The HAT: Looking back and forward

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THE HAT: Looking Back and Forward

So we are done… A total of 2.5 years in active work with preparations happening long before we got funded (we were funded on our third attempt). A total of £1.2m spent on a project to engineer and design a multi-sided market for personal data. The HAT.

I thought I’ll pen some of my reflections here. Many of my thoughts I’ve kept to myself all through the project because (1) I wanted to keep the spirits up, and the motivations strong for the team; (2) I didn’t want to alarm anyone;  (3) some of the interdisciplinary challenges were really challenging aka I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER STOP ASKING ME; and (4) it’s wrong to swear inappropriately.

First meeting of the HAT Research team: May 2013

But seriously. We are done, the £1.2m RCUK HAT research project, that is. And I think we have done what a research project is supposed to deliver, although I don’t think even the RCUK would know what a social science project on multi-sided markets and its economic/business models should deliver except the usual publications etc. etc. I mean, this isn’t a tech project so it’s not meant to deliver a ‘thing’. But we have always intended to deliver anyway, just not a ‘thing’, but a market. In the end, we came close, but not quite. Everything is built and in place for the market. Alpha HATs are out (see blogpost here) and there will be 50 people exchanging data and playing with their HATs. Whether it’s sustainable, scalable and would take off, well now, that’s not the scope of a research project. That is the scope of entrepreneurial activity.

Of course, the ambition is much greater than what we were tasked to deliver, so RCUK should be really happy because we had a great team of researchers who worked beyond their call of duty (and certainly beyond the time costs stated) to achieve something that is hard, but needed to be done.

1st Mad Hatters’ Tea Party: July 2014

Publications-wise, the team has issued six Briefing Papers and numerous publications – the briefing papers are not credited to specific authors as they were a collective effort and completely without copyright, so they are not just for the community to read and understand, but for researchers on the HAT to take on the content and use as they please for their own publications; it’s ‘open source’ that way. On top of the briefing papers, I am really pleased to say that many of the team have published extensively in really good journals across disciplines. I always think that an interdisciplinary project is only successful if all of the academics contributed back to their mother disciplines. For a list of our outputs – please check them out here. More are in the pipeline though, so stay in touch!

Impact-wise, we’ve certainly ticked the boxes. The HAT Foundation has started (read blogpost here) and will be taking over from the HAT research project team on the roll-out side of things. WMG, University of Warwick has in-principle granted approval to gift the HAT software IPs to the HAT Foundation. The HAT database schema and logic itself have been released under a Creative Commons license as agreed through the six-university collaborative agreement. If HATs become ubiquitous, our impact case study for the next REF would be awesome.

First meeting of the HAT Research team: May 2013

I would really like to thank all the researchers and professional staff for their contributions to the project – we couldn’t have done this without all of you. Special thanks to HAT Program Manager Peter Ward, Business Development Manager Chris Brown, HAT Comms Manager Yin Lim and HAT Administrator Vivienne Tsimbili  who worked hard to keep it all together. Also to Warwick Tech team Xiao Ma, Martin Talbot, Nabeel Shaikh and Andrius Aucinas, the Cambridge team Jon Crowcroft and Helen Oliver, the Edinburgh team Chris Speed and Chris Barker, the Nottingham team who instrumented and started the project Tom Rodden, Ewa Luger and Peter Tolmie, as well as the Business/Economics team of Roger Maull, Laura Phillips, Glenn Parry, Kim Scharf, Ganna Pogrebna, Mark Skilton and Susan Wakenshaw. Also our overseas research team of Jennifer Chandler, Melissa Akaka, Illias Danatzis and Caroline Wernicke, coordinated by David Reynolds. You have all been wonderful and deserve a good pat on the back for a job well done.

A special mention to my co-Is Glenn Parry and Roger Maull – if I counted how many hours we discussed how a shower should be instrumented for what data, what decision and what behaviour, I think we probably have exceeded our RCUK-funded time. It was fun and it was certainly productive, as we’ve written papers on showers and toilet roll usage! I also remember the moment when we moved up from focusing on HAT as an M2M hub for IoT to HAT as a data hub for IoT. That was around the third month. It was quite an epiphany because it was the realisation that the individual would never be a co-creator of value in IoT as long as we talked about IoT at the machine level. It was only at the data level that the individual could fully participate and create value in the ecosystem. That was certainly a milestone for me and we never looked back. Of course, once that was decided, we moved into Information Systems instead of staying at the computing/ECE level and I am grateful to Jon Crowcroft for his flexibility and his immense breadth of knowledge. Designing something that crosses IT, IS, Business, Human Behaviours and Markets was never going to be easy and I depended on my co-Is’ ability to live with A LOT of uncertainty and ambiguity before design decisions on the proposed economic and business models were made. And I am also grateful to Mark Skilton for stepping in when he did, to lead all the standards, certification and compliance work. What would we do without all of you 🙂

Guests and participants at the 2nd Mad Hatters' Tea Party
At the 2nd Mad Hatters’ Tea Party: Oct 2014

Special thanks to our Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) too – and Paul Tasker as our IAB Chair.You’ve been so patient with us when we were muddling through some of the economic, business and market issues in the project. It is always a challenge with advisory boards of economic and business model projects because its not about the tech but about the business, so at times it wasn’t clear what the IAB was asked to advise on. Yet, I have found the IAB really helpful to solidify our thinking on the HAT economic and market model. Thank you, board members and Paul.

Now to talk about LOOKING FORWARD

Did I say the HAT Research project is over? Oh no, it’s not. IT’S NEVER OVER! mwahahahaha…..  This is what happens when you make it a personal mission. There is still much more to be done.

The HAT Research project now branches into TWO – the RESEARCH team carries on with HARRIET/HAT Research activities, while the ENTREPRENEURIAL team carries on with HAT Foundation. What does that mean?

Well, the HAT is done and relatively stable now. The latest Alpha release is here and we are now focusing on two things. First, the global roll-ou through the entrepreneurial project and second, continuing the interesting research USING the HAT through a few other research projects.

Read about the RESEARCH continuing here

Read about the ENTREPREUNEURIAL activity here

They are both interlinked – so make sure you read them both!


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