£1.2m personal data project could shape services and products to individuals

Issue date: 22 March 2013

An academic at UWE Bristol is part of a new research project to create a physical personal digital repository that will record and hold data on both a person's digital footprint and the physical patterns of their daily home life. The repository is owned by the individual (much like money in our banks) and could be used to trade and shape future services and products to individuals. The research is led by WMG at the University of Warwick.

The Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme has given a team of economists, business researchers, computing experts and arts academics from across six UK universities (Warwick, Exeter, Nottingham, Cambridge, UWE Bristol and Edinburgh) £1.2 million to undertake the two-year study project which will begin in June 2013.

The idea of the project is to enable individuals to own and control a repository of their own personal data by creating a physical digital data vault in the form of a technological device – a HAT (Hub of all Things).

This will be no ordinary digital data repository as it will connect to a range of devices and places in the home to collect data on the patterns of that person's daily home life.

The team would then create exemplar new services and business models around the data. Five of the research team will test such a device in their own homes.

The data can then be selectively traded with external parties looking to supply services or products to those individuals, effectively creating a market platform for the exchange of contextual personal data and new products and services that could assist individual lives at home.

However, the researchers will expect the finished HAT to do much more. The HAT will act as an electronic trust broker between the HAT's personal data owner and service and product suppliers, ensuring that personal data cannot be used for any other purposes without consent so that personal data remains an asset to the individual.

Dr Glenn Parry, a researcher from UWE Bristol who is working on the project says, “This is a really exciting project which will help make people's homes respond to their needs. Firms sell us things but don't really know how we use them and combine them together to achieve our desired outcome.

“The HAT can collect data on the lived life and through analysis we will find common patterns. We can then invite businesses to look at the generic patterns to see where a new opportunity to innovate and make new things exists. We will engage small and large businesses and hopefully kick-start a whole new digital home world. My role will be to work on supporting the development and understanding of potential new business models and strategies for the HAT.”

The products and services which sit on a HAT have to adhere to a HAT-certified privacy and security infrastructure policy and a 'no-export' rule on individual data so that it can remain private yet shape those services and products through exchanges.

This is so that many products and services could be created on the HAT, and individuals are also willing to be more visible digitally without fear of their privacy being compromised.

WMG's Professor of Marketing & Service Systems Irene Ng said, “The HAT project aims to create a multi-sided market platform for connected services and products through the HAT as a home hub powered by the internet-of-things.

“The HAT would facilitate the creation of new offerings and business models by deriving the relational value of our personal data through connected parts of our lives within the home e.g. linking financial, health or nutrition data or water, energy and our house.

“It would also facilitate data-for-service exchanges since we may be willing to share our energy use if we get back a service that tells us when energy use could be cheaper.”

In 2014, the project will run a HAT-Fest, inviting software developers, programmers and product designers to come together in a week-long event to generate new services and make new stuff from the algorithms and business models on the HAT.

More details of the HAT project are available at http://www.hubofallthings.org

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