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NAB 2018 highlights : Intelligent cloud, AI & machine learning with cognitive services

The team returned from NAB after a jam-packed week of Blackbird meetings with end users, service providers, technology partners and distributors across the news, media and entertainment (NME) sector – from news and broadcast to online and major sports organisations (as well as everything in between).

From the very start, (pre-show set up) where an owner of a traditional storage provider, asked “Has the rest of the world caught up with you yet?” – the scene was set. Like our fellow exhibitor, we understand business models are evolving and this was reflected in the interests of those attending Blackbird meetings and demos.

Every year NAB becomes a hub of discussion for trending topics in the industry, and this year Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) emerged as solutions to a problem that many haven’t recognised. Cloud is no longer a ‘maybe’ but a ‘given’ and conversations are shifting towards discussions of seamless migration. Companies are seeking new ways of minimising the spend and complexity inherent in delivering additional content to more platforms than ever before.

Cognitive services emerged as a key topic, but the joined principles of ML and AI were recognised for their huge potential benefit to the industry. Cognitive services have the ability to assist automating the remaining manual workflow stages where a subjective opinion or a decision based on new, incomplete information is required. In media and entertainment, these principles are applied to gain the results of quality analysis and content analysis. In one particular meeting, the discussion highlighted huge fragmentation in the AI/ML market with over 7,000 technology providers and 10,000+ engines, up from 1,000 engines in the last 12 months. There is no doubt, many services are embedded offerings from a smaller number of core AI technologies, but the numbers are certainly not conducive to anyone wanting to carefully select a partner right now. There were also many, many demonstrations of intelligent and automated content indexing and metadata creation, yet few managed to clearly articulate the value of the service. Do we really need to know if a newsreader is wearing a purple shirt or a blue one?

At Blackbird, we see great value in data and its ability to enhance or augment existing workflows. We understand that today’s workflows require progress in order to reach absolute efficiency and that the immediate challenge of AI/ML is awareness of the commercial benefits. A key driver could be captioning workflows which involve large amounts of manual and time-consuming data entry. This workflow covers traditional broadcast workflow and is crucial for online engagement. Captioning is widely used across social media platforms where a large number of consumers access feed content on mobile devices without any audio. Speech-to-text isn’t new, but when combined with AI and ML abilities to learn and continuously train – its high accuracy meets the point of realistic automation. Ensuring continual efficiency in production and delivery of meaningful content to consumers, maximises monetisation. We believe the value proposition for cognitive technologies will only increase over time and that the use of data to optimise workflows will be a key driver for the next generation of content creation and distribution.

NAB is a large show with over 100,000 attendees, but everywhere you turned you would mentally note an exhibitor claiming to provide a cloud-based solution to some degree. The cloud solutions ranged from linear Playout, media management, storage, transcoding, and delivery. Cloud is confidently reaching maturity and the methods of architecting systems are finally shifting from ‘why’ to ‘how’ and ‘where’. The business model of taking a traditional technology, running it in a virtual machine and on someone else’s platform and calling it a ‘cloud’ solution has left customers with numerous logistical challenges – there were many questions on ‘how’ and ‘where’ content is stored, moved to the cloud and processed, making each solution different.

Our customers are looking to build relationships with technology providers to partner with them and provide a non-disruptive path for a flexible and scalable future. One of the solutions we provide is Blackbird Edge, which assists in a smooth migration through Edge technology. Blackbird Edge is a software-defined conduit to the power of the cloud whereby content can be tracked while remaining in its existing location. This layer is topped with a selection of lightweight, web-based user applications such as Blackbird Ascent or the more comprehensive toolsets of Blackbird Forte to enable virtual use of the same (original) content without the need to scale up infrastructure. The solution allows editors and teams to enact on user or automated instructions, to utilise original content referenced and create final, high-quality content for distribution.

Ultimately the idea that in our world of large files you move the ‘computing to the content’ rather than the ‘content to the computing’ is a key principle of Blackbird Edge. Customers looking to increase monetisation of video content for online and social media can have these capabilities without the complex rollouts, making Blackbird Edge highly attractive.

The whole Blackbird team has left NAB with an even greater enthusiasm for the innovative Blackbird platform and the benefits it can bring to more efficiently create and monetise content and would be pleased to talk in more depth on any of these topics.


written by Huw Dymond, Product Manager



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