Saturday 29 November 2014

Analytical engines will breath life into your online identity

I've wanted to write something about data for a long time, as I work in big data & data analytics for a living. My thinking has come together around real-time decisioning systems so I am going to throw an idea out and see if it gains traction.

We are reaching the point where something exciting is going to happen to the 'data profile' we all have online. It is about to start making decisions for itself. Your digital self is about to start buying, selling, booking and ordering for you.

“Your appearance now is what we call residual self image.
It is the mental projection of your digital self.”

Imagine this: 
I get home from work, a pizza is delivered as I arrive, which is great as I've had a long day and I want to pig out on something unhealthy. The thing is I didn't order the pizza, neither did I receive a real-time personalised offer for a pizza. The system made an offer to my online digital self, and my digital self determined that yes I will take it. This in turn means now my digital self is generating its own behaviour by making decisions for me, making it as alive as my arm is.
Yes that's right - your online profile: all of the data you provide about yourself and all of the behaviour that is recorded in your photo's comments, blog posts etc. is about to start thinking for you.

I specialise in designing systems that build a '360 degree view' of customers and prospects for my clients. I take data from internal systems, external providers and peoples online social profile such as facebook to gain a deep understanding about who they are. Next I help my clients use this knowledge to improve their capabilities in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and Product development. 

There are a lot of interesting things happening in this space around the personalisation of products and marketing offers to a specific individual. What that means is I take the '360 view' of a person and tailor a set of products that are best suited to them, determine the marketing approach for reaching out to them and personalising the customer service they receive.

In the past I have always viewed a 360 degree view of a person as a lifeless collection of facts, a reflection of life but not living. My thinking is changing. Your online digital self is in a primitive state right now but it is emerging. It will become an organism coupled to your flesh and blood self. 

Here's my argument:

A number of services are now moving to data driven real time decisioning. As an example, I design systems that make a marketing offer specifically based around your profile: where you live, your taste in music, how much you earn, how old you are.... and determine the best offer to make you. But you still make the decision as to whether to accept that offer.

But if you think about it, as this technology improves, these real-time decisioning engines will be so advanced and have so much data that they will know what decision you will make. 

At the moment I use this technology to help my clients sell. The next step is to help consumers by designing a decisioning agent to buy goods and services for them. Currently your personal data is stored all over the web in different forms. A 360 degree view cloud based offering could consolidate all your information for you and allow different decisioning engines to access it based on your preferences for sharing your information.

You will train buyer agents using your private personal data to make the best decisions that can be made for you. The great thing about this approach is it makes your data profile work for you, empowering you as an individual. The more comprehensive your online profile is, the better the decisions your decisioning agent can make on your behalf. The personalised marketing agent will use the limited data you make available to it to present an offer to your personal buying agent, which will use your complete data profile to evaluate the offer.

Going back to the Pizza example above. I will set up by decisioning agent to buy me dinner when I'm heading home from work. By tracking my GPS location it will know when I have got on the bus to go home. It will also know what I've been eating during the week, what I like to eat on a week day, what's good for me to eat, what deals are going on and what my budget is. It will use all that information to make an educated guess as to what I want to eat. If I don't like it's decision I can retrain it or buy a better decisioning agent.

Empowering the Individual:

I believe that many of the concerns we all have about the amount of data corporations store about us stem from the lack of control we have over how the data is collected and how it is used. By allowing individuals to build their own single consolidated profile of themselves and maintain the level of access external parties have to the data, the current information asymmetries are corrected and the individual is empowered. 

The Individual will now have a clear understanding of how their data rich profile is used to add value to their own lives and not just to a corporation's bottom lines.

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