When Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby were approached by Tesco about launching a loyalty card in they were told in no uncertain terms not to get excited. But first the couple got to work with their data analysis company of 30 people, Dunnhumby, crunching the numbers. The day they presented to the board has now become a legendary moment for Dunn and Humby. You could see the potential for massively changing customer behaviour but the tech was very basic. They were very stressful but exciting times. Direct mail, leafleting and local media buzz was how they generated sign-ups during the trial.

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Please refresh the page and retry. Your data. When you shopped and how often? What you bought and why? Their company, Dunnhumby, had been brought in to help Tesco launch its Clubcard. A swipe of the Clubcard entitled customers to special offers and discounts.

But there was a quid-pro-quo: the supermarket learned exactly what its customers were up to. The Dunnhumby presentation ended with the Tesco chairman Lord MacLaurin pronouncing: "What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years.

Millions signed up to the Clubcard. And there was more. Payment data from debit cards revealed how often customers shopped. Not only that, but retailers could also add data from payments made at their own stores to anonymised data bought from card companies, like Visa. A nalysis of the whole package ended up shaping decisions about where to put new stores, and the products to put in them. But [digital transaction data] will prove a business case: should we stay open to 10pm or 11pm?

Which potential telecom partner has the closest customer profile to our own? Though the first contactless debit card was issued by Barclays four years later, it was not until those were accepted by TfL that their use took off across the country.

T he rise of self-service checkouts at supermarkets too, provided us with a human-free and thus humiliation-free opportunity to test them. In , for example, Putney Bridge in south-west London was closed to vehicles. TfL calculated that , passengers each week used bus routes that crossed the bridge. A closer look at the data, cross-referenced with bus location data, revealed that only , journeys were made which actually did cross the bridge.

And of those 55, started or ended close enough for passengers to cross the bridge by foot. The other 56, passengers were sent targeted emails suggesting alternative routes. Recently, the increasingly obvious value of consumer data has spawned a new class of payments companies seeking to harness that value, and take a cut.

Merchants get to know and grow their customer base. T he fruits of that fusion are clear. Rolph hints Yo-Yo could begin to offer a payment card of its own, perhaps towards the end of this year, in which the transaction between goods and data is made explicit.

G eorgina Nelson used to be a privacy lawyer at the consumer group Which. Now she runs her own consumer data company, Trurating. Even today, businesses have a distorted or unrepresentative idea of what their customers think and want.

The question, increasingly, is how to fill that information gap. Trurating asks customers to answer a question on payment terminal screen as they pay. It can be a massive turn off. This presents a conundrum. While consumer data is valuable to businesses, there is also increasing value in being seen to protect that data. There is little doubt that the reputational damage to Facebook from the Cambridge Analytica scandal is having an impact on its attempts to launch its mooted currency, Libra.

Already, then, the privacy battlelines for our cashless, data-rich future are being drawn. For there is little doubt that convenience means cashless will be hard to reverse. Already, cafes and restaurants in busy city centres are turning entirely cashless.

I n many schools across the country, payments have gone one step further, and are taken through fingerprints. In the West, such a system might sound dystopian. But it is a reminder that the technology to pursue such projects exists, that it is being deployed in some countries, and that it starts with payments.

That sounds dystopian. But he also sees a generational change in attitudes afoot. Half the student population are on Yoyo. These are people who expect the world to work this way. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. Visit our adblocking instructions page. Telegraph Technology Intelligence. We've noticed you're adblocking. We rely on advertising to help fund our award-winning journalism.

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