News Article | February 19, 2014
We’re sure you’ve used apps like Shazam and SoundHound to identify unknown music that might be playing in a club or on the radio. What if we told you that a hot new advertising startup was looking to use those same concepts to shake up the world of mobile marketing and app development? Sunnyvale-based Zample wants to do just that with a unique new platform that will help developers and users alike. To put it simply, an app that uses Zample would literally listen to what’s going on around — be it a movie or TV show you’re watching — to help identify your interests. The technology itself isn’t user-facing, but rather a tool for developers who could use the more useful analytics it provides to help serve up better ads and in-app experiences. Need a visual? Imagine a developer uses Zample and the analytics show 80% of their userbase happens to watch Oprah. The developer could use that information to serve up ads that encourage people to subscribe to Oprah’s book club on Amazon or to download the official Oprah app. Beyond advertising, Zample could also soon enable rich “second screen” experiences, giving users a breadth of information on their tablet and smartphone about whatever they’re watching. The second screen concept is not unlike what Yahoo was doing with IntoNow before they decided to shut it down. As exciting as all that sounds, though, it’s worth noting that Zample is only looking to launch the analytics component of their SDK at thi tmie. So what’s Zample’s secret recipe for something like this? Let’s break it down for you. Zample is a cloud-powered platform that has information on many different consumer products, brands, television shows and movies. The SDK allows developers’ apps to periodically “listen to” the user’s surroundings, and will use what it hears to deliver more information about their users’ interests. It does this by using a system similar to Shazam’s, which can identify songs, shows and movies based on audio alone, and gives the user more information about whatever they’re listening to or watching. “The intended benefit for developers is to not have to think about what contextual offers or other relevant content will show up and what to do with it, just let Zample manage that,” said a Zample spokesperson. For instance, the app might recognize that the user is currently watching an episode of Dexter, and will let the developer know that someone in their userbase enjoys Dexter. The developer can then use whatever data they gathered to deliver ads and other meaningful content, or they can let Zample do that heavy lifting for them. Going back to the Dexter example, if a developer notices that a large amount of their users enjoy watching Dexter they could deliver ads that will urge you to buy a set of DVDs from Showtime, or check out more clips online. They could also show you more information about the episode you’re watching, characters from the show and other tidbits that may interest you. Zample is hooked up with live broadcasting information from over 100 different networks, spanning hundreds of thousands of hours of movies, TV shows and even all the ads shown in between. This wide range of sources ensures developers will have no shortage of relevant content, ads and information to deliver to the end user. One of our first questions upon hearing about Zample was how the company would look to protect user privacy. After all, it isn’t wholly comforting to know that an app could randomly enable your microphone at any given point for the sake of analytics and monetization. We have concerns in a couple of different areas: Thankfully, Zample had no problem addressing either one. In the realm of privacy, we’re told that information is never personally identifiable, so you can probably rest easy knowing your information isn’t being sold off to marketing sharks. And then there’s the issue of battery life, though Zample says we should have nothing to worry about. Their SDK doesn’t draw on battery any more than any other analytics or advertising solution. The microphone in the device is only “listening” for a short amount of time whenever Zample does its periodic check, so any impact on battery life is negligible and incidental. While we don’t have a clear picture of Zample’s SDK or a full set of policies just yet, Zample assures us that their offering shouldn’t scare potential privacy zealots away. We’re quickly reminded that this is only the beginning for Zample. Alongside listening for movies, TV shows and advertisements, Zample is also exploring a couple of other options for expanding their SDK. Namely, they’ll want to add music to their repertoire, and might also experiment with bringing live radio broadcasts into the mix. Zample also has plans to introduce an image component to their SDK, allowing developers to gather information on their users’ interests based on the images they come across within their app. The rollout will be quite ambitious for this new startup, but they’ll be tackling it with a three-pronged launch rollout that’ll allow them to get their ducks in a row and ultimately deliver the best product possible: This will all be fueled by the $2 million private injection Zample got to help with this ambitious launch, but it won’t take money alone for this to work. They’ll need actual developers getting their hands dirty and helping them perfect the platform to make sure it’s polished as well as can be ahead of the full-scale rollout. One such developer is Tok.TV, whose baseball app enables friends to talk and chat with each other while the ball game is going on. It sounds like the perfect marriage for an app like this, as Tok Baseball could recognize which exact baseball game each friend is currently watching and automatically setup a chat between them (while also delivering real-time and relevant stats, player information and more like it already does). The potential for Zample is huge, and we can’t wait to see the unique offerings that’ll eventually spawn as a result of its existence. Interested in finding out more? They’re currently accepting inquiries over at their website, so get over there and take a look if this is something you think would be perfect for your own app.
