The personal ecosystem

One of the trends we expect to soon gain serious momentum is the dawn of ‘the personal ecosystem’.

It’s the point at which individual devices and sensors will become less like inanimate objects and more like a supportive community helping us in our day-to-day lives.

This is the future of what we’re calling Living Services – the point at which singular smart objects interconnect to form a support network for their owner. It’s also where a set of connected objects becomes greater than the sum of its parts: your very own ‘personal ecosystem’.

But what will it take for us to get there?

Power to the end user

To better understand the ‘dawn of the personal ecosystem’ it helps to cast our minds back to the early days of smartphones and how adoption gathered momentum.

Back then, the range of available services was extremely limited, often based on the capabilities of the device, or on the restrictions of the mobile service provider. But since the concept of an app store entered into the mainstream, users have increasingly been building their own personal app ecosystems made up of whatever they personally believe is useful and important.

While Apple keeps a tight rein on what’s allowed in its App Store, users largely have far more control over their software than ever before. 

Welcome to the connected world

If this year’s CES conference was anything to go by, then it’s fair to say that people are waking up to connected objects and incorporating them into their daily lives.

The ‘battle for the wrist’ is well underway and set to go mainstream this year, with a variety of wearable products launching to market, focussed on everything from health and wellness to information and entertainment.

With these services comes greater awareness of personal data, and therefore a need to help people understand what this data means. 

The rise of behavioural data

Online retailers and services like Amazon, Google and Facebook have been gathering users’ behavioural data for years. Aggregated data drives recommendation engines, and personal data drives targeted marketing and advertising.

This data is collected in order to provide more tailored, seemingly personalised services to users. However, in service terms, we have seen that misuse of information has an immediate and severe impact on relationships.

For example, when Facebook began “transparently” posting all the articles read through its news apps, usage of these apps dropped like a stone almost overnight. The fact that there are so many alternatives available for virtually any service means that users are increasingly walking away from experiences that they find creepy or uncomfortable, taking their business elsewhere.

Furthermore, targeted advertising is less effective than true advocacy in building profitable relationships. Advocates spread the word to their peer networks, where it is far more likely to be heard than from the brand or business itself. 

Changing attitudes towards data

In the past 18 months, we’ve witnessed a massive rise in the number of organisations gathering personal data from their users and the debate around its use intensified last year.

Examples include the class action lawsuit against Facebook launched by Austrian law student Max Schrems, the implementation of the EU Cookie Directive, and debate amongst advertisers, service providers and users around recognising Do Not Track requests.

Notions of data privacy and how much of it really is private has served to breed a semblance of discomfort amongst users, with consumer surveys revealing that some people even believe that advertisers on Google’s platform know their home address.

Given this growth in user awareness of data collection issues, businesses need to start thinking about a course of action today.  At the very least, we can expect to see dramatic growth in user awareness around their data, and potentially also a series of tools aimed at helping the public manage and control who sees their data, when and how.

As users become more aware of what can be done with their information, it will become more important for companies to deliver consumers real value in return for their data. 

What next..?

As we move into a new era of Living Services, with sophisticated gadgets and sensors hitting the mainstream, it is essential that connected objects are designed to deliver meaningful services to consumers.

The rise of personalised data is poised to be a hot topic as companies seek to heighten the overall user experience from the information gathered on consumers. 

In order to placate fears around data privacy, companies must put consumers first to deliver real value to real people in today’s digital business landscape.