By Daniel Hunter
Leading businesses have taken up the challenge to create new digital apps using real consumer data as the ‘midata’ Innovation Lab is now open, announced Consumer Minister Jo Swinson.
For the first time the lab is collecting real customer data from 1,000 volunteer consumers, and is inviting businesses to access a computer enabled lab with the help of business and the Open Data Institute. So far ‘midata’, has been working with industry to make sure that consumers can access their data — from utility to phone bills — in an accessible format.
The lab is taking this one step forward and has created a unique environment where businesses and expert organisations work collaboratively together to learn how to empower and protect consumers as well as looking at ways to unlock the innovation that will use this data to create apps. Businesses that have signed up to use the Lab so far include Telefonica, BBC, Moneysupermarket.com, npower, Grapple and Which?.
“Today’s most successful businesses are the ones that are creative about building customer relationships. The new ’midata’ Lab is an exciting opportunity to put this to the test and explore how businesses could help customers use the data around their spending habits to make better choices," Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said.
“There is a lot to be gained from being open and using the information gathered on customers with their knowledge. Developing new and innovative ways to see data also helps improve customer service which will in turn promote growth. I would encourage businesses and developers alike to take advantage of this opportunity and establish themselves as a market leader in the digital market.”
The relationship between businesses and their customers has evolved to being more than simply buying products. With the popularity of loyalty cards, comparison sites and mobile applications, businesses are increasingly helping consumers manage their lives. ‘midata’ is working to ensure that people are able to request their personal data from businesses in a useful format to allow them to manage their money better and make informed lifestyle choices.
So far ‘midata’ has made significant progress as a voluntary measure, with more than 20 leading businesses in the energy, finance and telecoms sectors signing up.
Alistair Crane, CEO Grapple said: “Through our work as the strategic mobile partner to major retailers and financial services institutions, we know that there is an appetite from consumers for applications that help them better manage their money.
“We are excited to be founding partners in the midata Innovation Lab, helping shape the way consumers, businesses and the wider economy can benefit from the emerging consumer data ecosystem.”
Andy Day, General Manager of Business Intelligence at Telefonica UK, said: “We are pleased to support the midata Innovation Lab, because it will create practical and real life examples of how digital technology can help consumers generate value from their data.
“We put our customers in control, allowing them to make informed choices about how their data may be used to help them lead easier and more sustainable lives. The Innovation Lab brings this to life in a powerful way and demonstrates how business innovation can deliver strong consumer benefits.”
Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com “Midata has the potential to be a consumer blockbuster. Yet the real challenge is to make it work. This is a welcome practical first step to see if that’s possible.
“Currently when it comes to finding the cheapest mobile deal, energy bill or bank account — many people struggle to know their exact tariff name — let alone a detailed analysis of their usage.
“A rose tinted crystal ball would show that with Midata, people will be able to press a button, and their entire usage history is flung to a independent website or agent who’ll interrogate it and show them their most competitive provider — cutting out all the guess work and diluting the impact of marketing and spin.”
In the future people could benefit from a range of applications made possible by accessing and sharing data held on them by businesses, for example by:
- viewing their data in a simple way to see which energy or mobile tariff suits them better;
- comparing the prices, or looking at the health benefits of their food consumption, through accessing data relating to their food shop;
- keeping up to date via one application with the latest films, music or shows released, tailored to their previous buying choices and personal taste, and;
- energy companies printing QR codes on their bills containing all the information on a customer’s tariff, usage patterns and supplier details. When scanned with a smartphone it could feed into an app that helps consumers instantly work out the cheapest tariff for them based on their energy usage.
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