Wearing Data on One’s Sleeve: Who Owns the Information?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has four big data problems, according to Alistair Croll at O’Reilly#:

1. Nobody will wear 50 devices

This is kind of self-evident. For example, according to a recent PwC study, fitness trackers, devices that have been in market and on people for a few years, are worn consistently only by 10% of the people who buy them.

One device down, 49 to go.

2. More inference, less sensing

Convergence has been trending in technology for a few years because it is more convenient to carry around good enough computing capacity and communication tools in a (now large) pocket.

Use adaptive apps to improve the service.

Early versions of Jawbone’s wearable, for example, asked wearers to log their activity manually. More recent versions are smarter: the device notices a period of activity, guesses at what that activity was by comparing it to known patterns

3. Datamandering

this means constant wars over data formats in a strange kind of digital jerrymandering

Switching operating systems and even devices becomes a chore when you have a lot of data to transfer. Of course, this is why people use personal cloud solutions, with the caveat that public systems may raise security/privacy concerns (how to set up one at home.)

Consolidation in the industry could lead to some companies to fail — where does your data go? Another point raised by Croll is interoperability. It reminds me of the history of ATMs#:

[…] enough people used them that ATMs became more common and their widespread adoption, however frustrated by card-eating and breakdowns, drove innovation. IBM pioneered the online interconnective software that ATMs came to run on, which allowed the terminals to be connected to the banks larger computerized network through dedicated phone lines.

So convenient and streamlined, in fact, that they have become ubiquitous.

[…] Now, ATMs are pretty much everywhere (Wells Fargo Bank even operates two at McMurdo Station in Antarctica). And though they’re capable of doing a lot of useful things such as deposits, payment transfers and balance checking, they’re still basically doing the same thing that they did when they first appeared nearly 50 years ago.

Once streamlined and available, the opportunity with technology then becomes using it to support a network of services, including re-introducing the role of people.

“We think of it today mainly as a cash dispenser,” says Stearns. “But an ATM is terminal… It’s a device that sits on the edge of the network and becomes the device by which the consumer interacts with the network… That device could be used to do anything on the financial network and it could be used to redeem or purchase any kind of physical objects.” In other words, it could really do just about anything.

Personal attention, when powered by data, may drive adoption — of wearables and of redesigned ATMs. This is where context comes in.

4. Context is everything

The technologies with built-in context make more sense because they are more usable.

Feedback LoopFrom this excellent Wired article, a feedback loop involves four stages:

  • the data, a behavior or evidence
  • relaying the information to the person in a context that makes it emotionally resonant or relevance
  • the paths ahead the information illuminates, or consequence
  • and the moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, and take action

Then the action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once again. Feedback loop is the red button on Facebook and G+, the counter on your email account and Twitter notifications.

However, the true power of feedback loops is not to control people but to give them control. They are great for solving problems, even better for creating opportunities.

Being able to revisit your own data based on situation provides more actionable feedback. For example, ThinkUp is an app that gives you insights about you and your friends on Twitter and Facebook. The brainchild of Anil Dash and Gina Trapani, and open source since 2009, it costs $5/month after the free trial.

Imagine how powerful it would be to have an aggregated view — and ownership — of our own data, in context. It would truly be the Internet of You.

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