Author(s): Martin Garner
At Hannover Messe in April 2018, Deutsche Telekom announced its Telekom Data Intelligence Hub, a cloud portal for sharing data sets that also offers tools for using the data. The platform is intended to serve public uses such as smart cities, as well as closed uses including partners within a company's supply chain. Inside Deutsche Telekom, the hub is owned and run by T-Systems, and resides on Microsoft Azure cloud in the operator's data centres.
The concept of data markets isn't new. Many governments and cities already make large quantities of data available through their Web sites or through third-party initiatives like InterDigital's oneTransport system, which is used by a number of local councils in the UK. The hype around blockchain technology is largely fuelled by the same idea.
What is fundamentally different about the Telekom Data Intelligence Hub is that it's the first commercial system to be deployed that is compliant with the specification released in late 2017 by the International Data Spaces Association (IDSA). The association has recently rebranded from its previous moniker, the Industrial Data Space Association, arguably one of the worst-ever names for an industry initiative. The IDSA is run by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, and has quietly been successful in building momentum. It now boasts over 100 members worldwide, including many global industrial companies like Bayer, Bosch, Deloitte, Huawei, Siemens and Volkswagen.
The main aim of the IDSA specification is to create a safe and trusted way of sharing data in which the owner retains control. The main problem with normal API access to data is that all control of the data is lost when it leaves the API. So the IDSA approach consists of "containerised data", which allows the data owner to manage how their data is downloaded, how permissions are granted, how long the data can be used for and so on. It also offers an audit trail on data usage. Importantly, thanks to distribution within containers, the owner can stop data deployment through a Data Usage Control switch in Deutsche Telekom's platform.
With the higher level of trust that the IDSA approach should bring, there are many potential applications. Some of them relate to internal use of data within a large company, while others are about data sharing along a supply chain spanning, for instance, automotive parts, manufacturers and dealers. Some uses hope to improve efficiencies in a sector, such as real estate, through common access to a single data set. And there are also others that focus on making data available in more complex systems with many stakeholders, like smart cities, where there will be a mix of public and private data sets and a need to manage access and permissions carefully.
Deutsche Telekom reports that it's seeing interest in rolling out the system across a variety of sectors including logistics, manufacturing, materials, real estate and smart cities. The company is mainly taking a broker role in serving those markets, and interestingly says it finds that many businesses are happier to trust Deutsche Telekom in that role than their industry peers.
Prior to the announcement, the company has been using the marketplace to share data internally; it can deliver data from all its Internet of things (IoT) products such as Motionlogic to the data platform, which has become a central part of the IoT unit. The operator has also been working on pilot programmes with several businesses for proof-of-concept systems. They include Siemens, which is using the data hub to help optimise production in an apple juice bottling plant; and Setlog, which is tapping the service to combine cargo shipping data with weather, tides and land traffic information to improve estimates of arrival times for industrial shipments.
Deutsche Telekom recognises that it needs to create a certain "gravity" with its data marketplace for it to be successful. To this avail, the company is using the platform to share some of its own data with partners, has over 200,000 data sets available on it, and is making the offer richer than simply being a source of data by supplying analytics tools from IBM, Microsoft and others. The Telekom Data Intelligence Hub will be made fully available in the third quarter of 2018, and is expected to receive quarterly updates of new data sets, tools and features.
Deutsche Telekom expects that, apart from smart city projects, early adoption will consist of many smaller closed systems specific to an industry, which may or may not open up later. Given that the centre of gravity of the IDSA is in Germany, the operator's home market, it is naturally focusing on making a success of the marketplace there its top priority. However, we believe the service will also find a use in other countries, and we anticipate a bigger international push from 2019 onward.
The company will initially make money from the platform through commissions on transactions, storage fees from its cloud services, and by selling analytics products through the marketplace. As the service grows, we expect the operator to be able to unlock a number of other revenue opportunities.
In some ways it's unfortunate for Deutsche Telekom that the launch happened at the height of the blockchain hype. Many early discussions with partners and customers are bound to involve some time and effort to distinguish this approach from blockchains. But that buzz may also deliver a benefit, as the Telekom Data Intelligence Hub is built on well-proven technologies that are widely adopted in cloud services, in enterprise IT and, increasingly, in IoT projects. It will often be a more natural fit both technically and commercially than platforms based on blockchains.
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