Life Caching

Trends are often a manifestation of new enablers unlocking existing human needs. Whenever you witness a revolutionary technology, changing societal values, or a rise in prosperity, expect an emerging consumer trend to be around the corner.

Point in case: collecting! Human beings (fueled by a need for self-worth, validation, control, vanity, even immortality) love to collect and store possessions, memories, experiences, in order to create personal histories, mementoes of their lives, or just to keep track for practical reasons. And with the experience economy still gaining ground — with consumers more often favoring the intangible over the tangible — collecting, storing and displaying experiences is ready for its big moment.

Why? Well, thanks to the onslaught of new technologies and tools, from blogging software to memory sticks to high definition camera phones with lots of storage space and other ‘life capturing and storing devices’, an almost biblical flood of ‘personal content’ is being collected, and waiting to be stored to allow for ongoing trips down memory lane (see also our GENERATION C trend).

TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed this emerging mega trend ‘LIFE CACHING’: collecting, storing and displaying one’s entire life, for private use, or for friends, family, even the entire world to peruse. The LIFE CACHING trend owes much to bloggers: ever since writing and publishing one’s diary has become as easy as typing in, millions of people have taken to digitally indexing their thoughts, rants and God knows what else; all online, disclosing the virtual caches of their daily lives, exciting or boring. Next came moblogging, connecting camera phones to online diaries, allowing not only for more visuals to be added to blogs, but also for real-time, on the go postings of experiences and events. And that’s still just the beginning.

Why do we think this trend is ready to take off? Well, the necessary enablers are now all in place: required hardware and software are ubiquitious, there’s ample availability of affordable storage space, blogging mentality is hitting the masses, and some of the major ‘new economy’ brands are getting in on the game, promising mass LIFE CACHING products at mass prices. We’re talking Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Samsung and many more. All of this is putting in place an infrastructure for LIFE CACHING that will soon have GENERATION C and ‘Generation Digital’ caching every second of their existence.

A brief, random selection of some of the latest LIFE CACHING initiatives, to get you going:

? Nokia just launched its Lifeblog service: software that automatically arranges all messages, images, notes, videos and sound clips that consumers capture with their mobile phones, starting with the Nokia 6620 Imaging Phone, which comes with a 1.1 megapixel camera.*

Nokia’s Lifeblog software runs on a PC: when a phone is connected to the machine, it will download all the content stored on the handset. It then populates a timeline with the information, arranging it chronologically, (with tags annotating when and where something was done, with help from codes that uniquely identify cell phone base stations). A full version of the software package costs approximately EUR 30/USD 37. (Source: BBC).

Note: as you know from our previous editions, 3.1 megapixel phones are now being sold in Japan. It also doesn’t hurt that some hard disks have shrunk to smaller than an inch, yet are still capable of storing many gigabytes: the phone is rapidly becoming a mature storage and capturing device!

? In true LIFE CACHING fashion, Samsung’s current “Show Your World” US ad campaign urges camera phone users to record their daily lives and turn them into movies. In one of the first commercials, a perky actress shoots her way through a love story, a rain storm, flambéed meals, a fashion show, a boardwalk game arcade, a hip night spot and a hotel balcony overlooking the Empire State Building. In Samsung’s own words: “the most vibrant way to capture and share life experiences with family and friends.” (Source: AdRants.) Expect the camera phone to become the centerpiece of LIFE CACHING around the globe.

? Microsoft’s SenseCam (prototype shown right) is a badge-sized wearable camera that captures up to 2000 VGA images per day onto 128Mbyte FLASH memory.

In addition, sensor data such as movement, light level and temperature is recorded every second. This is similar to an aircraft “Black Box” accident recorder but miniaturised for the human body. The SenseCam is part of Microsoft’s LifeBits program, an experiment in lifetime storage.

? With Google’s Gmail setting new standards for massive free storage of email messages, files and everything else, expect free online storage to become the new craze for millions of consumers engaging in LIFE CACHING. In Google’s own words: “Don’t throw anything away: 1,000 megabytes of free storage so you’ll never need to delete another message.” Other email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Rediff are already following suit, piling up the extra hundreds of megabytes. TRENDWATCHING.COM expects services like Gmail to morph into the digital equivalent of self storage spaces now found in most big cities.

? Even more on storage. One of the lifelines of LIFE CACHING: from Malaysia to Hong Kong, key cord memory sticks and mini-MP3 players are the new Asian fashion accessory: with sticks storing up to 1 GB of content, consumers can (and do!) wear their entire ‘digital life files’ around their neck, from music to movies to documents to photos to presentations. It’s LIFE CACHING going mobile: with sticks, MP3 players and camera phones boasting increased storage capacities, functionality, and quality, consumers will soon be able to show, play and share their entire LIFE with whomever, wherever.

? And last but not least, let’s not forget Apple’s mega-popular iPod: a new version in the works may contain up to 50 Gigabyte of storage space, which means even the biggest music fanatics will be able to forever build, store and carry their entire life collection of music (and soon video and data?), in a device the size of a pack of cigarettes. Next? Europe, where Apple’s iTunes music store recently launched in the UK, France and Germany. Now what if the iPod would turn into a camera phone with some help from, let’s say, Sony? Further integration with iLife, Apple’s ever expanding software suite for GENERATION C, also makes sense. Let the LIFE CACHING battle begin!

This LIFE CACHING introduction is just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously, providing consumers with the software, hardware and storage space to start building, unlocking and showcasing their ‘lifelogs’ should be high on your priority list if your business is in any way related to the world of photography, publishing, video, music, SMS, instant messaging, search, blogging, cell phones, email, memory sticks, PDAs etc etc etc. (And don’t forget the vast amounts of non-digital, non-organised LIFE CACHING artifacts waiting to be digitized: think millions of shoeboxes, photo albums & framed photos, home movies/videos, old bundles of letters, CDs, DVDs, bookshelves and filing cabinets!)

But there’s much more: understanding consumers’ gradual move towards collecting and storing experiences instead of goods (especially in mature economies), is crucial, whether you sell luxury handbags or manufacture cars. Basically, LIFE CACHING is what happens after you’ve figured out how to provide your customers with an experience. So how are you enabling your customers to make the experience last? Yes, TRENDWATCHING.COM knows that this could be an entire business book in itself, so stay tuned 😉

It doesn’t stop there: think about the implications of LIFE CACHING for 1:1 marketing (we feel an update of our COUNTER-GOOGLING trend coming on!), because gaining permission to access a customer’s lifelog could be marketing’s holy grail. Or consider LIFE CACHING’s myriad B2B uses (medical tracking, administrative applications etc.).

So, as always, stay tuned for updates on LIFE CACHING in upcoming editions of this newsletter. In the mean time, DO get started with a bit of caching yourself: sign up for a Gmail account, get Nokia’s Lifeblog software, build and share your digital music collection: it’s all in the experience, one that your customers may already be experimenting with. Happy Caching!