Personal data innovation lab seeks apps that empower customers

A new, government-backed innovation project was launched today that seeks to give people greater control over the data that businesses collect about them.

Fifty volunteers have agreed to make personal data, including their phone and energy bills and banking records, available for experimentation.

For the next three months, the midata Innovation Lab will bring together businesses including Telefonica, MoneySupermarket and nPower and technologists such as mobile development agency Grapple, to use this data to build new prototype applications.

The lab is part of the midata project, backed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which is predicated on the idea that giving customers greater control over their personal data will improve their trust in businesses. 

According to Alan Mitchell, strategy director of marketing data consultancy Ctrl-Shift and advisor on the scheme, ideas that are being brought into the lab include a mobile app that allows the user to manage the information relating to their home, and another that reminds the user when they need to renew any of their contracts. 

Mitchell says that the idea of the lab is to prove how unlocking personal data can lead to innovative new products, services and business models. "Organisations have been asking, what's in it for us? And we've been telling them that unlocking personal data can drive innovation. But now we're showing them."

Another goal is to identify some of the technical and organisational barriers to unlocking that data. "There are a million things that need to be sorted. But we'll only find out what they are if we try."

The first phase of lab will run for the next three months, with second and third rounds if it proves successful. The project is collaborating with market research firm GfK to attract up to 1,000 people to volunteer. 

The midata Innovation Lab was specifically mentioned in the UK government's recent Information Economy Strategy document, its plan to develop the UK's IT and data-driven industries. "From our work with the lab we expect to gain insights and understandings for future policy and data management developments, including security in data sharing," it said. 

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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