Spo­ti­fy for visu­al con­tent - Meet FRAMEN in Frank­furt am Main

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Ear­ly May 2019 I had the plea­sure to vis­it the founders of FRAMEN in their brand new Frank­furt WeWork office.

The team of four start­ed two years ago to get dig­i­tal pic­ture frames out of their niche exis­tence and to make the flood of pic­tures from mobile phone pho­tog­ra­phy and social media more usable in the pri­vate and busi­ness sec­tor.

They start­ed with a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame but soon focussed hard on devel­op­ing the FRAMEN Pho­to App to con­trol mon­i­tors and images.

Frank­furt Men at Work

FRAMEN's Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Dim­itri Gärt­ner stud­ied eco­nom­ics and worked for sev­er­al years at Deutsche Bank in Frank­furt in the areas of dig­i­ti­za­tion and inno­va­tion.

With the birth of his daugh­ter a few years ago, the num­ber of pri­vate pho­tos explod­ed and the ques­tion of a bet­ter sys­tem for view­ing and shar­ing pic­tures occurred. This was the kick-off for FRAMEN.

His broth­er Alexan­der Gärt­ner brought in his expe­ri­ence as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, video­g­ra­ph­er and graph­ic design­er. Sveatoslav Podobin­so­hi, for­mer­ly a human geneti­cist, con­tributes the IT com­pe­tence, and Mag­dale­na Pusch is respon­si­ble for busi­ness devel­op­ment and strate­gic part­ner­ships.

Found­ing Fathers

On April 18, 2019, the com­pa­ny cel­e­brat­ed its one-year birth­day as a lim­it­ed lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny, although prepa­ra­tions had already begun ear­li­er.

The com­pa­ny name FRAMEN is derived from FRAnk­furt MEN, which of course also includes WO-MEN.

The first FRAMEN hard­ware prod­ucts

It all start­ed with a white dig­i­tal pic­ture frame based on a Rasp­berry Pi, which was quite clum­sy from today's point of view. That was the Min­i­mum Viable Prod­uct, explains Dim­itri Gärt­ner, and it met with a direct inter­est in the busi­ness sec­tor.

But more was to come soon.

The FRAMEN Play­er, a 21.5 inch­es dig­i­tal pic­ture frame in white and black, man­u­fac­tured in Chi­na, was cre­at­ed togeth­er with the Züh­lke Engi­neer­ing office in the neigh­bor­ing city of Eschborn. (A detailed prod­uct review will fol­low.)

A few months lat­er, the FRAMEN TV Stick com­plet­ed the cur­rent hard­ware range.

Stream­ing instead of local data stor­age

How­ev­er, FRAMEN does not want to posi­tion itself as a pure hard­ware sup­pli­er. Instead, the com­pa­ny is about a soft­ware ser­vice that enables the over­all enjoy­ment of pic­tures.

Every day, bil­lions of new pic­tures are tak­en with mobile phones and "con­ven­tion­al" cam­eras. Unlike in the past, they don't go into shoe­box­es, but slum­ber on com­put­er hard disks or mobile phone mem­o­ry chips.

Most dig­i­tal pho­to frames have an SD card or USB stick on which the pic­tures are stored local­ly.

This makes image con­trol and man­age­ment dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly when it comes to man­ag­ing more than one screen.

An exam­ple may be sev­er­al screens spread across a busi­ness loca­tion or just one frame that you have giv­en your par­ents for Christ­mas that needs to have some new pho­tos.

As the first par­a­digm, the local data stor­age of the images was there­fore thrown over­board and replaced by a stream­ing solu­tion. All images are stored on Ama­zon cloud servers and instant­ly loaded onto the local mini-com­put­er in the FRAMEN Play­er when a playlist is select­ed.

Dim­itri is con­vinced that stream­ing tech­nol­o­gy, which has become the default tech­nol­o­gy in music and films, will also find its way into pic­tures.

Spo­ti­fy for Images

Stream­ing allows not only per­fect syn­chro­niza­tion of all con­nect­ed pho­to frames but also easy access to curat­ed pho­to or art col­lec­tions, adver­tis­ing cam­paigns or Friends & Fam­i­ly albums.

Just as you can call up playlists in Spo­ti­fy, which have com­piled by music fans world­wide, the notion can also be trans­ferred to image col­lec­tions.

What is miss­ing so far is a com­pre­hen­sive copy­right con­cept as in the music and film indus­try, in which the artists can par­tic­i­pate finan­cial­ly.

But the num­ber of images that can be used free of charge is already increas­ing, as ser­vices such as Unsplash, Flickr and Pix­abay prove.

Self-learn­ing algo­rithms, which under­stand your visu­al taste bet­ter and bet­ter, can ulti­mate­ly offer a com­plete­ly new pho­to or art expe­ri­ence.

The FRAMEN team had these devel­op­ments in mind right from the start and there­fore focused pri­mar­i­ly on soft­ware devel­op­ment, which allows stream­ing to dif­fer­ent hard­ware plat­forms. And they did it as sim­ple as it is tech­ni­cal­ly fea­si­ble.

Already today curat­ed image col­lec­tions are part of the FRAMEN Pho­to Soft­ware. Although their num­bers are still small and can be seen as a proof-of-con­­cept, the soft­ware allows a qua­si-unlim­it­ed scal­ing.

Make the screen shine

The company's mot­to is "Stream­ing pho­tog­ra­phy to any pri­vate and busi­ness screen." This includes a large mon­i­tor that most of us have in one or more rooms at home.

Smart TVs deliv­ered in recent years can be used as pic­ture frames with the FRAMEN Pho­to App with­out any addi­tion­al hard­ware.

Although some TV man­u­fac­tur­ers also offer their con­cepts, such as the screen saver from Apple TV or Samsung's "The Frame," they are by no means as flex­i­ble and plat­­form-inde­pen­­dent as the FRAMEN solu­tion.

The FRAMEN TV-Stick trans­forms any mod­ern tele­vi­sion into a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame. It can be oper­at­ed loca­tion inde­pen­dent with a smart­phone and requires no on-site main­te­nance apart from the on/off switch — a cost-effec­­tive and flex­i­ble solu­tion for the adver­tis­ing indus­try.

Dis­cus­sions with major TV man­u­fac­tur­ers have also met a lot of inter­est, says Dim­itri. A well-known brand is like­ly to enter into an agree­ment with FRAMEN short­ly.

Mak­ing Dig­i­tal Sig­nage cheap­er and eas­i­er

WeWork, whose Frank­furt branch is home to FRAMEN, is so con­vinced by the con­cept of the young founders that they not only want to use the FRAMEN sys­tem in their co-work­ing lob­bies but have also decid­ed to become an investor.

Accord­ing to Dim­itri, the mar­ket for dig­i­tal sig­nage esti­mat­ed at over $20 bil­lion is also very attrac­tive for FRAMEN.

The key is to dif­fer­en­ti­ate clear­ly from exist­ing providers through inno­v­a­tive and flex­i­ble solu­tions and make the switch as easy as pos­si­ble.

Think­ing Big

After three hours with the FRAMEN founders, I leave the WeWork build­ing in Frankfurt's Taunu­san­lage with the feel­ing that some­thing extra­or­di­nary is being cre­at­ed here.

No com­pa­ny has yet man­aged to get the sleepy mar­ket for dig­i­tal pic­ture frames going with a con­vinc­ing con­cept.

Spo­ti­fy orig­i­nates from Swe­den, Net­flix from the USA and maybe the future tech­nol­o­gy for visu­al con­tent will come from the FRAnk­furt MEN.

(Pho­tos: Copy­right Fra­men GmbH)