4 answers: What will the world look like when people record every second of their lives?


Working on several industry-changing client projects, diving into new trend studies every week and following many Twitter streams every day I also try to live 5 years ahead. I believe that’s important, both for myself and our clients. Recently I backed The Memoto lifelogging camera on Kickstarter – a small camera that takes a picture every 30 seconds and stores it in the cloud. I’m proud to be part of the first 1000 followers and I’m excited for my product-arrival.

If you are not familiar with lifelogging, it is the art of capturing your entire life, or at least large portions of it by taking pictures, recording sound around you, tracking keyboard hits and so on. Although lifelogging is not new, our lives are evolving around it more and more, even if you haven’t thought about it in the first place. Facebook timeline, Twitter streams, Runkeeper updates or just carrying your mobile around with you – all of these generate life-describing data – if you like it or not.

So a question I asked myself after my Kickstarter “contribution”:

“What would the world look like if people recorded every second of their lives?"

In quest for the answer I have examined 4 topics I would like to share.

1. The power to control chaos

As a teenager I had my own dark room where I developed photos. All my photos (negatives) had little stickers with numbers attached and were stored in an access database, including tags to search for pictures when necessary. Because it was my favourite hobby, managing the system was fun. Looking back, it was an easy and modern solution for that time.

Moving to the digital era, my numbering-system has transformed into a well designed folder-structure on my computer. In the beginning, taking around 5000 pictures a year, my tag system was hard to keep up, but with tagging folders instead of pictures, and the help of Windows Explorer, I managed to handle the situation.

In 2005, my numbers were different. I took around 15,000 pictures a year and the situation got out of control. I reached the point where I couldn’t control the data I generated anymore. Fortunately Google’s Picasa was there, thanks to my fast-tagging shortkeys I ruled my chaos again. 

With the Memoto Camera I entered a new era. Taking around 1,000,000 pictures a year I’m curious how they will manage my data. They promise a wide range of apps that will do so. 

To sum up this little story, I think big data is not about the value of the single data pieces, but it’s about the value of the system behind it. The key which brings order in the chaos. The systems that not only generate data but also can manage it, will rule the future of the data business.

2. The redefinition of privacy

The problem with lifelogging is the “big brother” effect. In fact it’s not about capturing your life, it’s about capturing the life around you. Google’s Project Glass has already many parody movies that tackle this problem. A couple of my friends have already told me they wouldn’t feel that comfortable, knowing that 2 pictures will be taken every minute and stored in the cloud when I’m around them. This is where privacy control comes in. Online services are coming up to give data control back to the “owner”. But who is the owner anyway? Is it the one who records the data or the one who is part of it? I might not even be aware of number of random pictures that captured me by accident, for example in a party crowd. Maybe a lifelogging geek, who was sitting behind me in the train, has my whole phone-conversation now on his Dropbox. Do I like that? No! Can I do something about it? No! Stuff to think about … 

3. Big data = big business

Taking a photo every minute generates tons of data. 4.5 terrabytes per year, to be precise. In the Memoto case we’re only considering pictures. Other lifelogging services include video and audio as well. So what will we do with all this data? Where will we store it? At this moment I pay $99 a year to have access to 100GB of online Dropbox-space, 500GB is available for $499. In terms of big data, 500GB is nothing. As I mentioned before, regarding big data, I don’t want to pay for the actual data itself. I want to pay for the control and access of it. How much are people willing to pay for such access? Will this change the value proposition of online hosting? Stuff to think about … 

4. Travelling back in time

Couple of weeks ago I watched the sf-movie The Source Code, where a half-dead soldier has the ability to re-live the last 8 minutes before a train explosion so he can find a bomber. Bringing me back to lifelogging topic, this will be, in some way, possible in real life. Let me describe you a not-so-unrealistic situation in the future: Several people give online access to their geo-located pictures, which combined with date and hour can be merged into snapshots of the world. Imagine number of people in one place taking several snapshots from different angles at the same time. The outcome would be a rough 3D picture of a space or object. Not possible? Google earth’s historical imagery is already one small step in that direction. For the last time: Stuff to think about … 

What is your take on this? Did you stumble upon any related startups or concepts lately? Feel free to reach out. 


I’m Manu Vollens, New Business Designer, Innovation Consultant & Business Model Expert. Spreading innovation culture is in Board of Innovation’s DNA – if you liked the read, contribute to their mission by sharing this article. 

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