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CES: Hard drives everywhere

The explosion in digital media has been good for Seagate Technology, the Scotts Valley, Calif., manufacturer of hard drives. "Everything is getting a storage device on it," said Bill Watkins, Seagate's CEO. The main question for consumers these days is whether to leave the music, video and other media they're collecting scattered among their devices, aggregate them in some kind of electronic vault at home or move them all to the Net.

"For us, things are good! Every one of these applications, we sell storage into," Watkins said. One of the strongest areas for Seagate, though, has nothing to do with entertainment or personal media collections. It's storing the feeds from security cameras.

"Surveillance is really growing. It's phenomenal to us," Watkins said. "Terabyte drives, high-res cameras.... It appears that the world is going to sit there and film every public location 24/7."

The recorded video isn't just sitting there, it's being analyzed. A security application might scan a feed for behavior that's outside the normal pattern -- such as when someone at an airport sets a bag down and quickly walks away from it. Retail businesses may also analyze video to try to learn something about how customers respond to product marketing and positioning. For example, Watkins said, a clothing store might ask, "How many 16-year-olds stopped at this display and looked at it? How many 40-year-olds did?" The analytical tools are sophisticated enough now to answer such questions.

Watkins is part of the trend too -- he has cameras at his beach house in Aptos. They're ostensibly for security, he said, but that's not their primary use. Instead, he'll tap into the cameras from his office to see what it's like out on the beach.

-- Jon Healey

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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