How often do you find yourself cruising through the apps on your smartphone and wondering: How did they do that? Welcome to the Great Apps series, inspired by the Intel AppUpSM developer program. Today, we give you the story of and oldie but goodie: Shazam, the magically delicious music-identifying app.

Shazam launched in 2002, and today boasts a library of more than 8 million songs and more than 50 million users. Each track is broken down into a unique numeric code, and when you hold your phone up to a song, your clip is also turned into a code. Then a bit of pattern-matching ensues, and voila! your song's title and artist (and most times, the album art) is displayed. And it only takes about 5 seconds. How does the magic happen?

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Well, as reported in Slate, Shazam creates a spectrogram (a graph that plots frequency vs. amplitude vs. time—for more on the Shazam spectrograph, check this out) for each song in its database. The algorithm then picks out the points that represent the peaks of the graph—about three points per second per song. You might think that with such scant data, Shazam would have a record of inaccuracies, but as we all know it does remarkably well matching songs playing in loud bars or transmitted over shaky Internet connections. And, even more remarkably, it can tell the difference between different versions of a song by completely different artists.

So go forth, abracadabra Shazam, and never ask, "Who sings this?" again!

The Great Apps Series is inspired by Intel. Have you developed the next Great App? Join the Intel AppUpSM developer program and you could get up to $25,000 in funding so you can develop and distribute your app to multiple app stores powered by Intel AppUp! Click here to sign up and submit now.

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