News Article | July 8, 2015
One of the top objectives of advertisers has always been to increase the relevance of a particular ad to the specific consumer who is receiving the ad. Zample is a new start-up that is helping brands increase the relevance of their advertising by listening to – and automatically recognizing – the media which surrounds a consumer. This information can have great value for mobile app publishers, and may spawn some interesting new marketing services. Zample’s service is based on ACR: Automated Content Recognition. Using patented and patent-pending technology, Zample automatically recognizes a wide range of the media that surrounds us all, including live TV, images, video streams, movies, and national broadcast advertisements. For over a year now, Zample’s servers have been “listening” to many many TV shows, movies, songs, etc in order to build up their media database. Here’s how their system would work from the viewpoint of an app developer: At a macro level, a publisher could learn a lot about their user base, for example the “Top 5″ TV shows that have been watched by their users, or the “Top 5″ TV networks, or the “Top 5″ ads that have been seen. In other words, it’s a bit like having a private Nielsen system monitoring the media habits of the app’s userbase. This sort of information can be very beneficial for publishers, as it lets them provide better audience profile data to prospective advertisers, and therefore can increase the value of their ad inventory. The Zample system has also been designed to work with images, and there is a separate image SDK available to app and web developers. This lets them analyze the images contained in any app that features an image feed, for example Twitter. The Zample service is still very young, and one can see there are a number of additional ways they might exploit this technology. In the simplest case, the same system with a somewhat more sophisticated backend could allow for more individual targeting as well. For example, a brand could request: “display this ad only to the subset of users that usually watch Monday Night Football.” Another option would be to support actual time-synchronizing of advertising with consumer activities. This would enable an advertiser to request, for example: “display this ad, but only at the moment when the consumer is actually watching Monday Night Football.” There are certainly some potential consumer privacy concerns that may have to be addressed with this, but the company is aware of them and seems to be working to avoid any of these issues. Zample might also be incorporated with some app primarily for “content discovery”, where the user them self wants to know the identity of a particular show or song, perhaps linked to an m-commerce site to purchase it. Finally, if Zample becomes widely adopted, there would be the possibility of providing information back to the brands. They would be able to provide information about the profile of the people who hear their ads, for example what media they consume, what apps they use, what other ads they are exposed to, etc. Additional monitization options such as these will certainly take some work and undoubtably there will be hurdles to overcome. However, given a fundamental media recognition technology such as this plus a detailed knowledge of the advertising ecosystem, and combined with an open, developer-friendly approach to productization and monitization, I’m sure over the next couple of years we’ll see some interesting new services coming from Zample. For more information about Zample, or to download the SDK, visit zample.com.
Stojancic M.,Zeitera Corporation |
Eakins D.,Zeitera Corporation
SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal | Year: 2011
An end-to-end interoperable content fingerprint-based audio-video synchronization system is described, including an audio-video fingerprinting technology overview and current status of the standardization process in the SMPTE 22TV Lip Sync Ad Hoc Group (AHG). The system is based on the audio-video fingerprinting technology currently submitted to the SMPTE 22TV Lip Sync AHG by Miranda Corp. The particular type of signatures are implemented and embedded in Zeitera Corp.'s file-based workflow, and in Miranda's realtime SDI-based audio- video synchronization equipment, showing signatures being captured by either vendor's system and providing results through either vendor's application management flow. An example of successful collaboration on an interoperable, mixed-vendor solution that can handle both compressed audio-video files and realtime SDI audio-video input is highlighted.
