At the recent PMA 2004 conference in Las Vegas, some high notes were struck by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A) and the Picture Services Network (PSN). These two non-profits are engaged in building the future of the imaging industry-I3A by engaging worldwide industry participation in its key standards development work and cutting-edge initiatives, and PSN by enabling businesses to enhance their use of digital imaging devices. Their activities at PMA for the public and the press, as well as for their respective members, brought that future into a bit tighter focus for everyone.
The imaging industry is currently dealing with an extraordinary and disruptive transition, moving from film to digital images. I3A, as the focal point for the imaging industry, is working to simplify and ease this process, while presenting industry participants with new opportunities to capitalize on trends.
Accordingly, I3A and PSN activities at PMA were geared to helping the industry make the most of developments like the following, which were reported by InfoTrends Research Group at PMA:
- In 2003, camera phones outsold digital cameras;
- 83% of home PC users reported some digital photo activity in 2003;
- In 2004, twice as many digital cameras as film cameras will be sold;
- In 2003, the average PC user reported storing 648 photos;
- Many consumers still report difficulty downloading, printing and storing images.
Public education is part of I3A's mission, and this was served by a free half-day technical forum. The theme was "Images on the Move-Sharing, Preserving and Portability." With images now as close as a cell phone, capturing and sharing has never been easier-and I3A realized that this makes it imperative for people to know how to safeguard and manage images in storage and in transit, as well as the best ways to ensure reliable and long-lasting results.
Experts from the I3A member community delivered presentations and invited discussion with attendees. Topics covered included: mobile imaging, picture transfer protocol and convergence of PC and CE devices.
I3A and PSN announced two new developments that promise to transform digital photo services for millions of consumers worldwide: the start of work on Version 2 of CPXe, I3A's Common Picture eXchange environment specification, and new participants in PSN and its photo services directory. CPXe is a new standard with the potential to jump-start the photofinishing industry into a digital future. Based on an open-standard Web Services framework, CPXe enables the global transmission of digital pictures, order and commerce information between digital cameras, PCs, desktop software, Internet services, photo kiosks, digital minilabs and photofinishers-regardless of the type of digital camera, device, PC brand, operating system or photofinishing equipment used by service providers. By incorporating CPXe, photographic device and software vendors give their customers easy connection to a range of digital photography services. Released in February 2003, Version 1.0 of the CPXe specification is available for free download from the I3A Web site, www.i3a.org.
I3A CPXe Version 2.0 will build on the foundation of Version 1.0 to incorporate important new features, such as access to storage services; support for composite products such as albums, greeting cards and calendars; and transaction logging to enable dynamic business-to-business transactions. I3A expects that Version 2.0 will be ready for release by the end of 2004.
As for the news from the Picture Services Network, a subsidiary of I3A that offers a directory service for digital photography users to locate and connect to digital imaging service providers, COO Patrick Gaglione announced two new members: Independent Photo Imagers (IPI), a national trade association representing over 500 independent photo lab locations, and Graphx, Inc., a developer of distributed photo printing software and services. Gaglione also announced the direct listing of two digital photo businesses: Irvine, CA-based 30 Minute Photos Etc. and eXaNetworks of Portland, OR.
PSN's Directory Service is a resource for any photofinishing company, camera manufacturer or online photo service's customers to find and use digital photography services. The Directory Service is enabled by the Common Picture eXchange environment (CPXe)-any CPXe-compliant application can connect consumers and businesses to participating service providers in the directory. Each retailer retains control over the information made available to the public via PSN and can include as much or as little detail as desired. The PSN directory, along with CPXe-compliant applications, also enables businesses to dynamically find other business partners.
The participants in the I3A/PSN press conference perhaps conveyed the significance of the announcements best:
Brent Bowyer, IPI president: "While our members' labs vary in their individual mix of photofinishing goods and services, all will benefit from the immense reach and flexibility offered by PSN via the power of CPXe."
Joseph Kowalik, Graphx, Inc. president and CEO: "We are excited about offering our retailers a new service, the completely open PSN directory, enabling more and more consumers to enjoy the fun of digital photography with the convenience of local photo retailer fulfillment."
30 Minute Photos, Etc. president Mitch Goldstone: "People are taking more pictures than ever, and they are looking for more than just prints. And they are more savvy-they don't want to hand their memory card over to a stranger; they want to download their images and keep control. PSN is helping to make this the best year ever to be in the digital photofinishing business!"
Patrick Serex, president and CEO of eXaNetworks: "Our next-generation, peer-based system enables digital images to be shared around the globe. Through PSN, recipients of those images will be able to find photofinishing services right around the corner, regardless of the sharer's location."