It’s midata and I’ll pry if I want to

It’s almost 3 years now since the UK Government and 26 organisations announced the launch of the midata programme.

It’s almost 3 years now since the UK Government and 26 organisations including Lloyds, RBS, Mastercard & VISA announced the launch of the midata programme to provide consumers with access to their personal data. At the time of the launch in November 2011 it was claimed the programme would benefit the economy, companies and consumers including stimulation of growth and innovation.

In 2013 the government looked likely to resort to legal powers under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to compel companies to act in releasing data to consumers. However in June 2014 a softer approach has been adopted with voluntary progress expected, particularly from the banking sector (credit card and current account providers).

What’s In It For Me?

This all sounds fairly dry so far, plenty of high level objectives and threats of more regulation, but how is this going to help me, the consumer? I already get a bank statement and my provider also let’s me download a csv of my recent transactions.

A deeper dive into the detail shows that consumers could expect to providers to offer a single file with 12-months of data (stripped of personally identifiable information) and most importantly in a standardised format. This sounds a key part of the offering and should significantly lower the barrier to developers in developing a range of innovative consumer applications, all based on my individual account & transaction history:

• Account/provider comparisons
• Spending habit analysis
• Budget planners
• VAT & Expense calculators

It does seem that this focus on the banking sector which is already well served with data downloads, accounting packages and calculators is misguided. Other sectors such as telecoms & utilities are nowhere near as mature in allowing data downloads and spend calculators.

A key driver of this banking focus is to give a boost to the Current Account Switching Service (CASS) which is hampered by consumers not having an easy comparison tool that’s personalised to their circumstances.

When is it happening?

The midata programme have yet to release specification for this standardised format of transaction data, so the wait must continue before providers can turn the positive noises and press releases that are largely ignored by the consumer into digital data that app developers can digest.

A quick look at Google Trends, shows that the public imagination has yet to alight on the topic of midata with searches about as popular as searches for the conference footballer “Alan Connell”.

Graph

Graph showing Google Trends search frequency for “midata” and the conference footballer “Alan Connell”

What’s Next?

I’d expect over the next 6-months that the specification for the standardised data format would be published and then a few apps will appear offering comparison & calculator services. However, I’m not convinced that the customer need is real in the banking sector and so it might need sectors that are not as well served to realise the value of the midata programme.