Data Ownership for Service Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Design Engineering


Without understanding ownership, we can't fully appreciate what it means to steal, lend, buy, sell, gift or borrow. The infringement of privacy as well requires that we first have something (personal space, information, etc) which is shared with others that are not intended. Many of these issues have been resolved for at least the past century as the idea of ownership has been an implicit part of much of daily lives and a backdrop to what we do. This is largely because innovation was happening in line with our traditional socio-technical interactions. Such interactions have been challenged in recent years through advances in technology enabling services that challenge traditional notions of ownership which has brought the principle to the fore.

What does it mean to own one's data resulting from internet use, the hot desk that changes each day at work, the car you only use for an hour to run to the shop or the appliance you have on a long-term lease? All these scenarios are service innovation cases enabled through technological advances that have subsequently challenged the way we transact. In many cases, the foundational technology has been solved to roll out these new models but tensions remain around the proper understanding and implementation of ownership. The result includes calls (and actions) to upend the business models of technology giants through legislation, push against trends within corporate offices, limit the adoption of car sharing and realise the promise of IoT-enabled business models. Critically, in these and other examples, the issue is not who legally owns something but the extent to which a person feels that something is theirs. It is this experienced ownership that needs to be understood to enable service innovation. Issues around ownership within service innovation arise for at least two reasons. The first is that companies discount the importance of ownership as it is seen from a legal perspective and is subsequently reduced to utilitarian use rather than the broader experiential value gained. The second reason that issues arise is that the implicit role ownership plays in many interactions leads to it being overlooked. If we are to achieve much of the promise of service innovation for smarter cities and social transformation, we need to rethink how to place ownership at the core of what we do and explicitly design for it. This project explores experiential ownership to enable digital innovation in contexts such as sharing within smart cities. Specifically, the project develops a framework for designing for ownership of digital objects such as one's data and explores the outcomes of high and low ownership for such objects (e.g. trust, stewardship). This new understanding will form the basis of how companies can then integrate digital technologies such as digital ledgers, the internet of things and more to support service innovation.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2462523 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2024 Ignacio Vilanova Echavarri