interaction with these customers.
˲ Companies managing home appliances (notably Internet boxes) are
natural hosts for personal information. Starting from data dedicated
to specific usages, these boxes could
evolve to become more generic and
control increasing numbers of connected objects, services, and data.
PIMS should also be of interest to
pure Internet players. Some of them
(for example, Amazon), have a great
amount of know-how in providing data
services. They could seamlessly move to
this new business. Others (for example,
Facebook), centered on the management of information, cannot let such a
wide field of information management
grow without becoming involved. However, PIMS, as defined here, are very far
from these companies’ indirect business models based on personalized
advertisement. So moving in this new
market would require a major change
for them, and in particular, the clarification of the relationship with users
(represented by the PIMS) with respect
to personal data monetization.
PIMS Enable New Functionalities
For users, perhaps the main reason to
move to PIMS is these systems enable
great new functionalities. Building on
the integration of the user’s data, PIMS
˲ Global search over the person’s
data with a semantic layer using a personal ontology (for example, the data
organization the person likes and the
person’s terminology for data) that
helps give meaning to the data;
˲ Automatic synchronization of data
on different devices/systems, and glob-
Technology is gearing up. Some
people already use their own PIMS.
They run a home server or rent a
hosted server (in a 2013 market test,
the French Web hosting company
OVH rented 15,000 low-cost personal
servers in just 10 days). They have at
their disposal some rather primitive
functionality, typically by developing scripts. A limiting factor is that,
in order to use existing services, they
have no choice but to relinquish some
control over their data. For instance, if
they want to partake in the social Web,
they must trust their data to Facebook
or others. However, by devoting time
and effort and subject to these limitations, they can manage their own data
and services to some extent.
This is not for everyone, though.
One needs to be highly skilled and willing to devote a lot of time in order to
achieve such a result today. But things
are changing rapidly:
˲ Abstraction technologies are helping tame the complexity of servers.
˲Open source technology is increasingly available for a large range
˲ Hardware price is now very low
and the price of machine hosting has
Research in PIMS is also increasingly active.g A number of prototypes
have been developed for storing and
retrieving personal data: Lifestreams,
Stuff-I’ve-Seen, Haystack, MyLifeBits,
Connections, Seetrieve, Personal Da-taspaces, or deskWeb. The tipping
point appears close as indicated by a
number of projects such as Mailpile (for
mail), Lima (for Dropbox-like service
hosted at home), Synologie or Iomega
(personal NAS), SAMI of Samsung (
personal data store), and a number of self-host PIMS such as YounoHost, Amahi,
ArkOS, OwnCloud, or Cozy Cloud.
Large companies are getting in.
PIMS also act as magnets to large companies, and in particular:
˲Traditional companies that already have large amounts of personal
information. These companies, including retailers, insurance companies, or banks, are increasingly disin-termediated from their customers by
pure Internet players. They can find in
PIMS an opportunity to rebuild a direct
g Personal information management, Wikipedia.
We are all
experiencing a loss
of control over
our personal data.
With PIMS, we can
al task sequencing to facilitate interop-erating different devices/services;
˲Exchange of information and
knowledge between “friends” in a truly
social way, even if these use different
social network platforms, or no platform at all;
˲ Centralized control point for connected objects, a hub for the Internet
of Things; and
˲ Data analysis/mining over the person’s information.
Online services have become an essential part of our daily life. However,
because of them, we are all experiencing a loss of control over our personal
data. With PIMS, we can regain control. PIMS also enable a wide range of
new functionalities. They point toward
a new, powerful, yet more balanced
way of creating user value as well as
business value. They achieve all this
without giving up on ubiquity, ease of
use, or security. For these reasons, we
believe their benefits are so clear that
PIMS will be adopted massively in a
near future. What remains to be seen
is what shape this evolution will take,
and how it will alter the relationships
between new “personal cloud” players,
home appliance and electronics providers, established online platforms,
and current personal data holders.
Will we continue to move toward
an Internet dominated by oligopo-lies, user profiling, and generalized
surveillance? Will our lack of control
over our data increasingly turn us into
passive products of a global digital
economy? PIMS may be the alternative to such an outcome.
1. de Montjoye, Y.-A., Wang S., and Pentland, A. On the
trusted use of large-scale personal data. IEEE Data
Engineering Bulletin 35, 4 (2012).
2. World Economic Forum. Personal Data: The
Emergence of a New Asset Class (2011); http://www.
Serge Abiteboul ( Serge.Abiteboul@inria.fr) is a senior
researcher at INRIA and Distinguished Affiliated
Professor at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan in
Benjamin André ( ben@CozyCloud.CC ) is the co-founder
and CEO at Cozy Cloud in Paris, France.
Daniel Kaplan ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder and CEO
of La Fondation Internet Nouvelle Génération (Fing).
Copyright held by authors.