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5 predictions for 2015

With 2014 now behind us, it is time to look at the new year with innocent crisp  new eyes, full of hope and wishful thinking. As tradition demands, let’s jump into the prediction bandwagon and look at what the Photo:Tech space will bring  in 2015.

1) The majors will enter the image advertising space.

Up to now, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft as well as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have stayed on the sidelines of in-image advertising. Amazon did come out with a beta product that automatically scans  images and creates link to its shop but it has remained very subdued. However, all are fully aware of the huge potential : with 75% of the internet real estate and the number one activity of mobile users, photos offer a formidable platform for advertising. Up to know, the barrier was scalability due to lack of content understanding. Not so anymore.

Releasing Firefly for the web would make every image shoppable via Amazon

After buying image recognition companies, the majors are now ready to release their solutions. Google has the greatest advantage thanks to its Adsense network and its historical knowledge thanks to YouTube. It also has the largest and deepest resource to accurately attached the right ad to the right content. However, with platform like Flickr and a very large ad network, Yahoo is not far behind. Also available are the myriads of start-ups currently battling in that space ( Gumgum, Kiosked, Zentag) who could become the target of acquisitions if their network is large enough.

2) Deep learning goes mainstream

After years of research and development, testing and analysis, deep learning image recognition is ready for prime time. Not only the results are getting more accurate faster, the need for understanding photo content is getting bigger. And with Google, Yahoo and Facebook leading the way via their own solution, it will be hard for anyone within the photo:tech space to be successful without some type of content recognition.

Deep learning technology is coming to a smartphone/desktop near you

Luckily, companies like Clarifai, HyperVerge or Imagga are opening  the doors of visual content understanding via easy to access api that any photo centric company can now easily tap into.  As consumers, expect to see so amazing application that will bring new depths to how we consume images online.

3) Brands embrace photos even more

With content marketing becoming the new SEO, brands will continue their love interest with photography, especially with the addition of content recognition. Already companies like Ditto can offer brands a deeper look into their consumers behavior via the photos they post on social media or use these photos in they outreach campaigns via Olapic or Curalate. Also, as photos are the number one communication tool on apps via the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and result in the highest engagements, it is of no surprise that brands want to join in the conversation.  As the need around photography management increases, expect brands to start building photo departments that will handle everything photo from posting to social media, traditional advertising, social media photo curation, visual data analysis, and overall photo strategies.  Certainly not full-blown in every company by the year’s end, we will see the first steps of that development in 2015.

However complicated the plan is, content marketing is here to stay and depends heavily on photos.
4) Large exits, higher valuation

There will be some more phenomenal exits in the photo:tech space in 2015. With Instagram sold for $1 billion now valued at $35 billion, all eyes are on photos and the internet. Pinterest for $20 billion ? Snapchat for $30 billion ? maybe. What we can be sure is that companies are ready to pay top dollars and then some for anyone that has managed – or shows good signs of doing so – to create a large audience around photography. In turn, VC’s will be throwing more cash in photo:tech start-ups that show any promise of becoming the next Instagram or Snapchat . And as usual, when a space heats up, expect to also see some crazy money thrown at not to smart solution. Keep an eye on Plague , a visual sharing platform that shows a lot of potential for burst growth.

5) Curation, curation, curation

With 1.8 billion images uploaded a day and showing no signs of slowing down, photo management is becoming critical for everyone, from brands to soccer moms. We shoot more than we can handle and more than often, drop it in numerous virtual shoeboxes we than hardly ever open again. This year, Dropbox, Microsoft, Amazon have entered the photo management space alongside existing Apple, Yahoo or Google solutions but no one seems to have cracked open the space. At stake is the potential to become the number one destination of every  online users as photos are the central point of every social media conversation. And along, with in-image advertising ( see prediction number 1) , the access to billions ( if not hundreds of billion) of dollars in revenue.

Dropbox Carousel is just one of many photo management offering and has yet to show any significant traction

The challenge is to be everything for everyone without being overly complicated to use. Of big help, will be introduction of content understanding as well as intelligent clustering but it will not be enough. It will need to work on various platform, be always available and be the hub for all social media platform, existing or to be created.  The upcoming year will see advances from some platforms ( our bet is on Dropbox) as well as amazing new solutions. From this vantage point, it is both to early and to fuzzy to predict a clear winner.

So there you go : 5 trends we see developing during the course of 2015. While very confident these will happen, we are as well confident that new solutions, technologies and software engineer masterpieces will also see the light of day, some greatly impacting the photo:tech space.  We certainly look forward to it.

Photo by Theophilos

Photo by Super Monitoring

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.

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