Generation X: The Digital Hoarders

Even though a tremendous amount of research is available comparing the traits of the Generations and how the Millennials (Generation Y) approach work in a different way to the previous, due to their differing technological requirements and needs.  My supposition is that prior generations are already on the road to digital adoption and will soon have the same desires and requirements as Generation Y and these Interestingly fall in line with Moore’s Law* estimation of a levelling around 2020.

If we focus on the digital adoption of Generation X, many have lived through various technological evolutions but all will have experienced the evolution of Audio and Video.  i.e. When Vinyl Records migrated to cassette then CD and eventually MP3  and from Video Tape to DVR.    Over the last few decades as these technologies evolved the marketers spent a lot of money in the aesthetics of these products so having a collection was encouraged / desired.  However since the mainstream adoption of ever more powerful home PCs where the Audio and Video files could be uploaded and consumed on a multitude of portable devices this generation are now copying their collections onto their PCs (Even though they may never listen or watch these again) and then either store the originals in the loft or give them to charity. This behaviour has therefore encouraged the manufacturers to produce PCs with bigger and bigger hard drives to satisfy the consumer need i.e. Moore’s Law*.

However if we look at Generation Y they are more inclined to purchase the odd songs they like from a Music Provider like Apples iTunes and download it straight to their MP3 Player / iPhone via the cloud or subscribe to a provider like Spotify or Netflix where they can consume Music / Films to their hearts content without ever owning any products or needing the hard drive space required to accommodate a collection.

Generation X (the Hoarding Generation) are starting to realise this fact as the amount if data they need to backup is becoming increasingly unmanageable especially when most is dormant and will never be accessed ever again.  This realisation falls in line with the 2020 prediction in Moore’s Law where storage consumption may begin to slow down.

Luckily in line with this realisation is the acceleration of the provision of Cloud Storage (mainly free) by software vendors which the Generations can use to backup those memories (be they photos, videos, songs etc) which may only be accessed  once in a blue moon, require backing up and even passed onto relatives as a keepsake.  At the time of writing this, there are numerous vendors offering free cloud storage ranging from the known i.e. Microsoft with Skydrive, Apple with iCloud, Google with Google Drive to specialists like Drop Box and Box.net.  In addition to these are Social Sites like Friends Reunited have realised this trend and are offering an ability to create a private memory boxes where you can store all your keepsakes (You can also create one that is shared with individuals or public), they are even offering libraries of material you might like to add.

The use of secure storage is not limited just to the personal space as recently Commonwealth Bank in Australia announced an Australian banking first, Commonwealth Bank are piloting to customers an online virtual safety deposit box – NetBank Vault.  Customers will be able to save important documents such as pay slips, contracts, scanned copies of passports/drivers licences, receipts and product warranties etc., in their online bank account, backed with the greatest online security.

As these behaviours continue these traits will also start to move in into the Enterprise space (Business environment) and all Generations will begin to rely more on open collaboration systems like Sharepoint, Enterprise Social Networks and Collaboration tools, rather than the costly storage based network drives, personal hard drives and onsite hosted email.

From a technology perspective once all the generations become digital natives this will be a pivotal moment in history as if this then drives all technology to become cloud based and upgraded in line (i.e. everyone gets the latest upgrade when its available) all future generations will all experience the same technology as the previous generations are using which will mean the differentiators between the generations will no longer be digital but cultural, tribal etc.

*Moore’s Law is based on a paper created in 1965 which predicted that Chip Performance doubles every 2 years (which in essence means every 2 years you can get a device twice as powerful for the same cost) – This has proved surprisingly accurate and is estimated to continue until at least 2020.

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Author: Steve Wakefield

Steve Wakefield is an experienced Innovator presently based in London.

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