What is the H.A.T? (Download the Hub of All Things 1 Pager)

The H.A.T project is a £1.2m multi-disciplinary project funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme. It involves 7 academic investigators (check us out) with a team of 9 researchers from the domain of Economics, Business, Computing and the Arts across 6 UK universities of Warwick, Exeter, Nottingham, Cambridge, West England and Edinburgh. The project will begin in June 2013 and will last 2 years.

The objective of the HAT project is to create the HAT – Hub-of-All-Things- a Multi-Sided-Market-Platform (MSMP) for the home based on collecting primary data on individuals’ consumption, behaviors and interactions and exchange data for future products and services. The outcome of the HAT project, is therefore A MARKET (think of a bazaar of buyers and sellers) and it is the first project that would attempt to engineer and emerge a LIVE market right in the home that currently do not exist, consisting of real products/services, real money, real data and real people, powered by the internet-of-things.

The data collected from the internet of things (and internet of everything) will allow the research team to explore dependencies between industries, for example medicine, energy and food, and then develop algorithms to mathematically embed context into data, facilitating the creation of almost limitless new business models and data-driven innovation.

But the implications of the H.A.T are profound for the individual, as well as for businesses supplying products and services.

The H.A.T digital vault (which could be server-at-home, cloud-based or a hybrid of the two) will store all data collected in the home and, crucially, all data generated by the individual is owned by the individual. This means that the data’s worth – in every sense from a ‘vertical’ dataset (such as consumption of medicine) to the relational dataset (such as the linkages between several objects e.g. food, fitness and medicine) – is owned by and can only be used with explicit permission from the individual for the time period stipulated by the individual. Such data could be exchanged with firms for personalized products or services that would enhance lives, and could inform and empower individuals for better decisions and behaviours.

The HAT is also a personal container for manufacturers of objects to place the use data of their objects onto the HAT to be integrated with the individual interactions and lives, to enrich individual’s personal dataset which could in turn be exchanged back through the HAT platform to manufacturers for greater innovation and continued relationships with customers through innovative manufacturing business models of the future. This approach ensures that, for the first time, as individuals, we can benefit from,and ultimately exchange, the growing repository of data about our lives and habits with businesses who want to serve our needs and wants with their future offerings. The HAT is therefore the first marketplace for the personal data economy, bringing together internet companies as well as manufacturing communities. The HAT subscribes to personal empowerment and preservation of privacy while being able to stimulate growth in the economy through new businesses, products, services and new business models.

In short, the H.A.T project takes a revolutionary approach of putting the person as central to data, design and innovation of future offerings, creating a home platform where a market to exchange our personal data for new products and services personalised for our data could exist. The approach is taken over 5 stages.

Stage 1: H.A.T. as digital data vault


We provide an opportunity for individuals to own a repository of our personal data (why is this important) by creating the first ever digital data vault in the form of a technological device – a H.A.T. (Hub of all Things). Technically, the device could also connect securely into a cloud space, so it may or may not be kept locally depending on the individual’s choice of the HAT provider (i.e. the digital milliner).

Stage 2: H.A.T. as discoverer of contextual archetypes

We then place the H.A.T. into 5 of the researchers own homes (yes, we are the five digital persons zero‘ who donate our body (of data) to science and the future of the personal data economy.

Through ethnographic research, we discover the social contexts of our home lives and narratives of ‘contextual archetypes’ e.g. Making tea, family after dinner chats, taking medicine, etc. We then reconstruct the informational needs of these contextual archetypes by parameterising core variables and operationalising them through a sensing and measurement strategy e.g. putting sensors on things and places. Thing 1s are electrical objects with connectivity e.g. Printers, TV. Thing 2s are objects/places that are not yet digitally visible so will need to be ‘animated’.

The H.A.T. then becomes populated with our contextual and interactional data, and become our ‘digital skills and labour’, which, as an analogy to traditional labour and labour economics, could hold potential worth.

Stage 3: Creating H.A.T. algorithms and relational data model

We then take the first step to creating potential worth of your own data by deriving the relationships between things and people, through econometric and mathematical economics modelling. The relationships between things and us are then developed into H.A.T algorithms that mathematically embeds context into data. This means we will understand lateral dependencies between vertical industries of objects (e.g. medicine, water, energy, food) (more here). The H.A.T. will then create a set of H.A.T meanings-based parameters.

