While the latest business trend is tapping the power of big data, Personal.com is helping people find the potential in wielding what it calls small data — the private information they have about themselves. The company, which launched its personal data network in November on the web, is trying to let people get the most out of their information by storing it in secure vaults, from which they can share with people and eventually companies.
On Monday, the company is launching its first iPhone app (s aapl), which joins an Android app (s goog) that debuted in December. From the app, users can store data on more than a 100 “gems” that are placed in a user’s vault. The gems cover everything from passwords, documents and insurance policies to a user’s babysitting instructions or favorite foods and recipes. When a user wants to share the data, they can easily forward it to other users in their network.
The idea is to create one repository of all your data that can be updated and shared with anyone in a secure manner. For now, that means some more simple use cases like sharing a Wi-Fi password or holding on to a birth certificate. But in the future, the goal is to help users do more with their data, get deep insights about their own information and potentially share that with companies, who could pay to have a look at the information.
“The entire online digital world is an enterprise centric big data world. The individual isn’t showing up with their own data and tools and capabilities for understanding what that means for them,” said Shane Green, CEO and co-founder of Personal. “We believe you should have the ability to aggregate all your data and run your own analytics on that.”
Personal is working to turn the service into a platform with an API that lets developers create applications that help users make use of their data. It could be health care companies that allow users to more easily enter in health data on forms.
The company is also trying to work with productivity apps such as Dropbox and Evernote to make it easier for people to move over their data to and from Personal. And eventually, Green said he believes users will be able to demand their own data from big companies that are collecting information on them. That way, they they can then choose to turn that data over to others who can create better services for them, like recommendations or personalized ads, perhaps for a price. He said personal data is becoming an economic asset class and users will come to expect more ability to use it.
“A new model is emerging for personal data. You’ll want a simple, clear answer about what data companies are capturing about you, how they’re using it and what’s in it for me,” Green said.
The iPhone app should help Personal move toward this vision. Green said he envisioned Personal as a mobile-focused network. The company raised $7.6 million last year from Steve Case’s Revolution LLC and Grotech Ventures.
It may take time for consumers to really take full advantage of all of their data. But increasingly, people are learning about how much information is being gathered about their lives and how valuable it is to companies. It makes sense for providers like Personal to emerge as a resource and broker for users, who want to store and eventually wield their data in different ways. The Locker Project is also pursuing a similar goal of helping people make use of their personal data exhaust. Data about individuals is clearly becoming an important commodity and users are now getting armed with more tools to ensure it’s not just marketers who are able to tap its power.