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Will this man help us remember everything?

Martin Källström, co-founder of Swedish tech company Memoto, is launching a camera that can document our entire lives

Will this man help us remember everything?

Text by Matthew Lee

What’s the big idea?
It’s known as “lifelogging”: Memoto is a tiny camera you wear round your neck; every 30 seconds it takes a photo and uploads it to Memoto’s servers along with GPS data on your location. A smartphone app organises your photos for you, so you have a visual record of everything you’ve done.

What, photos of everything?
Yes, everything – there’s no off button. But you can always put your Memoto in your pocket. “It’s about building respect for other people’s privacy into the technology,” says Källström, who co-founded the company in Linköping in 2011 and has raised almost US$1m (NOK5.8m) in funding since. “Without an off button you know if it’s visible it’s taking photos, so it forces people to take it off when it’s not appropriate to take photos. The camera is visible and recognisable – it shouldn’t be a secret that it’s there.”

But why would you want thousands of photos?
“It’s about understanding more about who you are and what you do,” explains Källström. “It’s about self-knowledge and self-improvement.” He believes you’re more likely to wish you could remember the seemingly mundane, the everyday minutiae you’d never consider photographing: “I lost both my parents and it’s things like having breakfast or walks in the park with them I think about, not big occasions – but these everyday things are never recorded.”

Won’t it mostly appeal to show-offs, self-publicists and exhibitionists?
“We’ve found there are two types of user,” says Källström. “One we call ‘collectors’, people who collect memories to show to a close circle of friends and family, and the other group are ‘communicators’, the people who want to share their lives with the public.”

Won’t it encourage people to live with their head in the past?
This isn’t the case, insists Källström, who argues that you’re more likely to live in the moment because you’re not worrying about having to record everything: “People should be able to be with their kids and not have a camera between themselves and reality. You can wear Memoto and forget about having to document the moment.”

Who owns the photographs?
You do, says Källström, keen to dismiss concerns about privacy. He insists the photos are securely encrypted on Memoto’s servers and will never be made available to third parties. “We’re adamant about building a model where you’re a customer and not a product,” he says. “Free services have to make money from somewhere so there’s a good chance somebody is paying for access to your data, or aggregated statistics. We charge a monthly fee and secure your privacy.“

Who else can benefit from lifelogging?

“There’s been research about the advantage of using photos to help people with memory disorders,” says Källström. He believes that Memoto has the potential to be a valuable tool in helping such people communicate with their families.

Will everybody soon be wearing mini-cameras?
The technology will go mainstream, Källström believes, although it may take a few years. Memoto raised $550,000 on funding platform Kickstarter, more than 10 times its target, and 3,500 cameras have already been sold.

Sounds like an easy ride so far?

There have been some major hurdles to overcome, especially in terms of design. “Battery life has been the toughest part,” says Källström, who worked in software development before launching Memoto. “The camera is asleep most of the time; it wakes every 30 seconds to take the photo and store the GPS data. It’s been hard to get to a battery life of two days. It’s been a huge learning experience for me.”

And if Memoto goes big, will Källström stay in Linköping?
“We have an office in Stockholm and we’ll need one in the US,” he says, “but we have our roots in Sweden and I don’t see us leaving any time soon.” 


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