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Going blockchain? Two imaging examples

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Global Blockchain Forum and immersing myself in this for me mostly new world of ICO seekers, self-proclaimed investors, blockchain developers, VCs suffering from FOMO, and libertarians and anarchists from all over the world for which the prime method of communication is Telegram – because you never know who’ll be looking over your shoulder…

And yes, there were two interesting implementations of blockchain in the imaging world.

[If you also have one or are working on one, please let me know so we could possibly cover it in a future edition of this newsletter or at our Visual 1st conference].

But before we get there, here is my 2-minute blockchain and cryptocurrency primer, in case you wonder what the buzz is all about. A blockchain is a chain of connected blocks that each contains certain data, a unique identifier (“hash”) and a hash of the previous block. Unlike data stored in a central server, blockchain data is distributed and considered to be more secure. If someone changes or tampers with a particular block, it changes the block’s hash, breaks the chain and automatically notifies all blockchain participants. Think of a blockchain as a ledger that is distributed among the various blockchain participants. As a peer-to-peer distributed system there is also no need for a middleman or central authority, such as a government (did I say it was popular with libertarians?).

Where blockchains shine is the use of smart contracts, pieces of software that store agreed upon rules, automatically verify compliance and execute the agreed terms. Smart contracts enable parties that don’t necessarily know or trust each other to efficiently and safely do transactions with each other. Smart contracts are fully transparent to all participants, leave an audit trail of events, and avoid a single point of failure.

Smart contracts are being explored in mainstream industries such as real estate and medical, as these industries currently require lots of paperwork, middlemen, and complex information exchange or transaction procedures. And that’s not all: an IBM report states that 15% of banks worldwide expect to widely implement blockchain solutions.

Cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin and Ether) are a particular data type stored in blockchains and have attracted most of the press attention in terms of spectacular ups (Lamborghinis anyone?) and downs of their value, a few scams here and there, and a call for government regulation of security token ICOs (internet coin offerings).

But let’s talk about two blockchain initiatives related to imagingKodakOne and CryptoPicture.

Earlier this year at CES, the announcement of the KodakOne platform, along with a Kodak-branded bitcoin creation (“mining”) machine called Kodak KashMiner, tripled Eastman Kodak’s stock price: from $3 to $15 (it’s now back at $5). In reality, Eastman Kodak (not to be confused with Kodak Alaris, the other part of the original Kodak company and the makers of photo solutions such as photo film, kiosks and the Kodak Moments app), had only licensed its Kodak brand to Wenn Digital for KodakOne and a company called Spotlite for its KashMiner machine.

 

KodakOne logo

 

KodakOne has an interesting concept: it’s aimed to be an image rights management platform for photographers through which they can create a smart contract-regulated license for each image and use web-crawling software to look on the internet for copyright violations. Instead of using dollars, photographers can have their clients from all over the world pay them in KodakCoins. The company, Wenn Digital, was planning to do an initial offering for KodakCoins earlier this year, but this has been delayed “in light of the increased worldwide regulatory interest in ICOs,” according to the company. Stay tuned!

CryptoPicture, a new initiative from Victor Sazhin, founder of Vicman (makers of the popular Photo Lab app and previous presenter at Visual 1st), is not planning an ICO but offers a smart contract-based shared advertising space. He is planning to massively advertise a single 1000×1000 pixel picture that is made up of banner ads. The plan is to promote this picture both online and offline. Each new banner ad sold goes up in price (every next pixel doubles in price, having started at 0.001 Ether ($0.39) to the final pixel sold at 1 Ether ($393 as of this writing). Technically that’s not necessarily the final sale, as each advertiser may also resell their ad space to profit from the increased market rates.

CrypoPicture or the most valuable picture ever
CrypoPicture or the most valuable picture ever

 

In other words, CryptoPicture aims to become the most valuable picture ever, and advertisers are not just spending money on advertising, they are also creating value that they might be able to monetize in the future. Finally, as Sazhin has learned a thing or two from virally growing his Photo Lab app (over 10M monthly active users; 100K downloads a day), we can expect him to do the same with CryptoPicture. In fact, CryptoPicture is already promoted as sharable templates (“Combos”) within Photo Lab through which users can embed their own creatively enhanced photos (see example above).

And a few more things …

Facebook. Along the lines of the visual-first communication trends we discussed at Visual 1stFacebook released an update that brings high-definition video and 360-degree panoramic photo support to Messenger. The update follows the high-res photo support Facebook added to Messenger in November, expanding the quality and type of content that users can text to each other.

Instagram. Instagram is one-upping Apple with a portrait mode feature that runs on a wider variety of phones and works with video, not just photos. The Focus feature blurs the background while keeping someone’s face sharp for a stylized, professional photography look.

Bellus3D. Eric Cheng, co-inventor of Apple QuickTime VR, is at it again. After Bellus3D, his current startup, launched a 3D face scanning accessory camera for Android phones last year, it now unveiled its FaceApp iPhone X app, which addresses the same use case, but does not require any additional hardware, as it is making use of the iPhone X’s front-facing TrueDepth camera.

CIPA. In February, overall digital stills camera shipments worldwide were down 27% compared to the same month last year, much of it caused by the demise of compact cameras. Interesting enough, when ignoring that effect, Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILCs) shipments (that’s more or less DSLR and Mirrorless combined) were down only 5% compared to the same month last year, but it’s not Mirrorless that is causing the slowing of the decline – unit shipments dropped 16% YoY and 7% MoM, while good-old DSLRs stayed the same YoY and even increased 33.6% MoM. In terms of $, it is a different story though as many of the DSLRs currently sold are cheaper than the mirrorless models …

Nikon vs. Canon. While we’re at it, here is a fascinating recount of the historic battle between the camera giantsNikon, the innovating incumbent who got a tad too concerned about making changes that could lead to cannibalization and impacting their professional customers, vs. Canon, the vendor that was less concerned about this and managed to seemingly overnight capture the bulk of the professional market. Written by Steven Sinofsky, former president of Microsoft’s Windows division and current board partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

Facebook. Hidden in the barrage of API and phone/email lookup restricting measure coming from Facebook/Instagram to combat consumer privacy and security concerns: no surprise – the word is that Facebook won’t unveil their video-enabled Amazon Echo competitor at the company’s F8 developer conference after all.

Photo by justDONQUE.images

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Photo Connect, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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