Lexus LFA dashboard

During the late 90′s all the rage on the internet was with portals. The concept was simple, you select the type of information you wanted  - news sources you like, stock quotes for your holdings or local weather information. Then the portal would magically aggregate all the information in a single location.

If portal 1.0 was about external information (news, weather, etc..) then portal 2.0 is about your information. Portal 2.0 or what I’m calling The Personal Dashboard is the next step, where you can quickly glance at various parts of your life in a single location. Parts of your life would include friends (Facebook), work colleagues (LinkedIn), personal finance (Mint.com), health, cars, fashion, etc…

Social Dashboard
Since many websites are opening up their data stream via an easy to use API (application programming interface) the ability to create a centralized dashboard is not that far fetched. For the social piece of your dashboard you would have a mix of Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter in your social news feed similar to how the individual streams look now, but it would be an aggregated summary. For the full blown feed you would have to go to the respective sites to get your daily dose of empty calories better known as social networking.

Personal Finance Dashboard
Yes, Mint.com does a lot of the financial data aggregation but two things: first it’s on their site, I want to see that data stream appear on my dashboard. More importantly I would like to weave Mint.com with all my other financial data streams. Suppose I have Google Wallet, I would want that to appear as well.  For me personal finance is broken down into 2 categories: short term (expense tracking) and long term (portfolio management). Since all my financial feeds are in one location, I would want to get real advice and/or offers based on how I spend on my short term or daily expenses.  If I constantly spend on cafe lattes at The Coffee Bean (which I do everyday in Nariman Point), it would be nice if they kick out an offer for 50% off on a new product they are introducing. Or if I suddenly stop visiting for 2 weeks, they kick out an offer for 20% off on my next visit. This would be completely automated without having to signup for some dumb-ass daily deal site (Hi Groupon!).

On the portfolio management side, it would only present offers in two cases: the product saves me money or makes me money. If there is a better performing CD/FD it would alert me to it. If I can save on brokerage, then it would notify me…but only if I really trade a lot and it would specifically show me a cost comparison based on my accounts details. Consumers would love this, but of course established companies would hate this level of transparency. However, there are new players such as BankSimple.com who might be able to make a difference.

Health Dashboard
Personally, the area of health is what got me started to think about the Personal Dashboard concept. There is a growing trend around the idea of the quantified self –  capturing details such as heart rate, blood pressure and many more data points to learn about your health in real time.  Gary Wolf gave a TED talk about the topic. When you talk about big markets, the health care industry is one of the biggest at 16% of the US GDP and a large chunk going to hospital care. There has to be a better way for people to track their own health and make adjustments in real-time to improve their health. There are several devices available today that offer a glimpse into the future.

Fitbit is the size of a money clip and tracks physical activities, calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled and sleep patterns. At a $100 a pop, this should be mandatory for anyone with a BMI over 30. Another gadget is Basis which is like the Fitbit but also tracks your heart rate. Of course, Apple is also planning to gate crash this party with their products based recent patent filings.

Gadgets are one piece, the other is data aggregation and several companies such as Microsoft HealthVault and RunKeeper have started to support the above gadgets on their platform. Once again these are islands of data and should be part of an overall personal dashboard. These services should interact with each other and kick out real-time advice based on my physical condition or let me know if my sleep cycle for the one week period is normal for my age group, etc… Or I should be able to export my data to a PDF to show my doctor that I have indeed been sleeping 7 hours a day and working out every other day. By tracking certain metrics it lends itself for people to correct their behavior if they are serious about it.

Summary
I’ve touched on 3 areas but there can be many more depending on the lifestyle of the individual. Such as a car dashboard that tracks the vitals of the cars you own – mileage, fuel tank, tire pressure, etc…then it could send a reminder for when the next servicing is due. (Yes the irony, a dashboard of a dashboard!)

The Personal Dashboard might seem like an idealistic view of how our lives should be simplified, but I firmly believe it’s where things are moving to. Currently, all this data is housed in disconnected data stacks but eventually there will be a meta aggregator of all these bits of data we are creating on a minute by minute basis.

The above article was syndicated on VCCircle.com.