The upside of making personal data portable

Implemented the right way, data portability could help address a structural flaw that’s constraining and distorting the workings of our current data economy. If the only entities able to collect and use personal data are large organisations, then inevitably, the resulting system will have huge imbalances of power and benefit while blocking any and all uses of data that don’t fit the interests of these organisations.

So far, a huge amount of time, effort and attention has been devoted to all the bad things that result from this structural flaw — things that are happening but shouldn’t be happening. But very little attention has been paid to all the things that are NOT currently happening but should be happening: all the ways that personal data could be used to empower individuals and enrich their lives, but are not.

In this blog we turn our attention to the positive opportunity. What are all the good things that could happen if individuals were empowered with their own data?

Enter PIMS (Personal Information Management Services) that use data to work for an on behalf of individuals to help them make better decisions and manage their lives more efficiently and effectively.

A different perspective

To see the PIMS opportunity we need to look at individuals’ lives through a different lens — the lens of information processing. Individuals and households undertake all the tasks that large organisations do, except at a smaller scale and without professional help. They:

  • Source inputs from suppliers (‘shopping’)
  • Buy capital equipment (cars, washing machines, ovens etc)
  • Use this capital equipment to process and add value to the inputs they have purchased
  • Undertake maintenance of their capital equipment
  • Make plans, set priorities and timelines, allocate budgets
  • Undertake administration, dealing with public authorities, the tax man etc.
  • Face logistical challenges of moving things and people to and from the right places at the right times
  • Employ people (e.g. services like plumbers, physiotherapists, decorators, keep fit instructors, child care minders)
  • Develop human resources: teaching and learning skills and capabilities
  • Develop and manage relationships with suppliers
  • Plan and deploy financial resources, making savings, taking out loans, managing cash flow, paying taxes.
  • Manage and juggle the multiple different ‘life’ departments (e.g. money, health, home, transport, career, etc) and the requirements needed to keep the whole undertaking going
  • Make decisions about all the above
  • Search for, organise and use the information they need to make these decisions and undertake all the above tasks efficiently and effectively

Unlike large organisations and corporations, individuals and households do not employ large armies of professional staff to manage these operations and they do not (yet) build and deploy large databases and information management systems to assist them.

The result is a significant market and value gap: a wide range of needs and wants that are not being addressed.

The PIMS opportunity

This is the PIMS opportunity: to take all the fantastic tools and insight that have been developed over the past decades: databases, analytics, artificial intelligence, apps, automated processing of data and turn these into tools in the hands of individuals. Personal data stores (PDS) like Mydex are PIMS enablers. They provide the safe, efficient, privacy protecting ways to access and use the personal data that lies at the heart of every information service working for and on behalf of the individual.

The list below provides some examples of the sorts of services PDS-enabled PIMS could provide.

Day-to-day household administration

  • keep admin details safe and easily accessible e.g. passwords, answers to security questions, recovery keys, appointments, identity credentials such as national insurance number, tax references and NHS numbers, PIN numbers etc;
  • calendar management Keep a record of things you need to do — car MoTs, loved one birthdays, pay bills, health check ups etc, with automatic alerts so they’re never forgotten
  • record keeping, e.g. of current suppliers, contracts with them, correspondence, contracts, contact details, service interactions, communications, updates on progress etc.

Decision support

  • analyse aggregated data for patterns, trends and insights to help individuals make better decisions relating to the various household departments: money, health, home, transport, work etc
  • build a complete picture of life activities — visualising one’s life in an integrated timeline that brings together disparate data points into 360 degree view that helps make meaning and creating a sense of coherence.

Decision support then breaks into multiple household or life departments, such as, for example:

  • manage household budgets Use data downloaded from banks, supermarket loyalty schemes (e.g. Clubcard, Nectar) plus automatically captured receipt data to better understand where they money goes, and how to manage it better.
  • personal financial advice drawing on data from a variety of different financial services providers to create a complete picture of an individual’s financial circumstances, with ability to set up a rules engine to trigger event-driven automated actions;
  • energy advice Combine information about lifestyle, energy usage, home details (is it insulated? Is it south-facing) to make recommendations about infrastructure (e.g. insulation, solar panels) and behaviour changes to reduce energy costs and consumption.
  • stay healthy and maintain wellbeing Keep a record of keep fit, nutrition and lifestyle regime to share with personal trainers, medics and others for advice to maintain improvement, independently of the wearables and other devices you use to capture the data.
  • go green Build up information about the carbon footprint of different activities to find ways to reduce it

Manage the operational side of household departments, including coordinating and integrating inputs from multiple service providers to achieve a desired outcome. Examples include:

  • manage home move including a timeline of task deadlines, contact details, updates and reminders, things to be aware of, direct communication channels to key parties;
  • manage health and social care for individuals having to deal with many different agencies, (e.g. managing illnesses like diabetes and cancer, dealing with hospitals, GPs, specialist doctors, pharmacists, other health professionals, support workers, care providers, etc). A PDS enables all data to be integrated into one safe place so that information can be shared safely and efficiently in a way that puts the individual in control, at the heart of the process;
  • travel and mobility as a service Use identity to search and use different modes of travel and to purchase multi modal tickets from different suppliers. Use mobile phone to show token.

