Data silos in companies have been a hot topic for years. With personal data, we have even a more significant silo issue, one that most people probably haven’t thought about, mainly how to best utilize their own data. Wearable and health data are now key areas where we individuals will start to see the data silo problem. Solutions for personal data will be the fastest-growing sector this decade.
We have our personal data in many places, and actually, it is not often in our hands at all, but, as an example, in banks, health care providers, retailers and multiple apps and online services. In many cases, we can now get a copy of the data thanks to data protection and privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA. But if we get the data, it alone does not help us a lot. We still have very different data in different formats.
We might have all kinds of ideas on how personal data could be utilized to understand our lives better. For example, wouldn’t it be interesting to analyze the correlation between your heartbeat and the music you are listening? Or how is the quality of my sleep compared to the balance of my bank account? Maybe some of these things are just nice to know, but there are also many useful and even essential data points related to our health and quality of our lives.
We now use devices to measure our real-time heartbeat, exercise, temperature, blood glucose and blood pressure. We also have DNA and health records data. This data comes now from many sources like smartwatches, phones, smart rings, special devices and external services. Most of these devices and sources have their online services and mobile apps and data in different formats.
One can claim that services like Apple Health combine data from several sources. It’s true, but it is not really a solution for developing tools and applications to utilize your data fully. It is Apple’s closed model, and it is not optimal for developers to make better services to combine and analyze data.
We can say the problem is similar to, as it has been for years, with enterprise data. But for years, there has been a lot of development in tools and systems to help with enterprise data silos. You can have solutions to combine data from several sources, get it to a compatible format or at least put it into a data lake and then build software to collect and format it.
Companies have put a lot of time, money and effort to combine data from different sources. It is crucial for many solutions and companies. But with personal data, we are in a very different phase. People haven’t thought about how they could utilize their own data. Consumers also need much more straightforward tools for this, and it is not realistic for individual people to start to build or tailor tools for their own personal data.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to get personal data from different silos into use. It just needs another approach. No one is yet sure, what the exact model will be. Still, one of the strongest candidates is to offer consumers easy-to-use tools to collect all data to one place and then offer tools and the technical environment for developers to build applications for consumers. For example, developers could make applications to combine your sleep, heartbeat, exercise and glucose data and build functionality to help people to understand their health and recommend healthier actions for each day. And this would be an open market, i.e. open competition to make better and better apps to utilize data, not only tie these apps to one device or data source.
This kind of ecosystem and platform is not an easy task, but they are starting to appear. There is also apparent demand for this. Wearables are becoming mainstream, and people are talking about their own data. One can say that health data is still more entertainment value, but entertainment is also important for people, and as more health information is combined, the data starts to get more context.
Enterprise data warehouses, databases, tools to collect, combine and analyze data have become a massive business over the last ten years. My prediction is that in the 2020s, we will see a vast growth in personal data solutions. In 10 years, we all start to collect, combine and follow our personal data, whether it is about health, quality of life, finances, purchases or merely daily activities.
Related article: Personal data should be protected as aggressively as copyright