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Getting personal

Getting personal 

The realization that companies have to be fast and first on the market has led to the rise of a concept known as the Internet of People. While the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything seek to establish connections between people and intelligent devices, the Internet of People acts as a crystal ball of sorts for companies. Essentially, it will allow them to collect data from people to determine what they will do next.

It’s been said that people are full of data which can say a lot about them. This data is put on display when they go online, use their smartphones, or even make purchases. These and other forms of data help to shape digital identities.

But the main question is, just who retains ownership of this data? To find out, IT in Canada spoke to Dr. Andy Jennings, chief analytics officer for FICO.

IT in Canada: What led to the rise of personal data collection?
You could basically tie that to the existence of the Internet and the ability of devices and people to communicate between and with one another. As people have gotten engaged in more and more online shopping, subscriptions or engagements in social media, and so on, everything we do there creates data.

As a result of that, we see more and more companies get created to help people do those things, especially in the social media context. But inevitably, what they’ve really become is data companies because what they’re doing is allowing you and me to interact with each other on Facebook and Twitter, for example.

But ultimately under the skin of all that, they’re collecting data and they’ve become basic companies. The birth of the Internet and the growth of mobile devices have led to the growing exhaust fumes of data, as it’s often called, that you and I leave (everywhere).

ITIC: Why is it important to establish and build confidence about the transparency of what the data is being used for?
It’s important to establish that transparency because it’s obviously not always entirely clear. I think there’s a ways to go with this (and) it’s not clear to everyone how this data is actually going to be used.

To the majority of these people, it’s not clear that they’re getting something for free. Especially in the social media context, they’re getting something for free; but it’s not really free, because (data has) just been collected about you, and it’s going to be used in some particular shape or form.

For example, there was a story I read recently where a company said, “Your data’s safe with us!” But buried deep within those long pages of terms and conditions that nobody ever bothers to read, it said, “In the event that the company is sold, your data will be passed off to whoever buys this company.”

That may be fine in an argument of continuance of service, for example, but it’s not entirely necessarily clear that a new company will preserve the data in exactly the same way as the old company did. So I think the issue is around knowing how that information I provide might be helpful for me, or may come back to be used against me if I don’t understand the exact context of what I’m giving away and how it will be used.

ITIC: How can enterprises provide demonstrable value about what is being done with the data?
I think it depends on what the enterprise is. If it was a bank, for example, they demonstrate value by understanding you by being consistent in the way they approach you through one channel versus another. They’re better able to reach your demands or needs because they have a better understanding of the situation in which you are in.

Customer serviceis clearly a key way in which enterprises are able to provide better value. If you look at that in a different context, in a context of a retailer, let’s say, in a loyalty program, then by understanding what you buy and when you buy it, and I’m making offers to you, then I’m in a better place to make those offers both relevant to you, for them to be things you want to buy when you want to buy them.

Or, alternatively, you could take that another step forward and say, you’ve opened your app and you’re in store X, and there’s a sale for salmon. But the salmon has actually been there for two or three days, and the app suggests you don’t buy it here; it’s available three miles down the road. Then, the store might say that they’re going to roll that offer over for you or extend it another few days.

The real value is in understanding you, and in providing you better customer service, which I think goes beyond simply saying, “Gosh, you’re looking at a website (about) Hi-Fi, so I’m going to bombard you with adverts about Hi-Fi.”

ITIC: Why is it important for businesses to regularly engage in dialogue with their customers?
It’s because the goal of every enterprise is this thing called customer engagement. Everybody wants to feel that they are engaged with their customers.

I think on one level that’s as simple as the communication of understanding what you’re doing, so you sort of engage by making sensible responses or portraying sensible behavior on the part of the enterprise that the consumer can see as being sensible. That’s one aspect of it.

The other aspect of it, which is sort of old-fashioned in some ways, is actual dialogue, and asking customers questions about actual things. Today, there’s a tendency to overlook that you can get answers by asking a customer. Often, customers are more than happy to provide information about themselves if they feel it’s in the right context and it’s leading towards helping them in a certain situation.

We don’t have to try to work out everything completely from data analysis. Dialogue is also a two-way thing. It’s about asking questions, not just collecting data and trying to figure out what that customer is doing or what their intent might be.

ITIC: Why is it important to help people who decide to change their behaviour?
We, as a society, have to agree on what positive changes in behavior are, so let’s use driving as an example. We’ve seen the rise, or are seeing the rise, of what’s called usage based insurance and devices that collect driving data.

On the one hand, they can be used for the simple purpose of monitoring how you drive and then creating some metrics, some predictions, on the likelihood that I am going to have an accident in the next X number of days. And while that’s all well and good, it’s a non-trivial question, and it doesn’t help me.

I’m getting data off of that situation on the expectation that I might get a lower insurance premium. So how do we turn that around and use all this data collection to help be better drivers? That’s a great example of saying, “If you, as a consumer, engage, then we can use your data on how you drive during certain situations at certain times of day relative to other people, to provide feedback to you about how you’ve become a safer driver, should you so wish.”

And if that was successful on a large enough scale, that would clearly be beneficial to society because the number of accidents would (decrease). The same can be said about health and diet.

There’s an opportunity to provide individualized feedback and advice and direction to people which, if they’re willing to take it, could increase or reduce the number of accidents that are on the road, depending on the metric you’re thinking about. This would make the (world) safer for everybody and improve the diet of the general population, making people healthier, and helping to moderate healthcare costs.

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