Manage relationships and dealings with suppliers.

  • ‘Always on the best deal’ Specialist utility management service that connects information about the individual’s current tariffs, stored in a personal data store, to automatic reviews of what’s available on the market, to help the individual always get the best deal without having to spend hours on comparison sites.
  • Identity to level of proof needed Hold a secure encrypted token that proves you are who you say you are, so you can quickly and automatically sign in to, and access, services in both the public and private sector without having to remember or use usernames and passwords;
  • Pensions management Keep a record of all pension pots from many different employers in the same place, so they aren’t forgotten and are easily accessed;
  • Consent and permissions dashboard Maintain a record of all organisations holding your data, including what consents and permissions have been provided, plus services to easily assert rights under the law (e.g. see a copy of this data, request a copy, withdraw consent). Set your own privacy policy and T&Cs for access to your data and control those tricky cookies that invade everyday life online.
  • ‘My wardrobe’ Use receipts from clothes purchases to create a ‘virtual wardrobe’ so that specialist services can recommend next best purchases e.g. ‘this would go really well with that’. [The same concept can apply to any specialist shopping area]
  • Warranty management Maintain a record of all big ticket purchases and associated warranties and guarantees with information on who to contact if something goes wrong. Automatically link to insurance policies.

Develop information sharing relationships with suppliers to reduce costs and improve outcomes

  • Improved, enriched information sharing information held in my personal data store about my finances, shopping, health, transport, hobbies etc with specialist suppliers so that they can:
  • a) keep contact and other admin details up to data so that errors are avoided (e.g. inform all the organisations I have a relationship with that I am moving home; changed email address; changed name etc) all with one click
  • b) recommend the right services for me and gain richer insights to develop their new product development
  • Personal health record Keep record of conditions, illnesses, treatments plus basic information such as blood type, allergies, who my physician is, next of kin, specific instructions e.g. organ donation, DNR (do not resuscitate), Lasting Power of Attorney so that I can easily share appropriate details to medical practitioners, whether at home or abroad.
  • Lifelong learning record Keep a record of all exams passed, qualifications and experience gained, work experience etc to populate CVs, track continuing professional development, secure reference and commendations from clients, colleagues and employers, build evidence of achievements and get advice on career development.
  • Record of employment experience gained and recognition received being able to showcase experience, track record and achievement easily and quickly over your whole life.

What’s noticeable about this list is that it is made up of:

  • Things individuals and households already have to do (and often do badly because they do not have the information to hand or the means to easily manage and use this information)
  • Things individuals and households would like to do (e.g. inform all current suppliers of changes to contact details) but often don’t do simply because currently they’re a major hassle. One of the key ‘unique selling points’ of PDS-enabled PIMS is that help individuals automate current complex life management tasks to achieve both better outcomes with less hassle and effort. (Often, what people really really want is not help in thinking about a complex problem, but something that helps them achieve what they want while having to think about it as little as possible — a bit like a direct debit in banking).

What’s also noticeable about this list is that it opens up a completely new dimension of service provision — a multitude of new, never-seen-before consumer and citizen empowering services that collectively have the potential to act as engines of innovation and economic growth.

All of this is made possible by the new personal data infrastructure that Mydex is building: an infrastructure that enables individuals to:

  • aggregate data about themselves from many different sources, making individuals the point of integration of their own data
  • manage this data independently of any relationship with any current supplier
  • use this data for their own purposes safely and efficiently under their own control, including managing their dealings with suppliers. That is, instead of using data to help organisations manage their relationships with multiple different customers (Customer Relationship Management, marketing), this is about helping individuals and households manage their relationships with multiple different external suppliers (‘Vendor Relationship Management’, shopping)

PDS-enabled PIMS represent a huge opportunity to reduce cost, friction, risk and effort, to improve outcomes, speed up processes and make everyone’s life easier — that is, both individuals and the organisations they do business with. All it needs is the simple acceptance and recognition that personal data needs to be independent, portable and under the control of the individual — with the infrastructure that makes this possible.