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Five ways GDPR will drive innovation

By Brian Hills, Head of Data at The Data Lab

In 1998 there was no Google, Facebook or Twitter, no mobile internet, no Big Data. Yet this period was the last major update to data protection regulation in Europe. Since that time, the internet economy has become an integral part in all of our personal and business lives, fuelled by the age of mobile devices and Big Data. The legislation of the 1990’s grew obsolete very quickly.

It is no surprise then that the next major update to data protection legislation in Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will be a major challenge for many businesses, most of whom will have only been created in the 21st century. With a year to go before the legislation comes into force there is an increasing chorus of fear, selling services to help avoid the potentially large fines and ensure compliance with the new regulations. As Amit Pau of Ariande Capital said “If brands don’t handle data properly it won’t be the oil, it will be the asbestos for organisations”.

While this fear will sell the need for sponsored initiatives to boards there is a positive side; GDPR will be a catalyst for innovation creating many opportunities for companies to add value to both their customers and their balance sheets. As Ruth Boardman, Partner at law firm Bird & Bird, advocates “GDPR is going from red tape to rocket fuel”. Here are 5 opportunities organisations can use to drive innovation from GDPR:

1. Trust is the new currency in the age of machine learning and AI

Earning, building and retaining customer trust will be key driver of business growth. New startups will disrupt incumbents and privacy by design will drive competitive advantage. As Forrester highlights “Privacy is a game changer it will be to organisations in 2016 what websites were to companies in 2000

2. Developing the personal data economy to deliver new value to customers

The GDPR legislation significantly strengthens the rights of individuals on consent and viewing data stored about them. New Personal Data Services technologies such as MyDex and Meeco are being created giving power to consumers to own their data and have a choice of whom they share this with and for what return.

3. Stimulate entirely new products & services

Following the need to map data assets across a business in the new legislation, organisations will have a much clearer view of the data assets they hold, how these are linked and the teams that use the data. With this valuable inventory in place innovative organisations can look to create new products and services (often B2B) that can produce new revenue streams such as Mallzee’s Product Intelligence or Skyscanner’s Travel Insight.

4. New algorithms & architectures

The new legislation promotes transparency in data driven algorithms and decision making. Those organisations that can create (or evolve) their algorithms from black box to white box with supporting tools to provide decision making details to customers and options to opt out will be ahead of their competitors. This could have a significant positive effect on the public’s view and trust in services using algorithms, machine learning and AI.

5. Organisation & culture

One of the most difficult challenges in delivering value from data is organisational culture and data silos. Organisations successfully adopting the new legislation will need to break down these barriers to be successful and, through this, will create a fertile ground for new innovation with data.

The transition in adopting GDPR may initially be painful there are great opportunities to use this “rocket fuel” as a pivot point for organisations to increase competitive advantage through data innovation. Whilst fear may be the primary catalyst for investment at board level, the opportunities to innovate could provide huge returns.

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