Monthly Archives: November 2014

Shazam – A knowledge evolutionary tool?

platoAround 2442 years ago in low tech Athens a wise thinker – Plato – demonstrated his deep understanding of the value of knowledge and the beauty of music. He understood that music gives the universe a soul, wings to our minds, flights of imagination and life to everything but equally he understood that the soul needs to live and for that knowledge is the food.

Music may be non-verbal but is clearly an audible communication that speaks directly to the human consciousness, intellect or whatever makes the soul of a human life. Music follows the rules of this universe and its physics are demonstrated in a rich and wonderful relationship to the mathematics deep within each melody and harmony – a phenomena of nature.

Sadly, unless one has the sheet music representation, music doesn’t come with its own readable metadata. Recognition of a tune or a song lies deep within the human intellect, generated by repeated hearing or practice, allowing recall and the ability to hum, innovate, whistle and sing.

Shazam is changing this knowledge weakness and further minimizing our human frailty. Once you have used it you find it unsettling in its speed and accuracy. While far from perfect, it is clearly a substantial and emerging machine enhanced knowledge skill for humanity.


Shazam is a truly innovative knowledge assistant for humans. While simple in execution, this belies the underlying complexity which is both daunting and exciting in its scope and potential. Shazam Entertainment Ltd was founded in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang and Dhiraj Mukherjee and is based in London. The company is expanding into integration within cinema, advertising, TV and retail environments. We will have to wait to see where this innovative thinking will lead.

Shazam uses built-in smart phone technology and gathers or “listens” to audio being played. It creates an acoustic fingerprint based on the sample, and compares it against a central database for a match. Sounds simple but belies the complexity of the underlying algorithms, data storage and governance needed to make it work every time. It is now able to run constantly in the background identifying for you the music that surrounds, while you do other tasks.

Is this a tool which helps us to manage information overload or infoglut or does it, with great subtlety, generate yet even more information as metadata? That data in turn driving us to look at more of the millions of new music published each year to derive an even better understanding of what is already out there.

A question to ponder as I yet again wonder what that piece of music is!