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This article was published on August 22, 2013

    Recommendation service Nara branches out from restaurants to hotels

    Recommendation service Nara branches out from restaurants to hotels Image by: Dmitry Iatsenko
    Josh Ong
    Story by

    Josh Ong

    Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].

    Nara has expanded its intelligent recommendation service beyond restaurants to also suggest hotels. The new service covers 50 cities in the US and Canada and includes booking through the Expedia Affiliate Network and reviews from TripAdvisor.

    After launching last June in eight cities, Nara expanded to provide nation-wide coverage this summer. In April, the startup added a social component to its engine, allowing users to match up their dining preferences with friends.

    The new hotels interface resembles the restaurant section, relying on users to provide feedback by voting up or down specific properties. Venues can be filtered based on neighborhood, amenities, star rating and price.

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    Moving forward, Nara will be divided into both consumer and enterprise divisions. Asian telecom giant SingTel recently announced a partnership to license and localize Nara’s recommendation engine for its customers.

    In the long term, Nara plans to put its neural networking expertise to work for other verticals beyond restaurants and hotels.

    “Hotels serve as a really exciting anchor point in the whole world of travel, leisure and destination sites,” Nara founder Tom Copeman said in an interview.

    “Our whole goal is to build up a consumer platform,” he added. “We really are a 21st-century Internet portal for personalization and Web 3.0.”

    The company is currently focused on the North American market, but it also has its sights set on Europe. Asia will be well-covered by SingTel, which has roughly 450 million subscribers.

    Nara is taking a big data approach to personalized recommendations, which have been highly popular as of late. The service, which bills itself as “biologically-inspired artificial intelligence”,  compares preferences against structured data sets that include analysis of reviews.

    For most people, personalized hotel recommendations aren’t going to be useful on an everyday basis, but this is a natural next step for Nara as it prepares to dig deep into users’ lives.

    Related: How the personalized Web is transforming our relationship with technology

    Image credit: iStockphoto