There is no denying it - the web is becoming increasingly visual at an exponential rate. In terms of generating and consuming visual content, the numbers are staggering. One thing is clear: People have grown tired of text and the visual web is here to stay. If the world is starting to wave goodbye to an era of text-focused websites and content, how then, is it responding to this recent obsession that is fueling the growth of the visual web?
In what directions is this trend pulling both economies and societies?
And most importantly..what comes after?
Challenges of the visual web and how to unlock its potential
The biggest challenge the visual web poses right now is providing meaning and relevance to all the content it hosts.
So far, the knee-jerk response of industry players has been to innovate and develop technological solutions to help us “read” and “digest” visual content.
Companies big and small have been racing to invent the best neural network out there that can perform visual search, image recognition and attribute tagging functionalities.
These applications help us with searching and categorizing by matching images using pixels, and recognizing objects in pictures or videos. They have found viable use cases within the e-commerce, social network and security industries.
But besides just improving visual literacy and comprehension, and the speed at which we decipher and extract meaning from visuals, what more can machines and software do to allow humans to actually optimize our consumption of visual content?
Not just in terms of quantity (ie. the amount of images they can look through and view within any given time frame), but also in terms of quality:
How deeply can technology view a video and make references or process it in such a way that it improves other aspects of people’s lives in a comprehensive manner?
We’re talking about connectivity on a higher level here.
About merging intelligence gathered from visual content with big data collected from other touch points in a person’s life and creating significant value out of this collective knowledge.
Like every other disruptive technology, current visual technologies need to step up to enhance the value and benefits that the visual web offers by leaps and bounds.
Visual intelligence: connecting intelligence extracted from the visual web with the internet of things
The whole technology stack will have to be reinvented in order to handle this exponential growth in content creation.
Hence the need for a new concept or a new approach to doing things - Should visual intelligence be merged with the Internet of Things (IoT), endless opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems can be created.
Current examples of smart devices embedded in the IoT (the networked connection of people, process, data and things) include biochip transponders on farm animals, wifi-enabled washing machines and the increasingly connected cars with their built-in sensors that can avoid accidents and even park for you.
With visual intelligence acting as an additional data point contributing to the IoT infrastructure, this will result in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefits for humanity as a whole.
To quote a study from consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute, the potential economic impact of the IoT may rise to US$6.2 trillion by 2025.
Furthermore, experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020. So it seems that the higher the number of data points and intelligence that exchange data and converge in this network, the more robust and extensive it becomes, and the more it will benefit and serve us.
Existing devices in the IoT can collect useful data with the help of visual technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices in this interconnected network.
The ability for visual intelligence to flow to other devices and systems within the IoT network means that it can find applications in nearly every field, with some fleshed out as examples below.
Intelligent shopping experiences
Visual content that is posted to all of an e-commerce consumer’s social media platforms (such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) can be processed for analytics to render data that can make his or her online shopping experiences a lot more enjoyable.
Patterns and behavioral trends can be drawn from all sorts of images and videos that he has uploaded, liked and shared, and preferences with regards to the items this shopper wants to purchase online can be predicted based on that analysis.
So the next time he goes onto an e-commerce platform, products that suit his style and liking can be automatically recommended by the site without cueing or prompting.
Automated home solutions
With intelligence from visual content into the IoT, the security cameras fixed around your apartment would be able to relay data to the electrical devices installed in your house.
For instance, your air conditioner could switch off by itself once the cameras capture you driving off for work. Or your water will be warm as soon as you get up in the morning for a shower.
These smart devices will make up the smart home that has only been portrayed in science fiction movies so far.
By monitoring the movements of wildlife and their habitats, visual data can be recorded and processed to assist in environmental protection efforts.
Other applications like earthquake or tsunami early-warning systems can also be improved upon by using visual technologies to process and analyse large quantities of images of the earth’s surface or atmosphere.
Obviously, the applications of visual intelligence and IoT are not only restricted to these areas.
The convergence of big data and technologies in the ever-expanding IoT web provides limitless opportunities, promising a future that improves human lives in unimaginable ways.
Moving forward into a future of technological convergence
Visual intelligence, merged with the IoT, is bigger than the sum of its parts. Put visual technological applications together with the thriving visual web, more connectivity to the IoT, and you’ll get countless optimized and automated solutions that makes our lives easier.
The IoT’s ability to connect visual analytics and intelligence with other technologies is the key to achieving the visual web’s potential.
At the moment, the visual web is growing faster than we are. It’s time for us to tap into the treasure trove of data and analytics that visual intelligence has to offer, and bank on technology to make a significant leap of progress into the future.
Now that’s worth looking forward to.