Data Analytics & AI

Using data to grow new platform businesses

Here’s Professor Geoffrey Parker*, world-renowned expert on platform businesses, making heads spin with the possibilities for any business by adding a data layer. He was speaking at a TM Forum Digital Leadership Summit, hosted by BearingPoint, in Barcelona on the eve of Mobile World Congress. Hold tight and stay with it right to the end.

Agriculture is particularly interesting because it is such a fundamental human activity, that started many thousands of years ago. This too has been subject to scale, including the hardware, built by companies like John Deere. Tractors now have GPS, so why not record temperature and humidity, and take soil samples too? Then we have precise information on location down to the yard/meter, time, date and conditions in terms of weather and acidity of the soil, and the exact seed being planted.

Every farm an A/B test

[John Deere] are collecting the best data on planet Earth: If you marry that data with the output, you can make the primary activity much more productive, but that’s just the start. Seed producers like Monsanto will want access to it because then every farm becomes a test farm.

Think of it this way: Google doesn’t have a different search engine for an A/B testing. Every time you click on anything online, it’s part of an A/B test. Why should agriculture be any different? Once we get it instrumented, then the science of improvement comes to be a continuous activity.

Creating a must-buy data feed

Then you can add in cardinals [factors/numbers of the greatest importance] on the buy-side for those who would want access to the data – in commodity markets, it’s going to be hard to make much money if you haven’t got access to this when your competitors have. Now you have a must-buy data feed. Maybe you can give some of the value back to the farmer by reducing the cost of the service contract on the equipment because you’re monetizing it in the data layer.

All in the APIs

One of most critical parts and ways to do that is through APIs – you need well-defined interfaces to make it easy to attach. So when we think about platform technology, it needs to be modular. Put the complexity behind the scenes and have something that’s easy to attach to and pass data between them.

And we at TM Forum couldn’t agree more – our Open API program has developed a suite of 31 REST-based Open APIs have been collaboratively developed to be used in a range of scenarios. Watch BT’ Chief Systems Architect, George Glass, talking about his involvement in the program and the benefits to BT. As he says, the APIs give companies access “to the world’s best brains”.

Within an organization, they enable telcos – and other companies – to transform their IT and operational agility and customer centricity, and enable them to link to other organization externally, operating platform businesses within ecosystems.

Regarding the critical importance of modularity, watch Vodafone Group’s Chief Systems Architect, Dr. Lester Thomas talking about the efficiencies of reusing modules and APIs here. You can also download our free ebook, about platform architecture and TM Forum’s ongoing work in this area from here.

*Geoffrey G. Parker is Professor, Thayer School Engineering, Dartmouth College and Director, Master of Engineering Management Program, and Research Fellow, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. He is the co-author of Platform Revolution with Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Sangeet Paul Choudary.


    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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