Ellis thinks that the free-service model, already common to IT, will go offline as data becomes increasingly valuable and companies compete to obtain it to analyze the trends or resell it. According to Ellis, this idea has been widely discussed in the auto industry:
"The original equipment manufacturer — Ford, for purposes of discussion — sells the vehicle data to a broker or to end companies. That is the monetization opportunity that everyone in the automotive industry keeps talking about. Based on what they are able to sell, they in turn use some of those funds to reduce the price of the vehicle. The more data they can sell, the more opportunity they get to reduce the price of the vehicle."
Under this model car manufacturers may be able to not only provide the cars for free, but also extract larger profits. Interestingly, the potential buyers of the gathered data may include both private and public institutions as various agencies may be interested in the ways headlamps, traction control systems or windscreen wipers work.
For example, a car can turn into a moving weather station, gathering information on weather conditions and sending it to a meteorological service that will pay around $3000 for the data and save money by not building the actual weather station. Another example would be governments monitoring road conditions or IT companies enhancing their voice recognition technologies by analyzing in-car voice recordings.
Furthermore, Ellis believes that this trend may also affect the housing market:
"Now, I don’t necessarily believe you will [ever get an entire] home for zero dollars. But a home where the mortgage payment is slightly less than it would normally be because of your selling data is definitely something we can envision."
Still, Ellis is catious with using the term "free" in regard to this service-for-data type of deals. He believes that, by paying with data, customers pay $0, but they sacrifice a great deal of their privacy. Futurologist calls it a "zero dollar economy".
Whatch Ellis’s presentation:
Read more about Ellis’ forecast on Digital Trends.