Wednesday, May 04, 2005

70,000,000,000 Images: Coming To A Hard Drive Near You

At the recent CTIA Wireless conference in New Orleans, Dan Carp, CEO of Kodak, gave the keynote addressed and shared this staggering statistic: During the next 12 months, over 70BB (that's Billion with a "B") digital images will be captured worldwide. Kodak estimates about 1/2 of those images will be taken with camera phones; the other 1/2 with digital cameras.

Since hearing this statistic (and observing recent activity in the M&A arena) the implications of such rapid global adoption of the digital image platform creates significant opportunities for companies--both large and small-- to introduce products and services that help users edit, manage, share, print and distribute their digital image content. One area in particular that deserves exploration is archival storage.

During the last 3 years since adopting digital capture, I personally have amassed a collection of over 5,000 digital images. While I am delighted with the flexibility and speed (not to mention creative freedom) digital has provided me, I am also nervous as hell: Will my images stand the test of time so that my kids and their kids will be able to enjoy all of the special memories long after the current media I use for storage is obsolete? (Currently, I use several storage mechanisms including serial external hard drives for real time back-up and a combination of DVD/CD for archival storage.)

Archival storage of images is not a new problem: During the past 15 years, I've been part of several leading edge companies that have developed both the expertise and invested in very sophisticated (and very expensive) state-of-the-art digital archive systems to manage and preserve millions of images. But what about Soccer Mom? Who will she turn to? Can we really expect consumers to have the patience and/or foresight to recognize that the digital images they are creating today must be proactively archived and managed in order to preserve their digital memory for future generations?

Life used to be simple: My father's brother captured images of my parent's 1959 wedding on his Brownie camera using Kodakchrome 25 film. Last week, or 46 years later, I loaded those same images into a slide carousel (which I was informed Kodak has stopped manufacturing) and projected them on a screen for my children and family to enjoy. The colors were brilliant, the images sharp and the memories, most important, were/are intact.

With digital capture, some companies (esp. those who make a their living from selling ink, chemistry and paper) would like you to believe that the only way to preserve memories is to make a print. And I agree-- printing is the only guarantee I can think of that provides this security. But in many ways, printing makes me feel like I'm taking a step backwards.

Companies that can provide solutions for real-time, state of the art storage-and most importantly, those that can create or leverage a brand identity that resonates with "longevity" and "permanance" stand a good chance of filling the void between the smart card, the hard drive and the photo album. Moreover, let's not be satisfied with static storage-- the winner should also allow customers to better leverage the unique attributes of digital content to share, search, edit, and distribute their images within a real-time dynamic architecture.

After all, 70,000,000,000 images deserve to live somewhere-- let's find them a home.

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