Right now, there seems to be a buzz in the air. Stuff which people have been talking about for ages suddenly seems to be happening. People who yesterday were saying “it will never happen” are suddenly saying “if I don’t move soon, I might miss the boat!”. A buyer-centric bandwagon is building.
Watch this blog for news of a series of launches over the coming months – plus initiatives by big organisations (in both the public and private sectors) recognising the need to prepare for, and accommodate themselves to an accelerating shift towards person-centric services.
For the moment however, let’s look at just one straw in the wind. Garlik (www.garlik.com) is a new initiative from Mike Harris (a creator of the innovative telephone bank First Direct and Egg, the financial services company), along with two other Egg executives Tom Ilube and Gary Wrigglesworth.
Details of the final launch are sketchy because Garlik is still in beta mode, but the basic concept is simple and clear enough. “Individuals are seeing an awful lot of their personal information spread more and more widely, without their say, knowledge or permission,” observes Garlik’s CEO Tom Ilube.
Garlik will help individuals find out exactly what personal information is floating around ‘out there’ on the Internet, help them take action if it is misleading or damaging, and help them publish their own information to promote their own interests or concerns.
“There a things I want to protect, and there are things I want people to know about me,” explains Ilube. Garlik will help individuals do these things – for a small, ongoing fee.
Whether or not Garlik’s services prove attractive enough to create a commercially viable service remains to be seen, of course (it’s planning a full consumer launch some time this autumn). But what’s interesting is its clear positioning. First, it’s a mainstream service targeted squarely at ordinary citizens with families – not techies or geeks. That’s because these issues are rapidly entering the mainstream.
Second, Garlik is positioning itself as 100% on the individual’s side. It would be possible to build a business around exploiting the commercial potential of personal data, Ilube observes. But businesses working in this space need to make “clear choices about whose side they are on. We will help individuals exercise their rights. We are battling on their behalf. We will only act on behalf of individuals”.
Ilube continues: “If there are entrenched industries using their power not to give best value, that is an opportunity to blow away industry norms by acting as the consumer’s champion”.
A few years ago, when the notion of a new type of business that acted as the individual’s ‘agent’ - to work on his or her behalf - was first mooted, it was almost universally, and briskly, dismissed out of hand. Now it’s not only being recognised as possible. It is being seized upon as a potentially huge opportunity.
As I said, Garlik is just one of many initiatives now in the offing. It’s a sign of the times. Things are beginning to change. Fast.