When North American carriers stated that they would not share their customers’ data, Verizon at least was very serious about it. So much so the company proposed a TM Forum Catalyst project in order to figure out how best to protect customer data, while still being able to use that data in an anonymized form to help with better network management, enriching the customer experience and monetizing services. Often the most powerful analytical tools are hosted by third parties, and this creates a privacy challenge for service providers, hence the need for anonymization.
Privacy and protecting customer data has become a key issue for the communications industry. Customers are not happy with their data being used by companies to make money, and certainly not happy that they are bombarded with advertising for companies to achieve this. The rise of ad blockers in the last year or so – 600 million or so have been downloaded to date – is testament to this.
Improving customer experience with data
At the same time, the value of data to better serve customers is clear. Effective analytics can identify which groups or clusters of customers are interesting, or anomalous, as well as general network trends.
There may not be an app for that, but there is an API. At least, this is the belief of Steve Bowker, Founder and CEO of Cardinality, the lead for the project.
“Verizon has a lot of customer data on its network and wants to use that data. At the same time”, says Bowker, “the company does not want to pass that data on to third parties. It has stated that its customer data will not be shared publicly.“
The goal, therefore, is to develop a set of APIs that will anonymize data as it is passed between a carrier and third parties — from private cloud to public cloud, for example. Companies such as Google, IBM and Amazon, that offer the most advanced machine learning and AI platforms capable of analyzing that scale of data, do not provide solutions on site. As a result, service providers must upload their data to the cloud to take advantage of these highly powerful tools. But doing that creates privacy risks. As a result, while the new cloud-based analytics solutions obviously have benefits — not least of which is cost — it is essential to anonymize the data.
Testing it out
This Data Anonymizing API Catalyst is in an exploratory phase, but developing a solution is critical if carriers are to leverage their valuable data and analyze it on this scale with the latest technology. The champion for the project is Verizon. The participants are Cardinality, Liverpool John Moores University, Brytlyt and Huawei.
The Catalyst will be demonstrated at TM Forum Live! in Nice, May 15-18