News Article | September 27, 2011
September 24, 2011 – A new partnership pairing a leading interactive applications management platform with automatic content recognition (ACR) technology is providing TV programmers a way to bring interactivity directly to consumers without tie-ins to set-top boxes or specific service providers.Ensequence, supplier of the widely used iTV Manager platform employed by programmers and service providers in EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Framework) and other subscription service environments, has tapped ACR supplier Zeitera to enable synchronization of apps between second-screen devices and TV sets in any viewing environment. Starting with Apple IOS-based iPads and iPhones, the companies are using electronic fingerprinting identification techniques to enable tablets and smartphones to respond to what the viewer is watching by triggering Internet delivery of an app specific to that program or advertisement. The ACR solution gives TV programmers a new way to engage audiences that exploits the popularity of multi-tasking to their advantage, says Aslam Khader, chief technology and product officer at Ensequence. “Offering synchronized interactivity on tablets and smartphones is a great way to complement the programming and adverting offered on the TV– which ultimately keeps viewers more deeply engaged with content,” Khader says. “The Zeitera solution combined with iTV Manager solves a huge problem for programmers and advertisers who are looking for one workflow to manage all of their connected device applications.” CTAM, Harris Interactive, Nielsen and others have recently issued reports confirming that over half of all TV viewers now regularly engage with some other device while watching TV. Harris Interactive, for example, reports 56 percent of U.S. TV viewers multi-task, with the number hitting 68 percent among people aged 18 to 34. Nielsen, which puts the percentage of people who multi-task at least once a month at 57 percent, says they spend an average of two hours and 39 minutes simultaneously viewing TV and using the Internet. ACR, which first gained market traction with Shazam’s song identification app for cellphones, has found its way into other applications, such as online advertising and, in the case of Nielsen, tracking of TV viewing. As previously reported (May, p. 16), the technology has also been drawing interest from TV programmers in response to new ACR platforms designed by suppliers such as Zeitera and Civolution to support ITV. These vendors employ audio and/or video fingerprints or forensic watermarks associated with the TV content to trigger recognition by client software on a tablet or smartphone, which then communicates via the Internet to app servers for delivery of prompts and applications that are tied to what the viewer is watching. This approach contrasts with other companion device ITV initiatives employing EBIF or other set-top linked triggers, which coordinate what the viewer is doing on the second screen with what’s shown on the TV through a direct Internet connection to the service provider’s EBIF management system and the various programming and app suppliers that are tied into that system. Zeitera’s ACR technology is based on audio and video fingerprinting, which algorithmically identifies unique audio or visual patterns within a content segment and stores those “signatures” in a database. When the signature on the signal coming into the device via an embedded microphone or camera is picked up by client software, the client communicates over the device’s Internet connection to trigger a search for a match with signatures stored in the database. Once that match is discovered the system can drive a separately stored application that matches the viewed content to the user’s device, completing a process that takes just milliseconds from start to finish. Strong demand for an ACR solution in the ITV space drove Ensequence to get involved, says Kevin Hurst, the firm’s vice president for marketing and product management. “ACR allows the synchronization of apps with TV programming, which is absolutely huge,” Hurst says. “Our customers have been asking about this technology, and we’re responding by integrating with folks like Zeitera.” While iTV Manager is most commonly used to coordinate the applications and communications processes employed with ITV in the EBIF domain, the same workflow management capabilities are required in the ACR-based ITV space, Hurst notes. “In the past year we’ve seen a lot of movement to two-screen and alternative-device connected platforms,” he says. “Ensequence has been in the process of expanding the scope of iTV Manager so that we can manage apps on all these connected platforms.” So far, Hurst adds, Zeitera is the only ACR supplier Ensequence has teamed with. “We’re being driven by our customers,” he says. “If they ask us to partner with other providers, we’ll try to respond. With Zeitera we’ve really enjoyed first mover advantage. Their technology is great.” However, as explained by Zeitera CEO Dan Eakins, great technology alone isn’t enough to move the market. “One of the biggest hurdles we see isn’t so much implementing the technology and getting it in devices but, rather, integrating in broadcasters’ backends and the whole production workflow,” Eakins says. “You have to have everything easily curated so that the system can identify the appropriate application for a given viewing experience, whether it’s a coupon, a response to a request for information or some other app,” he explains. “If you have a dashboard that interfaces with your backend with all this