A ‘personal cloud’ is not about technology for the sake of it.
Early one morning in the not too distant future one of your customers – let’s call her Sarah – will wake up do what she has been doing for some time: she will reach for her smart device, be it a phone, tablet or whatever else might be to come.
Sarah will have connected all of the data gathered about her from social networks, financial institutions, loyalty programs and utility providers and it will be fed to her digital personal assistant.
To this will be added bits of information about her location, diet and exercise and other personal details recorded on a wide range of applications and devices. All of that information will be gathered together in one spot that she controls.
Sarah will look at her smart device and it will ask her a simple question: “What do you want to do today?”
Unlike today’s smartphones, which simply display data such as calendar events, emails, Tweets and Facebook updates, the devices of tomorrow will understand what all of that data means and then help you turn it into action.
All the data a person creates will be centralised, not in the way it is now – primarily focused around the requirements of businesses or governments – but in a way that is useful for that particular individual.
Sarah will not have to wade through masses of data. Instead she will be presented with very simple options such as relationships, work, finance and fitness.
In the relationships setting she names a few friends she would like to get in touch with again. In the fitness setting she indicates she would like engage in some outdoor activities. The digital personal assistant interface on her phone knows that she used to play tennis and asks if she’d like to play this weekend.
It knows that the forecast is for sunny weather and that one of the friends she is keen to catch up with would make a good tennis partner. Sarah thinks that is a great idea and agrees – and in the background the personal assistant books the court, invites her friend and puts the match in each of their calendars.
Sometime earlier, Sarah had indicated that Nike was a company that she’d like to hear from. So she now gets a message from Nike offering a free virtual tennis lesson from Roger Federer through her new Xbox. She accepts the offer and later that week begins the lessons.
After completing one of the lessons she gets another message saying that, based on the way she has been hitting the ball, Nike recommends a new racquet. She examines the virtual racquet on-screen and, after customising the colours to suit her personal preference, buys it and organises it to be delivered to the court booked for the weekend.
Sarah is living in a world where she is no longer bombarded by marketing messages, but instead hears from companies she respects. And those companies know they need to spend time and effort building a relationship with her.
The days of “shotgun” marketing are gone. Sarah lives in a world where the data she is creating converges and is useful to her. She is not being spied upon, or constantly sold to – she is receiving marketing messages that are valuable and personalised.
This scenario may sound like some time in the distant future. In fact, it is starting to happen right now, thanks to rapidly developing technology called personal clouds.
Gartner has listed personal clouds as one of the top 10 strategic technologies for 2014. These clouds are being designed and built to give consumers more power, control and utility over their own information.
After years of investing in big data techniques that had begun to resemble National Security Agency-style spying ploys, and in some cases straying into decidedly creepy territory with data-driven marketing, many of the businesses I deal with are now asking us to help shape their strategy for personal clouds.
This is not about technology for the sake of it. Nor is it about collecting as much data as possible, just to be able to say you know a lot about your customers.
Smart businesses have realised that creating a digital service offering that uses data to provide real value to customers is tomorrow’s battleground.
Each of us is creating data at an incredible rate and that is only going to accelerate. Smart businesses and clever marketers now realise that trying to own that data is expensive and very difficult – but helping customers get value from it is the new competitive advantage.