May 29, 2011

Discussion: Building for a Personal Data Ecosystem - A Case Study

Just left the Quantified Self conference where I led a session in the last breakout on "building for a personal data ecosystem." Since we weren't on the official program, i was very happy to be holding something in an Infinity session. Fifteen or so people came, and I talked about Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium and our mission for a user centric data model where user's control their data through agents, or Personal Data Stores. I also mentioned what I was seeing at the event, which was lots of folks building apps, making new silos of data, and repeating the model where users' data is in question as to who owns it, and users don't really have access to their data except through the a service's website and possibly an API that might send a little data somewhere else (like twitter or facebook).

I suggested that in a Personal Data Ecosystem, apps makers could take data from their users and send it straight through to the users' Personal Data Stores (PDS). That way if the app or hardware changed or ceased to support their old systems, the user would have their old data to play with in their PDS. And I talked about open formats for the data (think.. what about an open format for Heart Monitor data, where you pulse is described and you can take that data anywhere). Services could think about just providing a great service, instead of trying to manage all the user data storage and security. Users would control their data in their Personal Data Stores/Lockers/Banks, and I said that a bunch of companies were building these PDSs, including which is building the Locker Project. happened to have someone there, Jared Hansen, who is a developer in the open source project. And there was a guy from Basis, Bashir, who is building hardware (like a wristwatch) that you monitor things like your heartrate with.. though it does monitor many other things as well on your body. We also had a couple of health researchers there, plus other health and wellness companies looking at data, as well as Ian Li, of Carnegie Mellon who is researching data collection and normalization, and a woman from the EFF. And we had a couple of users who talked about what users need.

After a few minutes, Bashir from Basis explained their dilemma around the hardware which isn't all that profitable for them. So initially they were questioning what to do with the data and how to monitize the company. Should they sell the data, or give it to users, or charge uses for it, or give it away to developers who could create a great ecosystem by building lots of apps, thus driving more sales? And who's data is it?

WOW. WOW!!!!

So we were off an running, with the impromptu Basis use case of how to get the value of the data, include the user and let the user have choice and autonomy, and how to leverage what is being done out in the marketplace and with developers creativity with data. Oh.. and don't forget about participating in microformats and Activity Streams creation to make bottom up grass-roots standards for the data formats and exchanges.

We talked through what it would mean to give away the data, support users and ask them if they wanted their data included in studies, get additional revenue for Basis while maintaining the inclusion of the user in the process and what developers could and should do. We brainstormed a lot of things, and covered the good and bad points of how it would all work and how to support Basis' market model while still being good and fair to the users.

I have no idea what Basis will do, but I would love it if they would join the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium in the Startup Circle, to help build out ways to make a user centric data system for user's wellness data collected with Basis hardware.

What an amazing opportunity Basis has for doing the right thing for users, and leading the wellness and personal data ecosystem by creating a win-win for themselves and users. They could create a new market for wellness data, that is user driven.

Frankly, we need more discussions like this. It's not about Do Not Track models where we kill all the data plus the value of it, and it's not about "business as usual" where the user isn't included and businesses do whatever they want with user data.

It's about creating markets that do right by users and have companies making money ethically and conversing with us in the market.

Thanks to everyone who came! We had many representatives of the relevant stakeholders and the discussion was enlightening and rare.. but one I hope to make more common in the near future!

Posted by Mary Hodder at May 29, 2011 06:03 PM | TrackBack