Start Controlling Your Own Data

by Jay Deragon on 07/08/2013

peoples dataWe have all turned into a data factory whether we realize it or not. The problem is others, primarily marketers, are using our data for their benefit and now it is time we learn to use it to our benefit.

Every time you land a web page you produce data. Use your credit card, you produce data. Use your mobile device, you produce data. Visit a Healthcare provider, you produce data. Get your car serviced, you produce data. Watch TV, you produce data. Use GPS in your vehicle, you produce data.  Board an aircraft, you produce data. Use those loyalty or membership cards, you produce data. And the list goes on and on. We are indeed the new 21st century factory creating more value than any of us can imagine with the data we produce.

Value Comes When We Manage Our Own Data

In a Forbes article by Cheryl Conner titled “What Can People Do With Data That Companies Can’t?” Doc Searls states “Many thousands of people today are hurt or killed by personal data being silo’d inside proprietary systems that don’t share data well, if at all. In the U.S. especially the system is fubar. But there are a few exceptions that prove the rule we’ll all obey eventually. One is the “blue button” program of the Veterans Administration.  It’s a simple way for veterans to obtain their own health care data. 

Another health area that’s still almost pure frontier is a category called Quantified Self, or QS. In that one we have all the data being produced by bathroom scales, sleep managers, sport watches and wristbands, heart rate monitors, blood glucose meters, and workout machines at the gym. To that we can add all the data doctors collect about us when we go in for checkups, all the data that cell phone companies and retailers gather about us and sell or share with other big companies or third parties in the online marketing business. We can also add all the data accumulating in apps that monitor us, and at websites where we record our moods, or where data from our devices is accumulated.

Today, in nearly all the cases I just listed, our personal data goes into closed and proprietary silos. It isn’t integrated, and asking the companies receiving that data to integrate it with data held by other companies is a losing proposition. The only legitimate point of integration for personal data is the person herself or himself. She or he is also best positioned for putting that data to use. Today this is not obvious to business in general, or even to the companies making QS gear and apps. But it will be once we get the tools we need for putting that data to use.

The Beginning Of Tools to Manage Our Data

Imagine if you were a diabetic with visual problems, had multiple open heart surgeries, valve replacements, bypasses and several strokes.  All of these issues are interrelated and require multiple ongoing medications in order to live a fairly healthy standard of living.  Now imagine if you were on vacation and suffered a mild heart attack and were rushed into a local emergency room. How would the Emergence Medical Team be able to effectively and safely address you as a patient without having your data readily available? They couldn’t and one wrong procedure or medication could actually kill you or a loved one!

Today, as Doc Searls mentioned, our medical records are stuck in silos and difficult for different providers to access. Yet patients do have rights to their records and because of technology you can collect and store your records (medications, health history, treating physicians, hospitals, recent lab reports etc. etc. on a wristband or a necklace in a tiny USB Medical Alert Drive. Think about downloading this kind of data to a cloud and having it accessible through a device you wear.

There are other tools in the marketplace for users to begin to gather their own data but it is still far from what should be made available if only the suppliers understood the value they could create by unleashing data from their silos. Anytime you create more value for buyers and value that saves them time, money and enhances their life you are do so by enabling them to do it with their own data.

That is the opposite of using the buyer’s data to create more value for limited selfish gains and calling it competitive advantage.  By empowering the buyer with their own data you are in fact creating more value for your business by expanding your marketplace.

That is called creating intangible value. Of course that is something you can’t see but know it is real and must believe it is so in order to see and make it tangible.

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