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Storage and management the new frontier

Hans Hartman, Suite 48 Analytics, outlines the digital image file storage and management challenges being tackled at Mobile Photo Connect, San Fransisco, October 24-25: 

We are all overwhelmed by the sheer number of photos we take, or that are being shared with us. With some of these, it’s no big deal if you accidentally missed viewing them, or if you can’t locate them again after you’ve first enjoyed them. With others, it does matter: According to a recent US survey by Suite 48 Analytics, 58 percent of photos on average are considered to be ‘long life’ keepers.

So we want to know on which device or cloud service these important photos reside, and how to find them. As if that weren’t challenging enough, we also want to be able to safely back them up in case something goes wrong with the device on which they most likely reside (read: our phone) or archive them, in case that phone runs out of storage space.

We are now seeing innovative vendors of photo app, device, and cloud storage solutions tackling the multiple challenges related to how consumers find and browse the photos that matter to them.

The following is an overview of these solutions, several of which will be demonstrated or discussed at the upcoming Mobile Photo Connect conference, October 24-25 in San Francisco:

Anywhere access
We all know consumers want to be able to access their photos from any device, at any time. However, two factors complicate things:

If you choose an option like iCloud or Goggle Photos, you can be certain your recurring costs for storage will increase over time.

– Whether or not photo cloud services were intended/promoted as backup and archiving solutions, consumers tend to think they were. Your phone was stolen, your house was destroyed, you accidentally deleted your photo folder? No worries, the thinking goes, your photos are safely in the cloud or synced to your various other devices. Are they, really? If so, at what resolution? Are all photos secured this way, or just a subset of the most recent ones? Most consumers would be surprised and confused to learn that ‘anywhere access’ photo cloud services don’t in fact meet all their backup or archiving needs.

To add to the confusion, pure syncing, aggregation, or ‘linking to the source’ solutions are rarely provided. Instead, we see hybrid solutions, for instance solutions that sync photos only at a lower resolution to the phone, or aggregation solutions that also cache recent photos on the phone to provide fast, as well as offline, access.

Bottom line: the average consumer has no idea what’s really going on: which of their photos are stored where, for how long, and at what resolution, and what would happen if their house was indeed destroyed, or their phone stolen.

(And when you read their T&Cs, you quickly realise the cloud storage companies don’t really take on much responsibility for your photo collection if something goes wrong, they go out if business, etc. You certainly wouldn’t deposit your money in a bank if it assumed such limited responsibility for taking care of it! KS)

Storage location
While consumers increasingly embrace the cloud for photo storage, it’s not a given that they’ll want to rely on cloud storage services for all their photo needs.

The Kwilt Shoebox is a US$49.99 CPU+Storage device dedicated to storing image collections

For instance, in our survey we found that 48 percent of our respondents who back up the majority of their smartphone photos still do so on in-home storage devices (40 percent do so in-home and in the cloud). In addition, we’re witnessing a resurgence of innovative in-home photo storage solutions. For instance, Kwilt, a developer known for its photo management solution that allows users to browse their photos on various cloud services, just announced their Kwilt Shoebox appliance. SanDisk not only provides its portable iXpand flash drives, it now also offers the iXpand Base (for more on both, see below).

Having unified access to your photos through a cloud or in-home solution is one thing, being able to find the photos that really matter when you need them is quite another. We’ve seen solutions progressing from leveraging metadata to using AI for auto-tagging of objects or people. The next battlefield is auto-curation of consumers’ ‘best’ photos, however ‘best’ is defined. At Mobile Photo Connect we’ll have several startups show or discuss their auto-curation solutions, including EyeEm in our ‘AI is Ready for Primetime’ panel.

A sample of new photo storage and management solutions to be discussed: 
Adobe: In the creative process, anytime, anywhere access to photos is a must. Hear Adobe’s take on addressing these challenges in its Creative Cloud solutions.
Beamr: File size matters, not only for storage but also for up- or downloading photos or videos. Hear from Beamr how they enable consumers and cloud service providers to optimise media files.
EyeEm: Hear how this Berlin-based startup uses machine learning to identify which photos have the highest aesthetic value and deserve high visibility on their photo sharing site.
Google: Hear how Google deploys its image recognition and other curation technologies to aggregate the best photos for its own properties, including Google
Maps, Google Trips, Google Flights, Zagat, Google Local Guides, and many others.

The SanDisk iXpand flash drive has a both a flexible Lightning connector and a USB 3.0 connector to plug into your Mac computer or PC.

Kwilt: Hear how and why this cloud photo management startup is coming out with Kwilt Shoebox, a $49 Wi-Fi appliance that connects to any USB storage device, allowing consumers to seamlessly offload their smartphone photos and videos at home or wherever they have a storage device.
SanDisk: Making photos portable through photo-optimized iXpand flash drives is the SanDisk solution many of us know. (Only recently available in Australia). A more recent product is the iXpand Base, a charging station for the iPhone that also serves to keep your photos and data safely backed up.
Upthere: Photos are not an island in a consumer’s anytime, anywhere access needs. How about Word files, PDFs, spreadsheets, you name it? Still, photos require their own intuitive UI and tools in order to be browsed, displayed and curated. Hear how Upthere strikes that delicate balance.


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