Published on December 21st, 2015 | by Irene Ng


Regaining Control of Our Personal Data with the HAT

Technology has brought down coordination costs, but it hasn’t really benefited us as individuals, except as a side effect.

The smartphone is an example. We don’t really pay for better coordination between our friends and ourselves and better information planning, which is what the smartphone affords. No company really made any money from the fact that we can organise better. It is an externality of buying broadband, a device, socialising on the network and using our data for functionalities such as emails and calendar. So being able to coordinate better between ourselves is very much a side effect.

Where there is real profit from coordination, firms have stepped in. So Uber, AirBnB, Amazon have seized on vertical ‘silo-ed’ coordination issues and profited merrily from putting us together and matching us with firms that have stuff to sell us. We do need to go onto their platform to get the benefit though. Amongst ourselves, however, we just don’t have the capability. From a data perspective, we can’t effectively broker, exchange or monetise our data to benefit ourselves. This is because we can’t integrate data across the vertical repositories – between, for example, our diary, messaging, location, finances or consumption – with applicable service timetables or catalogues. Also, firms and other organisations are unable to offer us personalised product or service offerings if they cannot really understand our needs, and the context of our consumption.

Perhaps it’s time to change that. It’s time to have a personal resource planning platform that leverages on our own data and third party data to make our lives better, to have heterogeneous voices heard even if through a standardised platform. Lets break down this myth that scalability is only possible if we give up personalisation.

Let’s regain control and put ourselves, as individuals, at the hub of all things: the HAT, a multi-sided market platform for data by way of a micro-cloud server that takes data from the Internet and IoT-connected services and devices.

The HAT platform consists of a database schema, a data logic layer and APIs within a trust framework that enables individuals to contain, flatten, bundle and exchange all types of personal data. This in turn allows personal data to be contextualised and bundled, or integrated with other data sets in a way that is privacy preserving and controlled by the user, so that smart individuals can benefit from crowd-sourced information and better, informed decision-making. Equally, the HAT gives firms the ability to receive and process personal data from individuals (voluntarily generated) and potentially to share their own proprietary information with the individuals, for better personalisation of their offerings.

We hope the HAT will become the basis for new economic and business models in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). From November 2015, the alpha-release HAT was available to individuals and organisations on a freemium basis enabling new economic models based on data exchanges. HATs and initial applications will also be available from HAT Platform Providers (HPPs) the first two of which are Enable iD in the UK and Europe, and Noggin Pte Ltd in Singapore. We anticipate that network effects will quickly develop and look forward to new markets being driven by 100s millions of HATs in use before 2020.

The overarching principle for the HAT eco-system is that commercial organisations will collaborate with HPPs who host the HAT micro-cloud servers and with HAT app developers to make platforms and apps available to individuals. These members of the HAT community will generate revenue by either buying personal data or providing personalised goods and services (eg customised healthcare and wellbeing) in exchange for data, or they will just sell applications for the user to view, analyse and use their own data privately without sharing. HPPs integrate third-party data sets and provide intermediary data services to the wider community of firms.

The HAT Data Exchange Foundation (HATDeX) is being established as a social enterprise to nurture and regulate the eco-system, allowing use and exchange of personal information in a controlled environment subject to clearly-defined Codes of Practice. HATDeX will also maintain the principle of an open-sourced Creative Commons licensed model for the underlying “HAT technology”, encouraging continuous development and improvement by the user community.

The HATDeX is positioned as a form of exchange (similar to a securities exchange) that provides regulatory rules and services for personal data (and other related personal data instruments) to be traded in the HAT ecosystem. It is positioned as a social and community regulator and trust broker to oversee and regulate provision of HATs and HAT Applications from HPPs and HAPs.

In order to regulate the eco-system for privacy, confidentiality, security and trust (PCST) and the exchange of both financial and “data instruments”, the HATDeX will certify and licence HPPs and app developers to provide assurance that platforms and apps are compliant with “HAT standards” and that their use will comply with the exchange codes of practice. Hence, the HATDeX role is to nurture this personal data exchange eco-system and to act as a regulator for HAT platform providers and app developers worldwide.

We believe the HAT offers an exciting value proposition, as there is currently no known personal data container that can flatten data to enable its contextualisation and bundling necessary to support markets based on the exchange of contextualised data. This uniqueness can only be enhanced by the existence of the HATDeX in playing a crucial regulatory and nurturing role in order to continue developing the HAT concept and technology.

The HAT is a £1.2m multi-disciplinary research project funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and led by Irene Ng, Professor of Marketing and Service Systems at WMG. The project, which involves researchers from six universities, aims to engineer a market for personal data. To find out more about the HAT Project, visit the HAT website at: and read the HAT FAQs.


Irene CL Ng is head of the Service Systems Research Group at WMG. Her research lies in the trans-disciplinary understanding of value; creating, designing, pricing, contracting and innovating based on value, embedded within new economic and business models of complex service systems.


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