QR codes will not kick-start midata

When the Government launched midata in 2011 it was presented as a multi-sector revolution that would empower customers by allowing consumers instant digital access to the data collected by brands for direct marketing purposes.

Russell Parsons

Brands across the retail, digital, telecoms, payment, financial and energy sectors were signed up and there appeared to be a momentum towards a bright new data dawn. Then, tumbleweed.

So much so that a year on in 2012, the Government, frustrated with the pace of progress threatened legislation to force brands into action if they fail to do so voluntarily.

In the meantime, the scale of sector involvement seemed to have come down to just the telecoms and utilities sector. Eighteen months on and we seem to be reduced to a sliver of the original ambition.

As part of the initiative, energy companies are to be forced to include Quick Response (QR) codes that when accessed, it is hoped, will allow customers to make “instant cross-market comparison” when they scan the barcodes from their smartphone of tablet devices.

Tariff and consumption data could then be uploaded directly to price comparison sites for customers to instantly compare with other suppliers.

A noble desired outcome and one it is difficult to argue against when you consider the sector in question.

The means I would question, however. Using QR codes requires a smartphone or tablet, which despite widespread penetration is still not the norm for many. Many of the most vulnerable energy customers, the elderly in particular, will not be able to take advantage of the option.

And for many of those who can, QR codes are a relic of a past digital age, supplanted by augmented reality and other shiny new toys.

Midata remains a great idea. But if this is the best that it can do three years after it launched it needs some serious reassessment.

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