8base Labs helped PhoTag’s founders build a platform that takes the complexity and cost out of AI computer vision and machine learning for content creators and archive owners.
This problem is only magnified for media organizations and corporate content marketing arms that are faced with cataloging hundreds of thousands of images annually.
However, the metadata associated with a picture can become invaluable when searching for a moment from the past. While tagging may be a mundane task for humans, the ability to instantaneously locate the right photograph is essential for media and content marketing organizations.
This is why seasoned media executives Omar Taher and Jonathan Giesen created PhoTag, an online platform that leans on artificial intelligence (AI) technology and machine learning to eliminate this mundane task from people’s workflow. The team wanted a beautiful, scalable platform that could be quickly extended by leveraging existing technologies via APIs—to help bring their vision to life they turned to 8base Labs.
This is why tagging images is key—if an image can’t be found quickly, its value after the shoot is short lived.
“I describe PhoTag as an image-processing and data-management-workflow tool for professionals managing the use of visual media,” offers Omar. “PhoTag is a technology platform that utilizes Computer Vision as a Service, or CVaaS, which is a blend of AI and machine learning that can extract salient information regarding the visual contents of an image. We're putting structure around unstructured data to create a solution that will emerge as the go-to place for content, image processing and content monetization.”
One aspect of PhoTag that is paramount for media professionals is its ability to streamline rights clearances, copyright management and quickly surface contract agreements should a dispute arise. This can include documentation securing rights from models who were on set at a professional shoot, or contracts from social media influencers—or everyday social media users—granting a brand the permission to utilize their user-generated content (UGC) featuring a product. Not having the ability to link a particular photo with a user’s release is a massive problem when an individual claims their rights were infringed upon, a pain point that Jonathan has experienced directly.
“Rights management has become very important in this modern world of social media influencer content,” he explains. “Let’s say an influencer has a relationship with a shoe brand and she feels that the terms of the contract were violated. With PhoTag, rights management is baked into the platform, so media professionals can tag that individual and link the agreement to them. There’s no hunting through email correspondence, hard drives or filing cabinets. With the click of a button, we can go right to any contracts associated with her to see that, yes, she indeed gave her permission for her image to be used commercially.”
Along with granting licensing to use an image, PhoTag looks to solve another issue around UGC usage in their marketplace: content monetization for social media influencers and users. To solve the challenge of proving that the image belongs to a particular person, the team plans to employ blockchain technology. At a high level, implementing a blockchain strategy for digital photos creates a public ledger to show who an image belongs to, enabling digital content creators to monetize their work without fear of copyright infringement. Additionally, PhoTag assures brands that they are working with the actual content creator who took the image they wish to use in a campaign.
Like the insurance agency insider who founded LeadVolt and the sneaker enthusiasts who created TradeBlock, Omar and Jonathan are entrepreneurs who are building the solution that they wish they’d had ten years ago. Acutely aware of the technological and day-to-day challenges of media and content professionals, they have built a solution to a very real problem. To bring this platform to life, they needed a trusted technology partner who intimately understood their vision. That’s why they partnered with 8base Labs.
Both Omar and Jonathan had helped steer software applications in the past, so they were already experienced in working with development teams.
The PhoTag team knew that it was critical for them to select a software development team that truly understood their vision and the nuances of the problem they were trying to solve with their intelligent media technology platform.
For a separate project earlier in his career, Jonathan had worked with a development shop that took the waterfall approach to software development, focusing purely on back-end technology as they developed a monolithic application. Jonathan was concerned that not enough attention was being paid to the front-end, but his previous vendor assured him that the visuals could be bolted on after the back end was complete. Unfortunately, the lack of time invested in the front end had a major impact on his users.
“They believed it was not about the visual experience, but about the resiliency of the application,” Jonathan says. “Of course, I need the application to be built well, but UX is crucial to modern applications. When we talked with our customers—producers, visual content creators and media professionals—they were completely unhappy with how the application was built. They didn’t care how robust and technologically savvy the code was, because the user experience was so terrible. It took me years to evolve that system to get it up to snuff.”
Both Jonathan and Omar knew that PhoTag had to have a UX focus out of the gate. It needed to be an elegant solution that creatives who pride themselves on an attractive visual aesthetic would be excited to use. This was one of the key drivers in choosing 8base Labs as their development partner: the focus was on usability from the start.
“8base Labs really hit it out of the park early on by bringing the right people into the room and then creating a MVP visualization of our idea in a sandbox environment,” Omar says. “When we kicked off the project, we not only had technical developers and engineers on the call, there was also a UX designer and a business strategist. This was key because technical developers, UX professionals, and business strategists will all have different perspectives.”
Omar notes that the 8base Labs team’s effort to understand PhoTag’s vision holistically was a key factor in the success of the project.
After confirming that the underpinning 8base platform would be highly scalable on the AWS cloud platform, Omar knew that once development was complete he would have a fully functional application, not an MVP that they’d have to re-build once the company began to grow.
“Being a two-man team, we have only so much time and so many resources available to us. Knowing that 8base could take on the entire technical responsibility, from development to hosting, was a definite selling point,” Omar says. “Being a non-technical founder, it was a huge driver for me that I could completely outsource my technology stack to a reliable partner and know that when I woke up in the morning, PhoTag was still going to work.”
But even more significant than having their platform built on a solid foundation was the flexibility and expertise that 8base Labs lent the PhoTag team by building their application in a modular fashion. This design ensured that the platform could be extended by APIs.
While Omar and Jonathan knew the general flavors of technology they would use in their application—artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology—the 8base Labs team provided input by helping the PhoTag team evaluate specific technologies that might work best. Omar explains that with 8base’s API-first approach, PhoTag can be brought to market exceptionally fast. Rather than having to build the separate technologies from scratch, 8base can call on different APIs so that the different modules can be developed in tandem. Additionally, as part of PhoTag’s value offering, the company can also make its API available to customers for direct injection and consumption of content, if so desired.
Omar recognizes that this speed to market will be hugely beneficial for media professionals.
“Every minute, photography and image archives are getting bigger and bigger, becoming a greater headache for my peers in the media industry,” he says. “This problem has been relentlessly growing. If I can make people's lives easier, better, faster and more efficient tomorrow, why wait?”
Omar realizes that 8base Labs has been pivotal not only in developing PhoTag quickly, but in providing an application that is both elegant and built on a rock-solid foundation.
“Most development teams give you a false choice: you can have a Rolls Royce with a lawn mower engine or a Volkswagen Bug with a Rolls Royce engine,” he explains. “I’m here to tell other entrepreneurs not to settle for that compromise, because with 8base you get the Rolls Royce look and feel with the souped-up Rolls Royce engine that’s built on time and on budget. PhoTag doesn’t just look good, it’s flexible, intuitive and can scale easily to meet our client’s demands.”