By the Financial Times

IBM joined the rush for "big data" acquisitions on Wednesday when it announced a deal to buy i2, a Cambridge-based company that helps police forces and the military analyse vast amounts of security information.

The deal follows the $11bn acquisition of Autonomy, another Cambridge software company, by Hewlett-Packard in August, and is a further sign of technology companies building up their abilities to sift through large amounts of data. Thanks to the internet and the almost unlimited ability to store computer documents, companies are now faced with a tide of information but struggle to make sense of it. There is a high demand for software that helps organise and search this data.

I2's pattern recognition software is used by 25 of the 28 Nato members to sift through military intelligence and helps police forces with tasks such as tracking missing persons.

The value of the deal was not disclosed but it is understood to be about $500m. I2 was previously bought by Silver Lake Sumeru, the California-based private equity company, in 2008 for $185m. The company has more than 4,500 customers in 150 countries and employs 350 people.

The deal comes just a day after Tibco, the US trading technology company, announced plans to buy Nimbus Partners, a business process management company based in Hampshire.

Jefferies advised i2 on the transaction.