Why Telco’s should invest in bigdata capabilities

new context

What is bigdata and what are key operator data assets?

In a nutshell bigdata is about getting actionable insights from data which is available in huge volumes, has high velocity and is often found in a big variety. These are the so called 3V’s of big data. While the volume definition is very clear, with velocity we mean data which is of value only for a short period of time, possibly a few minutes or less. The variety of the data is also a bit difficult to understand at first. Here we talk primarily about the huge amount of unstructured data which is today hardly harvested, as an example you can think of insights found in text, images and video.

Data amounts available to analyze are huge and grow exponentially. An IBM study showed that 90% of all data available in the world has been produced over the last two years only. Operators sit today on huge amounts of data themselves, but few have started to monetize that knowledge neither internally nor externally.

There is probably different ways to segment the operator’s data assets but the taxonomy I used below is simple enough so that anybody can get a feeling for the types of use-cases that could be monetized by Telco’s. This taxonomy is based on different types of contexts which provide value to the telco or to a third party.

  • Operators have today a good understanding of the situational context of their users (i.e. position information, whether I am in mall, in my car or in an movie theater),
  • they understand my behavioral context through my devices I am using (am I in a call, watching my IPTV or browsing the web and which sites)
  •  and they know about my social context (most frequent people I call, my preferences through the content I am consuming, the places I go, which social networks I belong to and of course my billing information)

Now for privacy reasons much of this data cannot be exposed without the consent of the end-user,  unless there is an opt-in close when subscribing to a service. In any case the data can most of the time be made anonymous and brokered as such.

The opportunities for Telco’s are numerous but can be seen as internal and external opportunities. Improving retention and revenues by becoming more customer centric and better managing the customer experience is an internal usage of these insights, while an external usage is to provide new services to enterprises that will help them to improve their own efficiency and decision processes. In this post I will only cover the external bigdata opportunities.

Targeting enterprises with BigData Services and strengthening cloud offerings

From a 2102 Gartner study you can see that most industries are in the process of investing or a planning to invest in Bigdata technology of the next 2 years. Rather than further increasing ICT spending and OPEX in the enterprise their is an opportunity for operators to provide cloud services and become the technology partner for bigdata.

Gartner-diagram

While telcos are probably a bit late to the market with cloud services compared to companies like Amazon, operators have still a privileged position when it comes to trust, security and service level expectations. Telco’s are still privileged partner for larger enterprises, industry verticals and government mainly because of their local presence. This is why they need to invest in this area now or necessity will take over to find alternative providers.  For Telco’s the opportunities in bigdata when part of a cloud offering, can probably count the folowing non exhaustive list.

Storage provider – Data-as-a-service

For enterprises that collect or want to collect data, they will rapidly have to consider how to store that data in a cost efficient and scalable manner. This is where telco’s data center could be used to provide elasticity and handle that demand in a cost efficiency way. Of course depending on the type of enterprise data, there are important questions to address when it comes to privacy, integrity and security of the data, but operators are probably well positioned to offer Data-as-a-Service to different industry vertical according to the enterprises expectations.

Analytics-as-a-Service Provider

The tools and processes needed to gain insights require major changes and investments in the enterprise. Now even if you have data and can store most of your data, it sill requires new tools and competences to be able to gain insights from that data. Telco’s  could play a major role in taking bigdata to the masses, especially toward the SME’s where efficiency and agility is so important. Providing business intelligence reports, visualization capabilities as well as dashboard views are few of the Basic mechanisms to put in place.

Data Enrichment and brokering – Enriched Insights provider

The data operators own has even more value if consolidated or federated with other data sources like social media, government or enterprise data. If this data can be exposed and analyzed it will provide further insights that a government, large enterprise or industry verticals will be ready to pay for.

Become a strategic partner for enterprises, industry verticals, governments and the public sector

A said earlier, operators have a privileged position when interfacing governments and regulators and should leverage that position. In order to stay competitive and sustain economic growth governments need to take faster and smarter decisions. This often means collecting and analyzing more data to improve the decisioning process. By leveraging on bigdata technology, federation and analytics, operators could find new means to address value chains for which they were today only providing connectivity and communications.

I won’t be able to cover all bigdata opportunities where telco’s could provide value, but nelow you will find a couple of examples where big data could be useful and it will show how that could help operators position themselves in new value chains.

M2M and BigData

A simple example that could be considered here is how an operator can use big data to combine multiple structured and unstructured data sources to provide additional value to vehicle fleet management solution.  Analyzing social media streams, outgoing calls or lack of movement along certain roads, can help provide real-time information that could be useful for redirecting vehicles or a whole fleet. In addition the operator can combine this services with automated communication to guide a track, bus or taxi toward the right destination in real-time. Automative industry, Health care, Telemetry and most industries using M2M sensors could benefit from bigdata and analytics to increase the value or services offered by operators.

Retail and Advertising

For advertisers and retailers targeting the right audience and the ability to prove that you can address the right audience is worth heavy dollars. The propensity to buy for a customer is heavily correlated to how much know about that person, it tastes and preferences. Operators have a lot of information about the user profile, but more could be collected through the various portals and even through packet inspection. By analyzing consumer likes on social networks, purchases on amazon or  zapping patterns on an IPTV system a lot can be learned and shared.

Urban Planning

Urban planning can certainly benefit from the insights operators have in terms of road traffic development and customer segmentation in order to improve build-out of new infrastructure, including roads, housing, schools and hospitals.

Security Services

Take the example of a mall where you have cameras monitoring everything that happens. Quickly analyzing what happens over multiple video streams to identify a theft and identify the person would require real-time processing and federation over multiple data sources. Operators could be a natural broker for this type of use-case.

… and many more industries can be addressed

Many more industries and verticals could benefit from bigdata investments, but it would be difficult top properly cover all of this in one post. If there is interest from the community I will write separate post on how big data can help Education and Healthcare, which are two topics that deserve their own analysis.

Finally, BigData as a means for Telco’s to become a community as well as a lifestyle provider?

For telco’s there is potentially more at stake. Bigdata provides opportunities for operators to become more customer centric and become more relevant in their consumer’s lives. If done right they could become this lifestyle provider they have always dreamt off becoming.  By strengthening relationships with governments and selected enterprises they could also take a more active role in the community and by that increase their relevance both for consumers and enterprises.