Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Human API Is The Future Of Big Data

You are the next app. Yes, you. And you. And you over there in the back. You are all the next app. Ok, technically, not you. But, your data. No, I don’t mean your name, your email address or your birth date. Those are old school pieces of data that will continue to depreciate in value, over time. When I say you and when I say your data, I literally mean all the data you generate.

On some level, the near future is mobility, big data and personalization. The irony of course is that’s not really a new trend. Companies as far back as the catalogue business models of the 1930’s relied on our data. Where we lived. What we ordered. How much we spent. How often we ordered. Since that boom of the 30’s companies have always valued our data and tried to collect it. Remember those warranty cards you filled out? They were really just an easy way for the manufacturer to learn more about the person who just bought their item. Smart, right? Today, when you login to a site with Facebook Connect, you’re trading your data for simplicity.

Digital DNA

We trade data all the time. But, something is changing. As companies look to advance their product pipeline, they’re more reliant than ever on us to power those products. Let me offer some examples:

  1. For Nest to continue its meteoric growth, it’s going to need more data about you and your home. Devices that are part of “connected home” will take off, provide value and offer a wow factor that leads to broad adoption when it’s powered by more and more data about us. Imagine Nest changing the temperature of your house when it knows you’re within 5 miles of it. How does it know? Because you allowed Nest to track your location so that this happens automatically.
  2. What about Samsung’s entire foray into wearable devices, including the biometric tracking that’s part of the Samsung Galaxy 5? Those “wow” features are only of value and help Samsung provide better phones and better experiences if YOU allow them to have access to your fingerprints, your pulse and more.

Those are just two very simple examples that underscore a simple truth: companies will need our “DNA” to make their products work.

It’s been long said, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product. That’s helped us accept the pervasive tracking by platforms like Google and Facebook. We get access to their great platforms at no financial cost, because we’re providing them with data that they are able to resell to advertisers for a significant upside.

But, what happens, when you’re not only the product, you’re also paying for the product? Shouldn’t my data lead to some type of financial benefit? After All, without my data, they’re products are underpowered, which slows their roadmap, which leads to poorer financial performance.

We are entering an age of mutual exchange. Never before have we been on such a equal playing field as companies. They need us as much as we need them. Let’s take a relatively small example that proves this theory out. Today, Progressive Insurance gives you a discount for letting them track your car driving habits with their Snapshot product. You’re getting a financial value for your data. That’s mutual exchange. That’s the future.

Now, let’s take a bigger example. Today, Google takes your data and in essence sells it to companies to market you; you don’t see a dime. Yes, you get to access things like Gmail for free, but even with those products, you’re at the mercy of Google’s roadmap. Remember, Google Reader and how Google killed it, despite people not wanting it to be killed? If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Well, what would happen if Microsoft’s Bing, said, you know what Joe Consumer, you’re in control of your own data and in doing so wrote you a check every month for how they’ve used it, based on how you’ve opted in. The more data you shared, the more you’re worth and the more you’re paid. Would you use Bing more?

You AND your personal social network are now the new API.  Don’t turn your most valuable asset, your data, into a commodity. You’re worth more than that. Companies should be paying us to access our API, not the other way around.