Stage 4: H.A.T as MSMP and Trust Broker

We then allow for the meanings-based parameters to be used for free! This is so that many products and services could be created on the H.A.T., transforming the H.A.T to function not just as a digital data vault, but into a multi-sided market platform for products and services that can be personalised by individual data to sit on the platform to serve us at home. The products and services that sit on the H.A.T. have to adhere to a H.A.T certified privacy and security infrastructure policy and a ‘no-export’ rule on individual data so that it can remain private. This is both a legal contract with the individual that is matched and fulfilled by the technology put in place. The H.A.T. is therefore also a trust broker on the platform

The project current strategic partners (vacuum cleaners, lightbulbs, household products, software and IT companies) gets first hand information on the project to help them innovate for the future, connecting their offerings to the H.A.T. (join us)

In 2014, the project will run a HAT-Fest, inviting software developers, programmers and product designers to come together in a week long event to generate new services and make new stuff from the algorithms and parameters on the H.A.T.

Stage 5: Completion and exploitation

Finally, the technology of the H.A.T. is given away for free again! (Well, it was open sourced technology anyway and we will publish our findings)

This is because we would like you, as an individual, to have many choices in terms of who should be your H.A.T. provider at home. It could be your energy meter, your router, your set top box, your game console and even your fridge door could embed a H.A.T. inside! But perhaps you don’t trust these providers and instead, the banks might decide to be a H.A.T. provider (or maybe not ;p). The project plans to scale H.A.T. adoption through the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation at WMG (see our institutional expertise), working with any company who wishes to be a digital millliner.

One ambition for the H.A.T is to put a HAT in a million homes by 2015 through a kickstarter programme. Watch this space!

Certification will still be part of the H.A.T project team though, as the trust broker – so the project will probably set up a foundation to do this – sort of like the fairtrade foundation because the team has to ensure individual privacy is preserved, the data vault is secure and no company gets naughty with our data.

In summary, the H.A.T. project aims to create a multi-sided market platform for connected services and products through a home information hub powered by the internet-of-things. The H.A.T. would facilitate the purchase of new offerings to help with connected parts of our lives within the home e.g. linking financial, health or nutrition data or water, energy and our house. It would also facilitate data exchanges since we may be willing to share our energy use, if we get back a service that tells us when energy use could be cheaper. The H.A.T is therefore a market platform of services, products and data. The H.A.T takes a service-dominant logic approach, which would give us insights into value creation and therefore inform what future offerings could be designed to play a role in value creation, and how new offerings could serve contexts of lived lives better.

What is the technology behind the H.A.T?

The H.A.T develops from the RCUK digital economy funded Homework project - a radical approach to future networking in the home by  creating entirely new network architectures which take into account both human and technical considerations.  By studying the use of computer networks in the home, the homework project has created the next generation of domestic infrastructure that combines empirical understanding of use with a fundamental re-invention of the protocols, models and architectures of the domestic setting.  The Homework technology for the H.A.T was developed in collaboration with the Universities of Nottingham and Glasgow, Imperial College London and Georgia Institute of Technology with industrial partners Microsoft Research (Cambridge) and BT.

How did we conceptualise the H.A.T.?

Ideas for the H.A.T. project emerged from various RCUK Digital Economy collaborative projects in homework, cambridge computing lab projects and business models. More information on the concepts and ideas around value, constellations, contexts and markets can be found in the Principal Investigator, Irene Ng’s book “Value and Worth: Creating New Markets in the Digital Economy” available at www.valueandmarkets.com as e-book and will be available in print from Cambridge University Press at book stores from September 2013. An overview of the book is available here.

How are we different?

Are there other technologies, hubs or platforms out there? Of course! Check this post on how we are different. There are very few teams of researchers out there who has to or can deliver a market as an outcome of a research project. Most require a technology demonstrator, some proof of concept etc. To prove a market requires real people, real money, real business and real products/services. Check out the blog post on the challenge of creating a multi-sided market platformIt pushes interdisciplinary work of business, economics, technology, sociology to the limit. We think we can. And we hope to change the world while doing it!

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2 thoughts on “What is the H.A.T

  1. This doesn’t seem to be a very clear explanation of what a HAT is. It disappears into loads of details on collaborators or fairly complex concepts of marketplace dynamics without actually saying what a HUT is.
    The closest you come is to say the idea of the HAT project is to create a HAT which doesn’t really help much – you don’t actually state what a HAT might be, in plain English that someone’s mother might understand ..

  2. Hi Tom

    In a sentence? the HAT is a database for any individual to bring in all the data in our lives (it pulls our data in for us if we want it to) so that data in our lives (from our weight to how much we use shampoo to our home data) can be contextualised and organised and become useful for our own decisions (to plan for the future, monitor something and act for the present) and even trade it for discounts in purchases, if we want to.

    Our new site is at http://hubofallthings.com where there is video if its useful and a blog post on contextualising as well.

    Its rather academic, but its like explaining a www or app store before it comes to be… the demonstrator is out in July so hopefully we won’t need to explain it – we can show it!


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