I am starting my blog with a subject that is going to be of importance as we move forward, not that is it not important today. We are already a connected society and are generating loads of data. In near future we will start generating data where we would want better control, data that is closer to heart! Data that is generated today is either with the user or with applications that reside in the cloud. Have a look at the Infographics from Mashable below
If you look at the business and tech environment today, you will see a lot of talk about “cloud”. Every company worth its name will have a unique understanding, buzz words and a 100 slide pack on the same. It’s been talked about as a Eureka moment – nothing could be farther from the truth. Internet companies have been doing cloud based products for years now! But that is not important. What is important, is to understand how these companies have successfully implemented services that help you generate data and also keep your data on some server, somewhere in the world – successfully.
I will keep it simple and take the use case of an individual (say myself) who uses internet, social networking, credit cards, applications etc.
Here is how my data is scattered.
My photos are on face book and sometimes i tweet them as well. Hell i started using Path (will do a post of the app later) and a few pictures have landed on that also. But you know what, i don’t post pictures of my family on any of these clouds (read sites). So where do i keep my photos, they are on my Mac (iphotos) and a few hard drives that i have. I have taken redundancy to a new level here but it has become a pain. When ever i copy my photos i need to copy it across these drives/devices and more than once i forget. There goes my redundancy !
What else do i have that needs to be backed up – i have loads of documents (ppt, word files, excel etc) and they are all over my hard drives. But i am cool with that. I write notes on my iphone and would want them saved somewhere. BTW, i use the notes app quite often to remember small bits of info like details of so many useless and useful membership cards I have. I hate to carry them in my wallet (i have a sensitive a**). What else, i have contacts, music, videos etc and they need some structured space as well.
Here are few applications that will take care of the above data beautifully – Google (no i dont hate them and nor am i paranoid), Facebook, Evernote, Dropbox and many more. Between all of these services i can pretty much give shape to my data and have them available a click away. Some experiences i will like and some i will be critical of but they would do the job.
So, i should be happy then and not waste time writing this post. Wrong!
I might be managing today with what i have but i certainly need a greater degree of order to my digital data (including junk) that i will keep on generating. And as i said earlier we will start generating data that is personal and i mean it. It may not be a pressing need to day but soon will be. Here are a few items that i personally would want access to in a structured manner and have full control as well.
a) Bank transaction details: We get statements every month. Some get a paper copy and some get an email statement. How about an app that gets all the statements and keeps them for you. You could even have analytics run on top of it to give you a breakup of your transactions. More importantly, the app should be able to store statements that are more than 6 months old (some banks have a cap of 6 months for you to pull statement). How about users who have more than one bank account. Now, its more compelling, I definitely want this in an app. This is a basic requirements and I am sure if presented to users, they would want to take this. I don’t want to complicate things by talking about doing transactions from an app where you can connect more than one bank, lets leave that for now.
b) Credit card: This is my favorite. Many of us use more than one credit card. In India at least you get a sms alert the moment you make a transaction. But if you go online at that moment your credit card account will not show that transactions. Anyways, the important thing is that the backhaul generates a notification and I would want this pushed to an app instead of an sms. This app should again connect to multiple cards and publish my spending. How much, where, what kind off spend, frequency (daily, weekly, monthly etc etc). I want full analytics on this one. In fact I should be able to apply my own credit limits to cards and the app should inform me – Green, I am within limits; Orange, I am midway through; Red, I am screwed ! (Will do a post on such an app with features and screen shots, lets see if we have some takers after that)
c) Phone usage: We all use phones – prepaid or postpaid; Airtel, Vodafone. . . Voice, sms, data . . . Do you have a handle on how much money you have spent over a period of time. On what have you spent this money. If you have changed an operator, were you good before or is the current plan better. Hell, I have no clue. Not only that, what kind off usage do you have. Again, a lot of information could be generated and presented in a simple way with actionable items.
d) Medical records: I have been on the bad side of health all my life. Consulted everyone including astrologers but with no success. I must have had hundreds of medicines, injections, doctor visits etc. But if you ask me about my prescriptions etc, they are all over the place. But this has got to do more with the larger ecosystem than a small app that would store this info. Having said that, in near future, we will have more and more digitization of our medical history. It’s already happening when you visit big hospitals etc. This information is critical and I for sure would want access to this info. In fact, I would want this info to reside with me only. Individual digitized medical records have far reaching consequences. They are not only important for a doctor to look at but commercially as well. You could use them to get a discount on your insurance or skip a medical you need to do when you are taking a policy.
e) Memberships: I have a lot of them, from airlines to hotels to shopping to clubs etc etc. And as I said before I hate carrying these cards along. In fact, it’s impossible to carry them. Why not have an app where you punch in all these card details and then for usage you generate a QR code etc. The establishment can have a phone app that reads such QR codes and boom we are done. Ain’t that beautiful. Again, different cards, different companies – personal data!
f) Car: What car do you drive ? I wanna drive the new Range Rover Evoque, its sexy! Anyways, a lot of modern cars have a small computer and a few sensors here and there. They generate enough information that an individual could use. Data like – Odometer, trip meter, instant fuel average, distance travelled from A to B, time taken, fuel spent and the list goes on. I can access this info while I am in the car. I would want to have access to this info at any time. Again a lot data and analytics that could help make better choices. This data could be generated from cars belonging to different manufacturers and is personal.
g) Home: Connected devices are one of the hottest topics and as we move we will see a lot of things getting connected. Devices at home will start talking to each other and in turn give you access to tons of information and ability to take action. We are reaching a stage where each light bulb will have an IP address and wireless capability (the production cost has reached US $ 1). You will be able to control your electricity meters, light bulbs, your air conditioners, heaters, etc etc. This data will be important as it will give you the ability to switch off you ac because you are surpassing your electricity bill. Or in you happen to live at a place where tariff varies according to the load on a grid (currently I think it’s only related to time of day), you will have access to this info and be able to take action. (I will write more on this topic as well)
I can keep adding examples but I think you get the drift. All the above examples clearly showcase actionable data getting generated from multiple providers in the same space. Not only that the data is clearly of personal nature. In this kind off a scenario you would need to have something like a true “Personal Cloud”. A storage mechanism where you have total control. Where you decide what to share and with whom to share. You should be able to take a backup of all this structured information on your hard drive. You should be able to take this information from one cloud provider to another provider. Currently, we don’t see that happening.
And as i said i don’t upload my personal pictures on Facebook Twitter, Picasa, Flickr etc. Would love to have a service that backs and syncs my pictures, allows me to share selectively and most importantly, allows me to take them away in a structured manner, with just one click !
We need a mechanism that gives full control and access to users for the data they generate and create a standardized way to interact with that users data.
The intent here is not to advocate a system where players start loosing control over their users but to create an ecosystem where the user stays with you because of the awesomeness of your service. Where the user can take their data – whenever, wherever !
PS: The above examples are all clear cases of apps that can be developed. I have kept the details short, in case you want to explore, give me a shout.