stuff built in, you can produce and manage those apps on a mass scale. Ensequence has done a lot of work in this area. So this is a big win for us and the industry.” For its part, Zeitera has addressed another big barrier to practical, mass usage of ACR in the ITV domain by positioning its ACR technology as a turnkey solution that takes a lot of the operational hassles off the backs of TV programmers and other clients. Zeitera offers its Vivid fingerprinting system as a standalone technology solution but also operates the system as a hosted platform that can be scaled to support ACR apps across millions of end devices with rates of queries into the search database occurring thousands of times per second, Eakins says. “This is hugely important to TV programmers,” Hurst notes. “The more their vendor partners can provide these backend support systems the happier they are.” Of course, he adds, it’s also important that programmers who have the in-house wherewithal to host their own fingerprinting signatures and perform operational support tasks have the option to license the technology without subscribing to the hosted service. “It’s up to the customer how they want to use the technology,” he says. “The important thing is that the software base is now available to use ACR with iTV Manager.” Flexibility in all aspects of the ITV business strategy is vital to making ACR a viable opportunity for programmers, Hurst notes. “There’s a fundamental difference between what we’re doing and what you see with solutions where maintaining the brand and control over how things are done is a core goal,” he says. “I don’t think closed ACR systems will work out in the long run.” Adds Eakins: “When you come in to talk to these programmers, you learn they want to brand the experience, to control how their TV show appears. It’s a matter of creative control. “Most ITV platforms with ACR make it easier in some ways – just add water and stir,” he acknowledges. “But you end up with apps that are really very much the same from one brand to the next, whether it’s on the Weather Channel or Grey’s Anatomy. “We say to clients, ‘You guys handle how you want it done. We don’t want to monetize it or run a social meeting platform underneath.’ With us you have the ecosystem for managing your apps provided by Ensequence and for running ACR provided by Zeitera, so you can have a coupon vendor or an eBay come in and allow all parties to contribute their strengths to what you’re trying to do without you giving up control.” So far, programmers appear more interested in using the support offered by Ensequence and Zeitera to facilitate applications that complement the programming content as opposed to advertising-related apps. “The networks have always said no one is going to use this technology if it’s just for ads,” Eakins says. “ITV has to deliver a compelling experience to users, which means you lead with programming to build mass engagement. Once you have that and can measure usage, then you can move to improvements in your iterations of advertising with CPMs that make the opportunities worth pursuing.” The two companies have been careful to make sure programmers understand they will be in the driver’s seat as to how the technology gets used, given the possibilities that exist for outside parties to leverage the technology in ways that would undermine programmers’ control. “We want to be broadcaster friendly,” Eakins says. “There are a lot of ways this technology could be deployed that programmers wouldn’t want to see happen,” he notes. “We’re saying we want you to have control over the inventory and advertising. It’s a longer term sell on our side, but it avoids situations where a provider tries to aggregate audiences and mediate TV content by sticking themselves in the middle of the process.” Polling, trivia questions, information about actors and directors, out-takes and the like are the low-hanging fruit most TV programmers are looking to exploit, many in conjunction with driving viral marketing through social network connections, Hurst says. “There are tons of creative possibilities,” he adds. “It’s very challenging when we get to meeting with programmers about what they want to do, because they all want to go in different creative directions. The challenge for us is we have to be flexible enough so that each programmer can uniquely brand their apps and tie them back to their content in ways that set them apart.” The fact that ACR opens a way for programmers to drive interactivity across all viewing experiences is inspiring greater focus on ITV than ever, Hurst notes. “There’s really a frenzy of excitement over this,” he says, declining to name customers. But he acknowledges many will be coming from a familiar list of players in ITV. “There’s a ton of interest among leading programmers that have historically been on the cutting edge with ITV on set-top platforms,” he says. “We’ll see a lot of tire kicking going on for a while and then see them turn to scaling and solidifying their applications. It hasn’t gotten to the level where they’re building whole shows around it, but we think we will see that in the future.” Needless to say, ACR is not an either/or proposition in comparison to activating ITV apps through EBIF. “We’re simply expanding what you can do with the same types of applications using connected devices,” Hurst says. “With the workflow in iTV Manager you have programmers doing things in EBIF, but that’s not all they can do. Instead of EBIF triggers, Zeitera allows us to use fingerprints as the triggers to make the second-screen experience more synchronized and relevant to the TV content.”