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Personal cloud is a phrase I have heard being used for several years now. The image I have is a virtual storage cloud that contains all of your proprietary data through applications like Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive.

From what I’ve recently learned, this notion only scrapes the surface of both what is possible and what is unfolding right now.

The reason this is such a big deal is because it turns today’s data model on its head.

A plethora of big businesses today have many a zero added to the asset column of their balance sheets due to the vast quantities of personal data that they own relating to their users or customers. 

Something that has never really resonated with me is the suggestion that you can't own data. The argument goes that you can own where the data resides but you can't own the data itself.

Advocates of this point of view believe in that you should have some say in what happens with the data about you that is stored in big business.  

The change to Australia’s Freedom of Information Act on 12 March this year has been a significant progression on this topic, and part of the recent change is that citizens can ask an organisation to supply them with all the personal data they currently hold on them.

What I have come to understand about personal clouds is that you’re not going to have to change anything that’s out there, a personal cloud is just another way to access data, when and where you want, on any device and in real time.

A personal cloud transmits the data and simply provides a service. It makes connecting and sharing information safe, accommodating all the devices and operating systems that come and go in our lifetime. The biggest disruption this will bring is the ability for people to own and control their own data, granting permission for any individual, organisation or entity to access it.

According to Kevin Cox, CEO of White Label Personal Clouds, it will allow people to move information from one organisation to another organisation in a privacy-friendly manner.

This has the potential to make big business much more efficient. Can you imagine not having to fill-in any forms for a home loan? If you and the organisation (in this case, the bank) agree to share information then this is now possible.

Even a simple thing like updating your contact details with all the entities you have relationships with can now be done by you, through your smartphone at the tap of an authentication application. 

From what I understand, the founding technology at Cox’s WLPC has been built in a lean start up methodology and is functional today. Businesses are free to build applications on this new underlying infrastructure.

Authentication is the most critical element here, a product like WLPC allows a browsing end-user to be automatically known to the website. You can request information about yourself and also control what the website knows about you. Logins will be replaced by a “common public key, private key PKI technology, https, and cookies.”

You can then share data across the websites, at your discretion, based on your permissions.

When a person logs on to any website and authenticates themselves then a private public key pair is created. The public key is put in the person’s browser, either directly or with cookies, and the private key is distributed securely to all WLPC enabled websites.

Methods of authentication, that the customer allows, are sent to all the WLPC enabled websites. The public key/private key match is reset periodically or whenever there is a new authentication event.

Journalist and author Doc Searls believes this change in computing is as significant as when mainframes were replaced by PCs and the ‘personal computer revolution’ changed the way business operated.  

In the early 80s ‘personal computers’ was an oxymoron, then several years later "corporate power became personal.” Searls alluded to the logical possibility that “people may be able to do more with big data than the companies can do themselves.”

In the new world of the 'Internet of Things', devices have their own clouds and people that own the devices will own those clouds.

Relationships between customers and companies are going to change. We will be in charge of our data like we are in charge of our devices. Every single thing has a collection of data that you have control over and it’s useful to start to think of the personal cloud as a zone of control.

PCs were not expected to enter big business, networking and neither was the internet, yet now we even have the trend for BYOD (bring your own device). While it’s hard to wrap your head around personal clouds, this too (like the disruptive technologies before it) will make business more efficient. 

So knowing what I do now, a personal cloud is more like a personal computer - virtual operating system, linked to your own permission identity, controlling your data, communications, applications, accounts and data-based-business relationships. Allowing you to securely share your data, to entities of your choice, across all your computers, devices and even objects. 

It’s an exciting concept and it’s happening today. 

Dominic Byrne

Published 15 April, 2014 by Dominic Byrne

Dominic Byrne is Chief Digital Officer at Tyres4U / Tyreright and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also find Dominic on Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn. He blogs here

7 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Steve

You know what the problem with personal clouds is? Security, or rather lack of it.

Until companies that sell their personal "cloud" hardware/software stacks commit to timely updates and support of their end user solutions for a more or less extended periods of time, personal "clouds" will probably stay inherently less secure. Case in point: look at all consumer-oriented router manufacturers and see how many of them have patched the recent OpenSSL bug.

Another case against personal "clouds" is inconvenience. They're more difficult to set up and integrate than, for example, solutions from Microsoft (OneDrive + data sync) or Apple (iCloud). When people start respecting their privacy a little bit more, they might looking into trading that convenience to regain control of their data in some sort.

about 2 years ago

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Erik Caso

Sadly, the personal cloud is badly misunderstood. Things like iCloud, Dropbox and Evernote are NOT personal clouds. They are *public* clouds. Personal clouds are individual - where your data is the only data there and no one else's. With Dropbox, et al. every user's data is all aggregated together in one place. You, me and everyone else. It's like going to a public park vs. your backyard.

To the other commenter's point, this makes personal clouds far more private and secure than public cloud services; although certainly not immune to security concerns.

about 2 years ago

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