On which platform are you making money?

Platforms, or ecosystems, are the virtual malls of the (near) future. We have the Google, Apple and Microsoft platform – although one could argue that these three are already surpassed by the likes of Facebook and Amazon, who put the big three in the (undesired) corner of ‘technology providers’.

Let me explain; a mall is a location where different vendors and providers come together and each contributes to the overall experience of the customer, while retaining their own business model. Some malls put this under 1 brand, creating a store-in-store concept, while others are more like traditional markets where farmers used to come together to sell their produce.

When we move from the physical to the digital, we are able to create digital, virtual stores and this has already developed into a billion dollar business. A new development, and outlined in a new whitepaper of the Atos Scientific Community “The Connected Train”, is the creation of a platform:

“The connected train is the monetization of high bandwidth Internet on a moving train where data and transactions are facilitated via a platform.

… to the platform provider(s), it’s the ability to harvest and sell passenger data and facilitate business transactions.”

Bringing technology into places that previously had almost no technology and using that technology to specifically address the circumstances of the consumer, client, traveler, patient, student, or whatever other role or identity people will take, is a great opportunity to both providers and consumers of services.

Before going into the specific value of such a ‘Connected Train’ platform, the authors address the necessary aspects that need to be understood before a platform can be instantiated:

  • What is the value chain?
  • Who are the groups that interact at the platform?
  • What is the role of the technology, what does it make possible?
  • How does the platform make money?
  • How will it work?

The authors treat each question, but go a little deeper when looking at the necessary technology; mainly I presume because this has been the biggest bottleneck so far in creating this platform. New developments in network technology and continuous improvement in available bandwidth are also expected.

“In 2018 the day–‐to–‐day technology of passengers will be very different. We can expect to see mass adoption of wearable computing, the Internet of Things, IPv6 and heads–‐up display technology (Google glasses). All of these new usages of the Internet will consume considerable bandwidth. Assuming that Moore’s law applies in order to meet passengers’ demands the connected train must offer 12 Mb/s to each passenger.”

Obviously, when such a platform is finally available many parties will be able to participate and some examples are explained in the paper. Next to looking at movies, order a meal or make an advanced restaurant reservation, I found the possible interaction with train staff most interesting.

Because of the platform nature, for the staff, the passengers are no longer anonymous travelers, but can be addressed as returning customers or passengers with special needs. Information can become tailored and customer remarks (complaints?) can be dealt with much quicker and on a personal basis.

“This is also an opportunity to upsell products that fit into the TOC service system such as parking or concession. There is an opportunity to tell stations about trains which are overcrowded before they arrive. This gives passengers the knowledge on which to base a decision as to whether to get on this train or wait for the next one.”

It is clear that still some big technology challenges need to be overcome and also aspects of privacy and pricing structures need to be addressed. But it is becoming clear that special purpose or special location platforms are a great way to bundle a wide experience of services on a technology foundation. It allows for collaboration between vendors, create added value for the platform provider and great benefits for its users.

And, after reading the whitepaper, it is obvious that platforms and trains are made for each other.

This blog post was previously published at http://blog.atos.net/blog/2014/04/01/watch-space-platform-making-money/

Your Future; Now available in real-time

cobblestones (road)Imagine you have an automatically and real-time updated agenda – it continuously adapts your schedule to meetings taking longer, predicts and updates in real-time your travel-time to the next meetings and will adapt your schedule because it ‘knows’ that typically any meeting with your best client always takes 30 minutes longer than you originally plan it for.

A proof of concept conducted by the Atos Scientific Community looked at this aspect of predictability and took the data of the traffic in the city of Berlin to see if it was possible to do real time traffic forecasting (RTTF). The result is in a recently published white paper.

  “RTTF enables a prediction (within 1 minute) of sensor data streams for the immediate future (up to four hours) and provides traffic condition classification for the upcoming time period based on the forecasted data.”

“The forecast provides a suitable time span for proactively managing upcoming incidents even before they appear.”

The team took a radical different approach to the challenges of today’s traffic management. Instead of proposing another reactive traffic management IT system with some smart analytics, the team targeted successfully a proactive traffic management approach which provides analytics solutions to predict critical events in advance before they appear.  Using historic data and artificial neuron network technology, predictions are created for the intermediate future and utilized to determine the traffic status of the upcoming next four hours. Based on that information, actions can be taken proactively to mitigate or avoid future upcoming events. Utilizing the software and bringing in data scientists with an understanding of the context was the next step. This helped in defining the right parameters and a pattern based strategy (PBS) in place.

“Being able to identify patterns out of the existing data, model them into patterns and come up with a system that can provide reliable predictions is a remarkable achievement in itself, but the true value of PBS is being able to apply such capabilities to strategy definition and decision making.”

Working with the subject matter experts the team identified multiple models that were then consequently implemented in the software. The models are important, they avoid that you are trapped into simplification; when a car is driving slowly, it can be because of a traffic jam, but it can also be an older person driving more carefully.

By introducing the concept of ‘flow’ – the number of vehicles passing a sensor each hour – the team could identify 4 different states, which were in themselves also parameterized by looking at road capacity, speed limits, etc. This information is then fed into a look-up table based complex event processing engine in order to predict, within 1 minute, the traffic situation at given locations.

Because in real-life the historic data is continuously refreshed with the actual events of the past time, the system will be able to predict in real-time the situation on the road.

The proof of concept clearly showed that a self-learning system, combined with a complex event processing unit and the help of some subject matter expert data scientist can accurately predict the future – the white paper shows this in some great details.

  “Real Time Traffic Forecasting is an excellent example of how data sources and identified patterns can be exploited to gain insights and to develop proactive strategies to deal with upcoming events and incidents. It enables a short term view into the future which is long enough to act on predicted incidents rather than react on occurring ones”

For me this proof of concept shows the benefits of data analytics in everyday life, and I am looking forward to this future.

This blog post was previously published at http://blog.atos.net/blog/2013/12/12/watch-this-space-your-future-now-available-in-real-time/