Making quantitative sense of unstructured data has blossomed into a niche industry for Melbourne-based software company QSR International, which now supports multimedia content.
QSR's flagship product, NVivo, began life inside La Trobe University to organize qualitative information and evolved over ten years as it started to become in more demand throughout the academic world, according to the company's CEO John Owen.
Owen now describes QSR as a "dominant player" in its space with some 350,000 end users globally, with most of its university customers having site licences.
"We've seen many changes over last few years as the product is used in a vast range of disciplines across the academic world," Owen said, adding anyone researching unstructured data can use NVivo.
"A focus on statistical data can result in missing qualitative data."
QSR is now seeing an uptake of NVivo in commercial research organizations, including government departments, and legal firms.
The release of NVivo 8 earlier this year allows customers to analyze video in addition to text and images.
"NVivo does things in software with paper-like processes, but much faster and more accurately," Owen said.
For example, a sports coach in the UK uses the analysis of video and about 900 pages of transcripts to train athletes with a focus on the London Olympics in 2012.
Locally, Econnect is using NVivo to help farmers to better plan for managing climate variability, Griffith University is using it to research how technology is changing the way people acquire music, and Victoria's Country Fire Authority used NVivo to track the community meetings held during the 2006-2007 fire season and to evaluate the importance of their role for future fire seasons.
Internationally, NVivo claims a lot of commercial market research companies like Roy Morgan, AC Neilsen, GfK, and government organizations like the Centre for Disease Control in the US, the UN, and the World Bank.
QSR itself has grown organically and now has 50 staff globally with 20 people in software development.
The company's CTO Adam Long said as a Microsoft gold partner QSR uses Microsoft's Team Foundation and has a methodology centred around agile processes.
"NVivo is built on the .Net 2 framework as we support Windows 2000, XP and Vista," Long said. "We also embed components like Windows Media Player and Quicktime but it also ads a lot of functionality on top of those. It has rich user interface components and uses the open source Apache Lucene project for indexing and querying."
All development is done in Melbourne and all the developers are MCPs.
"Innovation happens through the lifecycle and by offshoring you are breaking down collaboration and those barriers stifle innovation," Long said.