it to be presented and that would be useful to our users," she said. "We use businesses, other areas that also have information--legal information that could be of use to particular groups of people, medical information . . . information on diseases and conditions, what is a drug really going to do."
The spider hunting down these databases functions similarly to a computer programming language Pierson specialized in during her 16 years at Rockwell.
"I worked on the automated welding system for the NASA space shuttle engines, managing some of the development on the software," she said. "We went all the way through and deployed on that one."
After the shuttle project, Pierson used the programming language to develop a system to improve factory production--identifying a bottleneck in work flow.