Box Will Add Metadata To Give More Context To Cloud Documents

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Box announced onstage at its BoxWorks conference that it will be making the documents stored in its cloud storage system smarter, thanks to upcoming support for metadata.

At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal (at least if you’re like me and find the word “metadata” to be inherently off-putting) but Chris Yeh, the company’s senior vice president of product and platform, said this is actually “the most important change” to the Box platform in quite some time. That’s because Box documents can now include more context than just a file name and date stamp. It will also allow companies and products using Box documents to create workflows around that metadata.

Ted Blosser from Box’s platform team rattled off a number of examples to show how metadata can enrich a document. With an insurance claim, companies could add the claim number, the policy number, and the status. With a legal document, they could add plaintiff details. And all of that metadata is then searchable.

To show off one of the more meaningful ways that metadata can enrich a document, Box brought Toyota’s Greg Cannan onstage, where he argued that “cars are becoming more and more sophisticated but the manuals aren’t.” Cannan predicted that if the manual keeps getting thicker, it will no longer fit into a car’s glove compartment.

One solution: Bringing the manual to mobile devices. So Box showed off an instructional mobile app that was built on top of documents and metadata stored on its platform. With the app, it was easy to look up how to pair a Bluetooth device with the car, and then with a simple edit Blosser was able to change the image used in those instructions from a red interior to a tan interior.

This functionality will be available in the Box UI and its API early next year, Yeh said.

During the press Q&A, one of the reporters suggested that many users don’t know what kind of additional metadata they might want to add. Levie responded that for now, this is really designed for companies that already know what kind of metadata would be useful and they’d otherwise have to build separate systems to add it. Over time, he said he wants to add “more innovative ways of expressing what’s in the document,” for example by automatically extracting information from a document populating relevant metadata fields.

During the BoxWorks keynote, the company also announced a lightweight editing tool called Box Notes and showed off upcoming document preview and mobile experiences (which I’ll cover in my next post).