Associate Director Optima Partners
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How can we build a human-centric internet for companies and customers?

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29th Jun 2014
Associate Director Optima Partners
Columnist
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We live in an increasingly connected world, where much of our lives is being captured digitally as data: our transactions, our interactions, our movements. As more things become connected through the Internet-of-Things (IoT), even more data is being generated. This is the much discussed Big Data. And it’s all about US!

Whose data is it anyway?

Even though this data is generated by us, it doesn’t belong to us, but to those collecting it, e.g. the supermarket that tracks our purchases, the telco that delivers our SMS and the search engine that monitors our searches. Even if our own data is returned to us, we probably wouldn’t really know how to use it because the data is presented in a way to help the institution that collected it, not us.

As individuals, we are become increasingly worried about online privacy and security, and some of us are starting to withdraw from being too digitally visible. Governments may start addressing these privacy and security issues through regulation, but that will likely only increase costs. This could make some institutions reluctant to invest in innovation, which in turn could lead to a downward spiral where higher costs, leads to less innovation, fewer business opportunities and ultimately, fewer jobs.

There is a need to reverse this and create an upward spiralling effect on the digital economy. This is what the Hub-of-All-Things (HAT) project aims to do.

The Hat Project: Your digital data vault

This is the HAT’s unique proposition: it provides us as individuals, with the opportunity to create a repository of our own data, generated, owned and controlled by us.

The Project is building a database owned by individuals, where each of us will have a HAT of our own data, similar to how we have email or bank accounts. This HAT contains all the data we would need to help make our lives better, from IoT-data in our homes, through supermarket purchase data, to personal data on social media.

By owning our data and seeing it as a digital asset that can help us lead better lives, we will be motivated to generate more data by being more digitally visible. This reverses the issue of a ‘shrinking supply’ of data. Since we are using the data for our benefit, we will make sure that it is as accurate as possible, thus solving the issue of good quality data. And by keeping our HATs secure in a trusted environment, we can hopefully address the security and privacy issues too.

Analysing your digital behaviour

A lot of data currently collected is still vertical data, which needs to be re-organised and transformed in a ‘horizontal’ way so that it can be used by individuals to make better decisions. Also, as human beings, we interact with our data and can actually help contextualise it for more meaningful usage.

Using "Service Dominant Logic", the HAT project will develop a human schematic database that organises vertical data according to the way we create value with products and services, and how we use information in our lives. We can co-create that database with our own sense-making and intelligence. For example, we can get data about the temperature in our environment: at home, in the car, the workplace and outdoors. But what we really want to know is ‘what will the lowest temperature I will encounter today be, so that I will know what to wear?’. To achieve this, we need to place this vertical data into the HAT, which would transform it into horizontal-type data that can help us make those decisions.

A multi-sided market of trusted partners

It’s no use owning all this data if we can’t use it to make our lives easier, better and more fulfilling.

The HAT is not just a database; it is also a multi-sided market platform that enables you to exchange our data for services that can make our lives better, e.g. exchanging our diet data for personalised grocery bundles. This will help create a market for personal data, which is important for the future growth of the digital economy, but in a way that fits our lives better. It takes a more democratic approach to how data is owned and accessed, and helps institutions tailor what they offer to consumers in a scalable way.

Empowering the individual

The HAT was conceived because we feel that rather than just making things smarter, technology can make us smarter and more empowered. We want to be smart, not just have smart things. We also want to ensure that our privacy can be preserved and the right to create, manage and use the data are under our control.

If you want to get ahead, get a HAT

The HAT Project allows each of us to acquire data and build our own repository of horizontal, meaningful data that is useful for contextual decision-making and enables us to exchange our data with firms for products and services. When we create a horizontal platform that fits human lives, we also create the next stage of the internet; that of people and things. With an epic collision of manufacturing, service and internet companies, new horizontal-type business and economic models that are human-centric will emerge.

The Hat Project wants to put the UK at the centre of the next phase of the internet’s revolution, but we also want to start a revolution to own, control and use our own data, for our own benefit.

