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Guest post: ‘Rebuilding the Internet around you’ by Graham Hill

Posted on: Thursday 3rd of July 2014

In this blog post Ctrl-Shift associate Graham Hill explains the vision behind the HAT project and what it is trying to do.

We live in an increasingly connected world, where much of our lives is being captured digitally as data: our transactions, our interactions, our movements. As more things become connected through the Internet-of-Things (IoT), even more data is being generated. This is the much discussed big-data. And it’s all about US!

Whose data is it anyway?

Even though this data is generated by us, it doesn’t belong to us, but to those collecting it, e.g. the supermarket that tracks our purchases, the telco that delivers our SMS and the search engine that monitors our searches. Even if our own data is returned to us, we probably wouldn’t really know how to use it because the data is presented in a way to help the institution that collected it, not us.

As individuals, we are become increasingly worried about online privacy and security, and some of us are starting to withdraw from being too digitally visible. Governments may start addressing these privacy and security issues through regulation, but that will likely only increase costs. This could make some institutions reluctant to invest in innovation, which in turn could lead to a downward spiral where higher costs, leads to less innovation, fewer business opportunities and ultimately, fewer jobs.

There is a need to reverse this and create an upward spiralling effect on the digital economy. This is what the Hub-of-All-Things (HAT) project aims to do.

The HAT Project: Your digital data vault

This is the HAT’s proposition: it provides us as individuals, with the opportunity to create a repository of our own data, generated, owned and controlled by us.

The Project is building a database owned by individuals, where each of us will have a HAT of our own data, similar to how we have email or bank accounts. This HAT contains all the data we would need to help make our lives better, from IoT-data in our homes, through supermarket purchase data, to personal data on social media.

By owning our data and seeing it as a digital asset that can help us lead better lives, we will be motivated to generate more data by being more digitally visible. This reverses the issue of a ‘shrinking supply’ of data. Since we are using the data for our benefit, we will make sure that it is as accurate as possible, thus solving the issue of good quality data. And by keeping our HATs secure in a trusted environment, we can hopefully address the security and privacy issues too.

Analysing your digital behaviour

A lot of data currently collected is still vertical data, which needs to be re-organised and transformed in a ‘horizontal’ way so that it can be used by individuals to make better decisions. Also, as human beings, we interact with our data and can actually help contextualise it for more meaningful usage.

Using a Service Dominant Logic, the HAT project will develop a human schematic database that organises vertical data according to the way we create value with products and services, and how we use information in our lives. We can co-create that database with our own sense-making and intelligence. For example, we can get data about the temperature in our environment: at home, in the car, the workplace and outdoors. But what we really want to know is ‘what will the lowest temperature I will encounter today be, so that I will know what to wear?’. To achieve this, we need to place this vertical data into the HAT, which would transform it into horizontal-type data that can help us make those decisions.

A multi-sided market of trusted partners

It’s no use owning all this data if we can’t use it to make our lives easier, better and more fulfilling.

The HAT is not just a database; it is also a multi-sided market platform that enables you to exchange our data for services that can make our lives better, e.g. exchanging our diet data for personalised grocery bundles. This will help create a market for personal data, which is important for the future growth of the digital economy, but in a way that fits our lives better. It takes a more democratic approach to how data is owned and accessed, and helps institutions tailor what they offer to consumers in a scalable way.

Empowering the individual

The HAT was conceived because we feel that rather than just making things smarter, technology can make us smarter and more empowered. We want to be smart, not just have smart things. We also want to ensure that our privacy can be preserved and the right to create, manage and use the data are under our control.

If you want to get ahead, get a HAT

The HAT Project allows each of us to acquire data and build our own repository of horizontal, meaningful data that is useful for contextual decision-making and enables us to exchange our data with firms for products and services. When we create a horizontal platform that fits human lives, we also create the next stage of the Internet; that of people and things. With an epic collision of manufacturing, service and Internet companies, new horizontal-type business and economic models that are human-centric will emerge.

The Hat Project wants to put the UK at the centre of the next phase of the Internet’s revolution, but we also want to start a revolution to own, control and use our own data, for our own benefit.

Have your own say

The HAT Project is keen to hear what you think. Why not post your thoughts at the Hat Discussion Forum . And why not get more involved with the Project at the first First Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in London on the 17th July. If you want to make the Internet really work for you, this is a great opportunity.


This post originally appeared on Customer Think on 27 June 2014.