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Keep it under your Hat: your Internet is changing PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Sunday, 20 July 2014 06:34

In the great galaxy of blindingly obvious statements the notion that the Internet is about change is hardly newsworthy but why would anyone keep it under their hat?

The Internet you know, and sometimes love, is right now (according to researchers) passing from the era of transactions into a new age – an era of data-driven decisions.  This won’t happen overnight but I guess you should be amongst the first to know. 

You should know this particularly if you’ve ever been troubled by the thought of how much other folk know about you.  Whether it’s Tesco, the Government, your doctor or employer, your worries about issues of personal data privacy have never been greater – indeed it drives many people to try and live off-grid as much as possible.

Hub of All ThingsAnd that, readers, is the point of the HAT – the Hub of All Things – your personal capability to hold everything about you as privately as you wish and, moreover, to trade it on the open market if you so choose; a commodity of great value that will be sought after as industry shifts its attention towards ever-more personalized products and services to suit the way you live and work.

Read that again.  Read it again but this time think of that earlier assertion – an era of data-driven decisions.  Such is the extent to which we will increasingly accept the conveniences of living largely on auto-pilot, that the ownership of data is valuable and, in that era of data-driven decisions, nobody will own you as much as you own yourself.

In a world where Openness is valued and we have been accustomed (often inadvertently) to giving ourselves away, this notion of retaking control of our lives can sound either like an implausibly impractical concept or the very worst nightmares of an Orwellian market addiction. 

Right now retailers, banks, hospitals, search engines, libraries, railways, or any of the countless contacts we make in everyday life, eagerly grasp the clues you spread around. They keep your data in silos – mostly prevented by law from sharing your information beyond their corporate borders.  They are not shy, however, about showing off just how much they know.  Readers who get this far also managed to read the previous editorial and subsequently purchased Bushmills – and suddenly you start to worry about who knows what, exactly.

If business follows current rules, maybe, perhaps, we can live with that?  The multiple IF statements of future systems, alas, are not exactly encouraging. The stage is set for countless battles for independence unless the champions of collaborative advantage win against outdated notions of aggressive competition.   Each of us live in a complex web of communities woven in ways that are individually unique – a rich fabric of contacts, interests, talents, habits, desires and aspirations.  Should we not each hold more-firmly the power to decide how much we share and with whom?  And should that power be valued and traded?

Business futurists recognise the increasing scope for developing products and services that can be adapted to your specific needs – or, if not uniquely for you, for ‘your sort’ of customer.  Their future lies not in producing countless variations but in developing ‘platforms’ that you can adapt to your own desires. Delivering those services requires contextual information and, with the increasing availability of all manner of data sensors, the future supply of quantitative information seems unlimited.  Your blood pressure rises – and the GP appointment is made.  The toilet roll runs out and is added to the shopping list.  If not you, then who is in control here?  And what about qualitative data – the touchy, feely stuff that currently eludes the mechanistic measurement and ignorant presumptions of over-simplified market definitions?

The researchers behind (or under) the hat – Hub of All Things – are convinced that unless your personal data has a market value it will not be valued.  They are also convinced that given time personal data markets will emerge. 

They do however concede that each of us will take different attitudes to our data privacy.  You can, in their model of ‘life as we don’t yet know it’, choose the degree to which you may keep things under your hat. Their current experimental schema allows for a Hard Hat, Straw Hat or a floppy Sun Hat.  No wonder, then, that in this corner of academia the researchers are known as the Mad Hatters.


For further information on the HAT project please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit 'hubofallthings'.

Downloadable PDF ' Engineering a Market for Personal Data' Briefing Paper.

'Value and Worth:  Creating New Markets in the Digital Economy' by Prof. Irene Ng, (ISBN 978-1-107-04935-2) is available in in a kindle edition and also as a hardback from Cambridge University Press. 


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 14:49

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