Have your own say

The HAT Project is keen to hear what you think. Why not post your thoughts at the Hat Discussion Forum. And why not get more involved with the Project at the first First Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in London on the 17th July. If you want to make the Internet really work for you, this is a great opportunity.

Further reading:

Graham Hill is a consultant at Crtl-Shift

Republished from with permission. 

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Replies (17)

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
01st Jul 2014 10:19

To get the conversation going, I will post some searching questions abut the implications of the HAT Project…

The HAT will collect and store data about consumer behaviour in their own Personal Data Store. The data will be analysed to identify contextual archetypes about their behaviour.

Do consumers want their every move to be recorded, stored and analysed, even if they have full control over how data and analyses about them will be used?

What do you think? 

Post a response here or directly at the HAT Project Forum.

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By Henry Dean
01st Jul 2014 16:04

I believe that the issue of whether consumers would be happy for their every move to be recorded and analysed comes down to trust of the business doing the monitoring. I would be happy for some trusted companies to analyse information about my behaviour, because I have built up a relationship with them over time. But others, particularly those I am not so familiar with, I would not be so comfortable about. However I do think that a large proportion of society have a default setting of 'suspicion' about this kind of monitoring and you only need to look at the ongoing furore about Facebook's monitoring malarkey to see that even those brands that people have ongoing contact with can be viewed with suspicion and that will never change for many many people irrespective of the control they have over their own data and the way that it is used. 

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
02nd Jul 2014 09:36

he HAT should provide customers with a Personal Information Management interface to allow them to ‘manage’ how data in their Personal Data Store is analysed, who will have access to the data and analyses, and for what purposes they can be used.

Customers should be able to express their preferences and give explicit permissions for their data and analyses to be used in particular ways, and shared with partners (or not). Note: This is likely to become law when the new EU Directive on Data Protection comes into effect in a couple of years.

What tools should we give consumers to control who has access to their data and analyses, and how they can be used?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
02nd Jul 2014 10:47

Hi Henry

Thanks for your response and your thoughtful observations.

I agree with you entirely. There have been so many problems with governments collecting, analyzing and arguably misusing sensitive data about us, and companies routinely using data about us in a way that is clearly not in our interests. Being retargeted by digital ads for cars as I surf the web, just because I had a good laugh at Jeremy Clarkson’s antics on the Top Gear YouTube channel, is not my idea of effective marketing! I find it rather sad that as a ‘Marketing Man’ I routinely use software to block digital ads, on the assumption that they are not going to be interesting, relevant or valuable for me.

I think most people, whilst concerned about their data, how its used and the erosion of their privacy, are not concerned enough to do much about it. There are a number of startups that offer consumers their own Personal Data Store (PDS) on a home server. I don’t know about you, but I have enough hassle with my suite of Apple computing products without wanting to add to it by becoming a server administrator. I can just imagine the calls to the IT Help Desk = me! However, if a trusted company like M&S, John Lewis or Tesco (the three most trusted companies in the UK), or a foundation setup specifically for the purpose (like the HAT Project), were to offer a PDS and visual tools to manage it that would be different. I can’t see this working if the PDS or tools was provided by serial data abusers like Facebook, Google, Apple and particularly, HM Govt.

The key to the success of the HAT Project, or any PDS, is not the data or the privacy it affords per se, but the value that the consumer can get out of their data using the tools provided. As research by Booz & Co shows, consumers place a much higher emphasis on value than they do on the ethical values they so willingly talk about, even when those values are related to fundamentals like privacy. Finding a trusted partner to provide and manage the PDS on your behalf is a key part of the value equation and of the emergence of the Personal Information Economy.

Graham Hill
@grahamhill

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By rustynail
02nd Jul 2014 12:09

"I think most people, whilst concerned about their data, how its used and the erosion of their privacy, are not concerned enough to do much about it." Yes which is why so many people complain about facebook and its infringement on our data privacy yet we all continue to use it!  

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
02nd Jul 2014 19:31

The HAT Project will use sophisticated analytics to identify common, recurring patterns of consumer behaviour. These ‘contextual archetypes’ will be very useful for partners as sources of insight to create innovative new services and in particular, as selection mechanisms to market carefully selected services to consumers.

