Service providers’ server farms will soon know the places and products we like better than we do ourselves. Is this getting out of hand? Should we start stocking up on tin foil?
In the not so distant future our mobile devices will become an increasingly integrated part of our daily routines. Mobile phones will be our public transportation tickets, shopping assistants and even the keys to our homes. The hub of our future digital lives will be the mobile wallet. This will be able to securely store the digital keys and payment cards required for seamless interaction with all the different services and devices around us.
Knowledge is power
Mobile wallets support all types of currency. One of these is our personal data. This contextual data and digital footprint are the byproducts of our daily activities and they are key components in creating new services that blur the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds.
Today, our digital footprint is fairly evenly divided between different information silos: our banks know where we spend our money, retailers know what we’re buying, search engines know what information we’re looking for online and our mobile operators know the location of our phones. If someone has access to data across all of these silos, they have the ability to create a highly personal and contextual service experience that could be used as an extremely efficient market place.
The Google approach
Currently, the contender that’s closest to breaking the traditional information silos is Google. It realized the value of collecting as much of its users’ behavioural data as possible a long time ago.
The latest example of its data-centric approach is Google Wallet: a mobile wallet that combines retail payments, coupons, offers and loyalty cards in an easy-to-use service using NFC technology. Google offers its mobile wallet virtually for free to consumers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem. In exchange, it gets data, screen real estate and much closer to the holy grail of contextual advertising: closing the loop in the retail shopping experience.
Before you reach for that tin foil hat…
The fear of a Big Brother entity overseeing everything we do is valid and matters of privacy shouldn’t be treated lightly. To put things in perspective though, privacy in its current form is a fairly new idea when viewed from the perspective of the history of mankind. One could even say that with social media services and other real-time communication channels breaking down the barriers of privacy, things are in fact just getting back to normal.
This evolution towards open information exchange doesn’t mean we are heading in the wrong direction. We can now put a price tag on our privacy and sell our own information to service providers in exchange for better services, ideally on our own terms. The choice will be ours to make.