There's an intriguing new application available called Forever.
From a functional perspective it's not ground breaking - it simply provides address book functionality. What is interesting however is that it does this without actually holding any data.
Of course it manages personal data - it has to so it can bring up a friends address details - but it doesn't persist it. It keeps your address book in sync and up to date - but it doesn't change anything.
Forever is a new breed of application known as an unhosted app and this has been defined by unhosted.org as:-
"Also known as "serverless", "client-side", or "static" web apps, unhosted web apps do not send your user data to their server. Either you connect your own server at runtime, or your data stays within the browser"The application provides a service and works upon your own data, but it never actually "owns" the data. Instead, you connect your own data store, such as that provided by a personal cloud, which the application can then work with.
In a world where everyone is talking about big data, this really is a breath of fresh air.
Rather than gathering data in bigger and bigger corporate repositories, the data is essentially always owned by the the customer. Sure, it's probably still going to be hosted by a 3rd party for most people - the average consumer is not going to want to spin up their own homebrew hosting solution.
However, these 3rd party personal cloud suppliers are more akin to the 4th party concept spoken about within VRM - they work for the consumer.
Now, I'm a marketing technologist at heart, so I like customer data because I want to be able to market relevant products and services to that customer - and to be relevant, I need to know something about them - I need their data. However, I don't think that the 4th party personal cloud as utilised by the unhosted app concept precludes this from happening.
We just need to think differently.
If the data belongs to the customer, then we essentially need permission from the customer to access it. This permission will be granted if the customer sees a worthwhile value exchange for their data and also feels in control of it. They can grant access and they can revoke it - which side of the fence we're on will depend on what we provide back.
In reality though, as corporates, we don't need huge repositories of personal data despite our quest to build them.
Increasingly the battle field for relevant communications is real-time. As I spoke about in my last post, technologies like Complex Event Processing and other solutions like collaborative filtering (people who bought x also bought y) are executing at the time a customer is carrying out a behaviour - on that behaviour. At this point of interaction, we're working with the customer and will have access to their personal data and can use this within the application to make decisions. Of course, we'll also need large amounts of historical data to support recommendations, but this doesn't need to be "a single customers data", it just needs to be aggregates of behaviours.
Imagine this within a loyalty programme context - one of the biggest aggregators and users of consumer behavioural data.
In an "unhosted loyalty app" context, when I swipe my identity card (4th party identity provider), the retailer would send my purchase information about the transaction to my 4th party personal cloud. At this point, that data is mine to do with as I wish - it's basically an electronic till receipt.
- I could then choose to connect this data to a 3rd party application that analyses my nutritional intake
- I could connect it to the retailers loyalty programme which would then recognise my purchases and update my connected bank provider (cash or points)
- I could connect it to one or more FMCG/CPG manufacturers who could choose to recognise my purchase of their products (or my purchase of their competitors), and respond to me with relevant offers or rewards
- I could simply connect it to my shopping list app to tick off what I'd already purchased
While this may seem like a step back for companies currently designing big data solutions which will increasingly sweep wider and wider customer interactions into larger and larger repositories, it's actually a giant leap forward. I'm betting that Walmart would love to see detail on the transactions I've made with Costco. Or Visa would love to see my spend with MasterCard. Presently this data will never be shared between these competitors.
However, when it's my data, I can choose to share it with whom I like - my supermarket can have access to my credit card spend (and see who else I spend with) if I feel this provides value back to me.
Why though would a retailer simply give this data away in a format I can use electronically?
Well, ignoring the fact that this will likely be mandated soon by governments, it's also a customer retention mechanic. When my data has value to me, then I'm more likely to frequent a retailer that can actually provide it.
In the last century, I gave my loyalty to a retailer so they could have my data; in this centuary I'll be giving my loyalty to the retailer so I can have my data back.
In my professional role I design and build loyalty solutions for clients including the backend systems to support these - I'm part of the machine that is gathering big data across wider interactions to help engage and retain customers. I'm positive about this and it's an exciting place to be, both as a marketer and as a consumer.
I also understand however that consumer attitudes are shifting, government approaches are changing and technology is democratising data - looking out 5 to 10 years, I'm betting it's "My Data", not "Big Data" thats going to be the new frontier.