But what if consumers wanted to simply take their data away, e.g. under the UK Govt MiData programme, and give it to a third-party to analyse for them, or to create customised services, or even to match against existing services in the market.

Should consumers be able to take their own copy of HAT data about themselves to provide to a third-party?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
02nd Jul 2014 19:45

Hi Rustynail

Thanks for your comment.

Life is all about trade-offs. On the one hand we use Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in to keep in contact with our friends, to let people know what we are doing and to search for a new job. All for free! As the quid pro quo we accept being marketed to by the partners of these social network providers. As the old saying goes, 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'. We are free to decide whether we are getting enough value from the providers, or whether they take too much for granted. Stay or go, the choice is ours.

The HAT Project would not suffer from these problems. As the data about consumers sits in their own Personal Data Store and as consumers would be able to manage permissions to use the data, they will be in much more control over how it is used than is the case with the social network providers.

The expectation is that the rich contextual data about consumers will mean the Project and its partners will be able to innovate to create much more valuable services, to offer to just those customers who expressed an interest in them and thus, to create a new business model based on mutual value co-creation rather than spam advertising.

Graham Hill

@grahamhill

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
04th Jul 2014 10:46

Consumer’s data about their activity will be collected through connected IoT devices. This will start in the home, but is likely over time to be extended to other connected devices outside the home. This will start to generate the ‘big-data’ about individuals and their behavior that is often discussed, but rarely seen. Partners may be permitted access to aggregated analyses of consumer data.

Should partners also be given access to consumers’ anonymised data as well as the analyses?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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By houstonone
04th Jul 2014 11:48

if I agreed to sharing data with a business that then proceeded to distribute my data to partners. i can see how partner ecosystems would benefit and then the customer could benefit as a result but many customers would roll their eyes at this and think here we go this is the thin end of the wedge now.

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
04th Jul 2014 13:58

The HAT Project is building a multi-sided market platform; where consumers and partners who wouldn’t normally meet each other can come together to interact. As Hagiu & Wright note in a recent Sloan Management Review article on Strategic Decisions for Multisided Platforms, attracting enough partners to make the platform attractive to customers, and vice versa, is the hardest part of setting up a successful platform.

How should the HAT Project attract enough commercial partners to make the multi-sided market interesting for consumers?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
04th Jul 2014 16:02

Hi Houstenone

Thanks for your comment.

I would be as equally concerned as you. Having said that, it is sadly common practice for many companies to view data about you that they have collected as an asset that belongs to them, to be sold to the highest-bidder. Look at the T&Cs or Data Privacy statements published by service companies and you will often find weasel words about ‘marketing by affiliate companies and partners’ in there. You are often not even given the chance to opt-out of this affiliate marketing without declining the whole T&Cs and thus, the chance to use the service.

The Hat Project is different. It is being built so that data about you will be placed in a Personal Data Store that you control. You should be able to specify through an easy-to-use Personal Information Management System how data about you can be used, who the data can be shared with and what they can do with it. As you suggest, without a cast-iron guarantee that you will be able to control all aspects of the data about you, only a fool would sign-on to the Project.

Graham Hill

@grahamhill

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linkedin
By LinkedIn Group Member
07th Jul 2014 10:02

 

The average person has no idea what data is tracked or how it can be utilized. When companies are able to utilize data to increase operational processes or increase targeting everyone wins. 

I'm part of the millennial generation and the fact is millennials are increasingly raising the bar to perfection. The definition of perfect today is...the best there is. 

Companies who want to remain at the top have to be proactive innovators and the most accurate cost effective way to do that is through correct data analysis. 

The problem is there's a huge discrepancy in skill and many do a poor job and an inaccurate realization of the value within the industry.

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
08th Jul 2014 08:59

The HAT Project will collect a wide variety of data about consumer behaviour from connected IoT devices in the home. The data will be analysed to identify common patterns, behavioural archetypes, that could serve as the starting point for partners to innovate tailor-made products and services. But the data and analyses could just as easily be used to match the closest current, but still ill-fitting, products and services to consumers.

