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midata Innovation Lab launches

Posted on: Thursday 4th of July 2013

Seeing is believing.  Many people can’t see the opportunity of something really new until they can see a working example. At Ctrl-Shift we can say that one day there will be as many services based on the permission based sharing of personal data as there are physical products using say, plastic or metal components. But until we provide those working examples many people – companies, individuals, policy makers – will mutter ‘it’s just a theory’ and walk away.

That’s why, in our role as business advisors to the UK Government’s midata programme we’ve been beavering away with colleagues from the Department of Business, GfK, Telefonica, Atlantic and IRM visioning, scoping, planning, proselytising, recruiting, co-ordinating, to create the midata Innovation Lab, which launches today.

The Lab is a world first in three ways.

  • It’s the first time individuals will be empowered as the point of integration of data about their own lives. Financial transactions, energy consumption data, phone data and lots of other data sets including previously uncollected data such as individuals’ plans, preferences and intentions will be gathered and orchestrated by individuals, around those individuals.
  • It’s the first time that some of the infrastructure individuals can use to protect, manage and control the sharing of this data will be tested in anger: personal data stores.
  • And, for the first time, organisations will be able to play with the data, on a permissioned and controlled basis – data that gives them a genuine single customer view, a view that spans many aspects of the individual’s life, not just relating to their dealings with that organisation – to innovate new services.

Today, 50 individuals will start gathering and storing their data in their personal data store. Over the next few months that will grow to 1000. Also today, the 20 Founding Partners of the Lab meet to finalise their plans for the project. They include Aimia (which runs the UK’s largest loyalty scheme Nectar), the BBC, GfK the global market research company, Moneysupermarket, NPower, O2/Telefonica and Which?. More companies will be joining in round two. You can see the full list of Founding Partners here.

Innovation and growth

The Lab is a genuine public/private partnership led by the Department of Business, joined by large companies and software houses wanting to innovate using the data, universities, personal data stores, regulators and security and data experts. The message – the attraction – to all of them is this is an opportunity for innovation and growth.

About a year ago in September 2012, as part of our work for the midata programme, we organised a very modest midata Hackathon which was held at the Open Data Institute. We were astonished at the ideas and opportunities that surfaced. We’re confident the Lab will go ten times further. It’s going to make palpable the growth potential of personal information assets where citizen/consumers are empowered with their own data and engaged by the value it can create – for individuals themselves, for the firms providing information services, and for the economy as a whole.

The Big Picture is that we are very deliberately crafting a win-win-win platform that unites citizens/consumers, organisations and Government to set aside the fear, uncertainty and doubt that’s come to surround ‘privacy’ and personal data and to realise its full personal, economic and social potential.

A learning engine

But to do that we still need shed loads of learning. Just how difficult is it for individuals to gather the data they need? When do they and don’t they feel comfortable sharing this rich new data, under what circumstances? Exactly what data do we need? (We are sure of it, the first thing that’s going to happen is that innovators planning a new service will say ‘but if only I also had this data’ – so that’s what we plan to do, keep on adding data as the Lab goes on.) Where are the biggest opportunities for innovation? Where are the biggest opportunities for growth? And what are the obstacles and pitfalls, not only with the data itself (accuracy, quality, format etc) but with technologies, business models, service design and so on?

That’s what the Lab is really about: it’s a platform for accelerated, practical learning. We’ve got over a dozen ‘learn by doing’ streams, each led by an organisation with its own team, covering the whole gamut of issues from consumer protection through the workings of the personal data stores on to data issues, business value and modelling and so on. Ctrl-Shift is leading the Innovative Services strand.

The ever-so precious output? First, evidence of the potential. If not the actual size of this opportunity, at least some idea of its scope. So seeing becomes believing. Second, more questions – the right questions about how to make it happen. If you want to find out more, get in touch!

Here is our Storify about the event.