Databox – Privacy Aware Infrastructure for Managing Personal Data

The EPSRC Databox project was officially launched at the IET London in October 2016 (EP/N028260/1) with a second round of funding (EP/N028250/2), extending the project until 31 May 2020.

What is Databox?

The project investigates a privacy-aware personal data platform in a digital world, highlighting that almost everything we do now leaves digital footprints – data about us and what we have done. Our mobile phones know where we have been and who we have spoken to. Our heating controllers know when we are at home and how warm we like our house. Our smart meter knows exactly how much energy we have used.  Our streaming media services know what we have watched and listened to and what we want to watch. Our social network knows our status and all the photos and messages we have shared. Our online banks know what we have earned, what we have spent and saved.

Every organisation or company we interact with has its own slice of data about us.  In Databox these slices of data are termed ‘data sources’. However it is hard for us to get this data to use or share with others.  Databox makes it easy for us to get hold of those data sources, by transferring them into a personal ‘databox’, literally a box in your own home for our personal data.  But how do we use that data, how can it help us and others?

There are many organisations, public and private, commercial and not for profit, who know how to use this data. In Databox, these are known as ‘data processors’. They can process our data to give us insights into what we’ve been doing or provide useful advice. They can also process our data with other people’s data, to learn new things or improve the work that they do.  You could just give a data processor a copy of your data or sell it, however that gives them a lot of responsibility to take care of it and how do we know who to trust? If they aren’t trustworthy or things go wrong, copies of our data could end up anywhere.  With Databox, data is never given away, it remains in a personal databox, safe and secure, allowing us to see and control exactly our data.

Working with Horizon and the BBC, the Databox project has developed the first working version of a databox – a network-attached mini-computer that collates data from devices deployed in the home; making it available to apps downloaded to the box. The Apps exploit device data to deliver personalised services, for example, an Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) tailored around or ‘adaptive’ to an individual or household’s media consumption profile. Exploration into creation of apps that support the delivery of personalised media content will be investigated and developed apps used to seed BBC engagement with the open source community at the 2016 Mozilla Festival in October 2016.

More information on the Databox project can be found here, along with publications and media coverage.

Horizon has worked with Research Consulting to produce a report to validate the idea of a Databox service and explore potential market opportunities : Market engagement in the Databox project

Databox project website

Complementing and extending the Databox project is the EPSRC funded Defence Against Dark Artefacts (DADA), which seeks to respond to the security challenges that accompany the IoT.  More information about DADA can be found here.