How should we encourage partners to use consumer data and analyses to innovate tailor-made new products and services, rather than simply match the closest products and services they have to consumers?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
08th Jul 2014 09:03

Hi Todd

You raise a number of interesting questions in your comment.

The first question is about whether consumers should be given access to tools with which to manage data about themselves. Currently, even social media providers like Facebbok, Twitter and Linkedin only give consumers limited options to manage data. Most companies do not provide any tools for consumers to manage data. As CtrlShift described in their recent report on Personal Information Management Systems, a new breed of technologies is being developed that give consumers the ability to give permission to use data about them, or not, to share their preferences and even to invite partners to support them during life events.

The second question is about whether companies should be given access to consumers’ data at all, and whether they can be trusted to use it wisely for their benefit. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that although many, if not most companies routinely gather large amounts of data about consumers, they don’t use it for consumers benefit. Instead, they use it to target then for unwanted marketing and to discriminate against them in pricing. They rarely use it to innovate better products and to provide better customer service. As the Lemon Laws introduced in the USA in the 1970s showed, companies armed with masses of data about consumers need a degree of regulation to ensure that it is used for mutual benefit, not just for corporate gain.

The HAT Project will put consumers’ connected IoT data fully in their control. They will be able to enrich the data by describing what they were doing when it was generated. They will be able to decide how the data is used. And they will be able to decide if the data is to be provided to partners and what they will be able to do with it. The $64,000 question is whether Millennials, and previous generations are sufficiently interested in managing their data to use the PIMS tools to get the most out of what it can enable.

Graham Hill
@grahamhill

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
08th Jul 2014 15:57

Consumers may release data and analyses of their behavior to HAT Project partners on the understanding that they will use the insights to create better services to offer consumers. In a world driven according to Levitt this follows a simple three-step process: first you find out what customers want, then you identify how to give it to them profitably, then you tell them about it. Or as Drucker succinctly put it, “the purpose of business is to create a satisfied customer”.

Most established companies today don’t operate according to Levitt and Drucker. In their world, driven by Shareholder Value, they follow a different three-step process: first they identify what products they want to sell, then they identify target groups of customers, then they tell them about it. There is little insight generation and practically no innovation. To put it another way, the purpose of business is to create a rich shareholder. And marketers are the foot soldiers in the Shareholder Value Army.

How will we ensure that partners, in particular their marketers, don’t use consumer data and analyses to spam marketers with inappropriate offers?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
14th Jul 2014 08:11

The Hat Project will keep data about consumers and their use of connected IoT devices in their own Personal Data Store. Although some access to the data may be given – with appropriate permissions – to selected partners, the data will not be available to others. But that won’t stop some others from trying to hack into the data for their own nefarious purposes, or worse, from trying to hack into the IoT devices. As the current edition of The Economist describes in a leader on The Internet of Things (to be Hacked), hackers are now breaking through the weak security on many IoT devices to, in the case of one fridge, use it as an email spam bot!

How should we keep the HAT Project secure from cyber-hackers?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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Dr. Graham Hill
By Dr. Graham Hill
15th Jul 2014 10:06

The HAT Project will connect IoT devices in the home, gather reams of data about them and provide it to them through their own Personal Data Store. The data will be analysed and behavioural archetypes common to a wide variety of consumers identified. If they permit it, the consumer’s data and archetypes will be shared with partners who may design new services to create better outcomes for consumers.

Unfortunately, so far, there aren’t many interesting partners signed-up to the project. And without a broad range of partners it is highly unlikely that new consumers will sign-up. Without lots of consumers signed-up it is highly unlikely that any new partners will sign-up. Such is the nature of multi-sided platforms. The HAT Project is stuck in a Catch-22 situation with insufficient partners to attract new consumers and insufficient consumers to attract new partners.

The heart of the problem lies in recruiting lots of new consumers to the HAT Project. But with so little of value to offer, why would any consumer sign-up to the HAT Project?

What do you think?

Post a response here or directly at the Hat Project Forum

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