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The Tech Interpreter

and the tagging algorithm

Artificial intelligence and analytics services are part of the workaday routine for product manager Yvonne Thomas at Arvato Systems. She explains why their use in media asset management makes sense, and how intelligent technologies are changing the media industry.

Arvato Systems in Cologne is increasingly relying on integrations with “Analytics Services” for its IT solutions in the Video Production Management Suite (VPMS). Just as in other areas, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have long since become a hot topic in the media industry. This is why Yvonne Thomas deals with AI and Analytics Services on a daily basis in connection with Media Asset Management, an IT solution for managing large volumes of data using descriptive information. 

Artificial intelligence, analytics services, media asset management – while terms like these are commonplace for tech experts like Yvonne Thomas in her day-to-day work, they often raise big question marks in the minds of those unfamiliar with the subject. And this is precisely where the IT specialist’s strength lies: Her job involves constantly mediating and translating between customer requests and technical requirements. Thomas’ ability to explain complex technical issues in a simple and very vivid way has even won her an award. In 2017 she became the first non-American woman to win “TV News Check” magazine’s “Technology Women to Watch Award” – a distinction given out by the U.S. trade publication to honor women whose work has significantly advanced the broadcast and media industry. Six years earlier, Thomas also won the ARD/ZDF Award for the Advancement of Women in Media, for her dissertation on “TV Technology and Electronic Media” at the Rhein-Main University of Applied Sciences.

Market leaders in Germany, Belgium and Canada

  • The Video Production Management Suite from Arvato Systems with six different products

Now, as a product manager, she and her colleagues manage the Arvato Systems Broadcasting department’s Video Production Management Suite , which is used by TV channels, production companies, and media companies and comprises various media asset management products – and her skill at explaining complicated things in a simple way is often in demand here. 

What, for example, is media asset management anyway? In Thomas’ words: “We all know the following situation when we come home from vacation: We’ve often taken thousands of photos or videos and want to organize all the files somehow. The technical metadata is usually stored automatically, for example, the resolution or the information on when and where the file was created. But in order to find content in a large database efficiently they need to be provided with descriptive keywords. Our various IT solutions in the VPMS give journalists a way to organize, manage, and then edit their video files using this content-related metadata.” 

In Germany, Belgium, and Canada, the Bertelsmann subsidiary is the market leader in this field. But customers in other countries around the world also rely on the Arvato Systems software solution which Thomas and her colleagues in Cologne are constantly developing and optimizing. The better the tagging (or keywording), the more targeted the search. Tagging is carried out manually for manageable volumes of data, but cannot be done manually for the several million items of data that television channels and production companies generate. So for the past two years, AI has come to play an increasingly important role for Thomas. 

 “Basically, the AI used in our products can be imagined as a kind of black box based on mathematical algorithms,” she explains. “It’s a system that possesses excellent analytical capabilities and can therefore efficiently process vast volumes of data, recognizing patterns in the process, and ultimately display them in a structured way.” Because analytical skills are paramount here, Thomas prefers to speak of analytics services instead of artificial intelligence. “In media asset management, however, the focus is on a system’s analytical capabilities, which also need to be adapted to the customer’s requirements before they can be used. The system then uses machine learning and good test data to improve its own performance, and the results become more and more accurate.” 

‘Training is important’


She says this is actually the greatest business challenge when working with customers: to highlight the importance of training the system. “The technical implementation is not even that difficult. It’s more important that our customers know exactly how they want to use these analytics services and that they understand how extremely important the training is for this,” emphasizes the expert.

She herself also had to start by learning exactly how analytics services work and what they can do. In the process, she has always felt that it is very important to “keep an eye on the outside world,” as Yvonne Thomas describes it. “If you’re dealing with a given topic every single day, you can quickly lose yourself in your own world. This makes it all the more important to keep interacting and exchanging ideas with customers, partners, and colleagues.” By getting to know other points of view and gathering a variety of experiences she says she not only expands her own horizons, but also her creativity, an aspect that should never be neglected in the tech industry. Thomas sees it as especially important to allow the mind to roam and develop freely. “For me, creativity is synonymous with free thinking, the courage to take risks, and the desire to do new things and simply try them out. For me and my colleagues, creativity plays an important role in further developing our technologies and in keeping the customer’s point of view in mind,” says the product manager. 

Creativity is also rather significant for artificial intelligence itself, she adds. “To a certain extent, intelligent technologies can also be creative. If, for example, a computer uses individual keywords to create a text that sounds like it was written by a human, this can certainly be described as creative output,” says Thomas. However, when it comes to the analytical processing of data, creativity does not play a role for the system itself. Instead, says Thomas, the ability to make predictions or recommendations based on data, for news topics for example, will become even more relevant in analytics services. In any case, from artificial intelligence to analytics services and or machine learning, the potential of intelligent technologies appears to be nowhere near fully exploited yet.

This article is a summary of a story about the Bertelsmann Essentials "Creativity" and "Entrepreneurship", which appeared in the new book from the series "What's Your Story". The detailed story and other selected examples of the special connection between the two Essentials at Bertelsmann can be downloaded here free of charge as a pdf file.

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