Two sessions at the DAMNY conference, currently taking place at the New York Hilton, intersect in their suggestion of a likely future path for digital asset management (DAM).

One, by HP Autonomy VP Jeff Cornelius, looked at the meaning surrounding words and images. A "four-legged animal that is man's best friend" is clearly a dog, but a DAM system might not know that just from keywords and metadata that don't mention the word.

Implied Meaning

Cornelius, a psychologist by trade, primarily focused on media's or words' implied meaning, not venturing too far into the direction I had expected: what will happen when IBM's Watson -- the groundbreaking computer system that trounced human contestants on Jeopardy by understanding implication and context as well as literal meaning -- meets, falls in love and marries DAM.

Image-recognition technology, conceptual thinking, intelligent language parsing, Big Data analytics and the like are accelerating in their development and integration. At some point, keywords and metadata will seem as quaint a way to describe image content, its uses and its layers of meaning as, say, the data on someone's driver license adequately describes that person.

Imagine if a DAM system could surprise with its choice of a media asset being so off base it totally works for a given use, the way a great art director can surprise. We have some hints now -- Google Now or Apple's Siri, for instance, can occasionally delight the user with an unexpected choice.

Reaching Audiences

Or a DAM system that can help brainstorm for a campaign that has something to do with cars. You don't yet know the theme of the marketing campaign, but you know some of the moodboard qualities you're looking for, and you want the DAM to help you come up with image-related ideas.

Which segues to the session held by Loni Stark, Director of Product & Industry Marketing for Digital Marketing at Adobe. She described her session, “Is Your Digital Asset Management Strategy Ready for Multichannel Marketing?”, as the “tale of the two DAMs.”

One tale involved the DAM needs of travel site Travelocity, and the other the needs of General Motors. Travelocity wanted a consistent branding across a variety of generated pages for travel destinations, each of which included images of the vacation site or surrounding area. GM needed to create media portals for journalists to download images and obtain other information about cars they are writing about, more than 100 portals in 30 languages for 90 countries.

Stark discussed ways Adobe’s creative and marketing tools supplied those needs, and how the company can deliver images rendered for a given channel’s technical requirements, on the fly. Her key take away: “Your digital assets have no value unless they reach their audience.”

Zillions of Channels

But just think about what the “audience” is going to mean in a few years. Certainly, the number of marketing channels, devices, user types and individual user needs is not going to diminish. In fact, all the evidence is that it is going to radically increase.

Media assets for Google glasses, particularized for the street you're walking down. Images localized for each intelligent vending machine. Tablet-based history textbooks that call up images of this week's current events to visualize a concept.

Like keywords and metadata, someday our current, semi-manual preparation and distribution of assets will seem as charming as hand-made, hard-built Web pages do now, once the world explodes into zillions of channels and subchannels.

In other words, at some point DAM is going to evolve into, say, I-DAM. Certainly, the addition of intelligence to the acronym raises possibilities far beyond new puns.