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Q&A: Redefining the digital image standard

(Image credit: Image Credit: Flickr / Hugo Chinchilla)

Q: Can you explain what digital image standards are currently in place today, and why they are no longer fit for purpose?

The advent of the internet and the consumerisation of IT has completely changed how images are consumed and shared. Today, the internet sees over 100 new users and 50 new websites go live every 10 seconds. This explosion of online content means that over two billion images are shared online daily—yet 85 per cent of them are thought to be copyright infringed. Image owners, including big brands and retailers, are losing control of their image content, as third parties right click, screenshot and save their pictures illegally (many of which don’t even know that this sharing of content is in fact illegal). Brands and enterprises today simply have no way to track where or how their images have been used.

Yet despite this huge shift in consuming digital images, we simply haven’t seen an evolution in image standards—in fact, since the JPEG was first released in 1992, there has been little innovation in digital image standards.

SmartFrame is redefining the digital image standard. By transforming content into an interactive, trackable and secure format, SmartFrame is looking to replace traditional digital images. SmartFrame images can be controlled directly by the image owner, making it harder for people to steal images and instead promote legal sharing. Interactive content, such as advertising and marketing campaigns can also be added to images, helping to generate revenues.

Q: You mentioned that over two billion images are shared online daily—and 85 per cent of those are thought to be copyright infringed. How has it got to this stage, and why has no one tried to solve this issue before?

In the past, it has been very difficult for image owners to keep track of and protect their digital images. Digital images cannot be treated in the same as a physical image, which can be kept secure behind lock and key. Over 1.2 trillion photos taken in 2017 alone—and this number is only set to grow as more and more image content is shared online on a daily basis.

But copyright infringement isn’t just about the monetary value that is being lost through theft—it’s also about the misuse of images, and the negative impact this can have on brand reputation—and on a business’ bottom line.

SmartFrame is addressing this industry issue by allowing image owners to convert standard JPEG images into the new SmartFrame image standard. The SmartFrame platform embeds trackable data that allows image owners to safely share images on their own website and beyond, track their use and engagement, all while maintaining image quality. Furthermore, the SmartFrame platform can also add interactive content into SmartFrames, such as targeted advertising and marketing campaigns, to drive revenue.

Q: Image infringement affects many parties, including brands, retailers and enterprises. Does it affect them all in the same way?

While these parties may be using digital images differently, whether that is for product images, promoting offers or for advertising purposes, image infringement will have a negative impact on brand reputation for all three groups. While a stolen image from any one of these parties websites could initially appear on another website, it doesn’t take long for this to quickly spiral out of control and lead to the same image being found on hundreds of websites all over the world—and on websites that brands, retailers or enterprises will not want to have their brand associated with. For instance, a brand, retailer or enterprise will not want to have their images used to promote counterfeit goods.

This misuse of images can also cause customer confusion—especially if a website selling imitation products includes incorrect promotional offers or conflicting messages, and a customer doesn’t realise that in fact they are on an imitation website.

While these companies could add watermarking to their images to protect them, this doesn’t create a good customer experience.

SmartFrame gives these companies full control over their images, ensuring brand integrity and consistency at all times. The platform also provides updates on metrics such as infringement sightings, take downs enforced, as well as viewing and engagement analytics.

Q: How can brands and retailers ensure they are maximising the revenue opportunities their digital image content presents?

While digital images are great for showcasing products, these images can also be used to generate revenues. In fact, brands and retailers can push new content, promotions, and even social posts to monetise new offerings through their digital images. For example, adding pop-ups, overlays or calls to action on images will allow these companies to extract further value from their image content.

During campaigns, users can keep track of their promotions through the impressions that they gained on each image, and can also segment and address specific groups that they are keen to target. This can be a great way for businesses to use their image assets to engage with their customers.

Q: What advice can you give to enterprises who want to protect the integrity of their image content?

Ultimately, the JPEG is no longer fit for purpose, and the digital image standard is in need of updating to keep up to date with new technology, and the shift in image consumption. Digital image content is important to businesses—it embodies their brand, and not only do these companies risk losing the monetary value they’ve invested in these images, but they risk damaging their brand by not sufficiently protecting and tracking them. SmartFrame is helping companies to protect their digital assets in a way the industry has never seen before, as well as drive new revenue opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

Rob Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame Technologies
Image Credit: Flickr / Hugo Chinchilla

Rob Sewell is the CEO of SmartFrame Technologies.