Business in 2050: the monetisation of data will continue, but firms will have to increase the value of the exchange, Brocade and McAfee tell ComputerworldUK.

Firms are painfully aware of the need to future-proof if they want to stick around for another thirty-five years, but those who are dependent on the Internet of Things [IoT] and big data to create new revenue streams need to seriously consider the public sentiment on privacy. 

The data currency is strong for now; but as the so-called ‘Facebook generation’ become increasingly mum online, how will companies keep them hooked on information-sharing? 

Service providers 

It is well known that with voice revenues drying up, service providers are in a particularly tricky position when it comes to radically changing the shape of their business. 

Speaking at vision for the web in 2050 expo last week, Marcus Jewell, EMEA vice president of storage and networking vendor Brocade tells ComputerworldUK he believes that a lot of smart firms still haven’t worked out which new revenues to pursue, and are instead focusing on cost savings which can be pumped into investment to secure them for the future. 

“If you go to BT, for example, they are selling the same things they sold ten years ago. So at the moment they are in cost-cutting mode. Hopefully the smart ones [providers] will use that money to build up new revenues streams. What they are, they can’t even articulate that. Would you buy your electricity from BT? It wouldn’t make sense. Telcos will consolidate into a lot smaller groups.” 

Customer data 

But could service providers’ mines of customer information become a revenue stream in itself? Global telcos are looking toward the telematics and machine-to-machine market, which big data will play a huge part in. 

The data market may be hindered by initiatives like the UK’s ‘mydata’ – a body set up to encourage companies to publish what information it holds on its customers. 

Raj Samani, chief technology officer of McAfee security, says that despite his concerns over privacy, consumers will continue to share their information – but only for a higher price. Companies will need to raise the value of rewards in exchange. 

“There are three key things: consent, transparency and value. With those you will give up your privacy.” 

Data brokerage 

In the future, he says, consumers will find scenarios like a company pop-up on their device's screen, timed for when their car insurance contract is about to end. The pop-up will give them a real-time insurance quote compared quote providing them with the best deal. 

“It will say: ‘do you want to buy?’ They [the broker] get a cut, you get a cheaper insurance and we all win.” 

US-based Midex (Mortgage Industry Data Exchange, which provides information on mortgage professionals, companies and risk management, has already started to offer similar services, Samani says.

He cites other opportunities, including those for smart grid providers, which could collect transactional energy usage to determine which devices consumers are using. 

That customer information allows the smart grid provider to act as a data broker, identifying when machines are about to fail and putting consumers in touch with manufacturers to buy products at a discount.   

“This is how the personal data economy can work; whereby everyone wins with consent and transparency”, he adds. 

Is big data, the cloud and the IoT just webwashing?

But Jewell is on the fence. He believes certain industries cannot be ‘webwashed’ by trends like big data and the cloud, and that the promise of future-proofing is fickle. 

“The cloud feels like the net bubble 2.0. You have got to assess businesses and see if they can reinvent; so a number of businesses, they only use technology, (like cloud) to lower their cost space. If you make cars all you’re going to do is make them more efficiently - you can’t reinvent yourself. 

“If you make your money like Tesco, for example, there is only so much you can do with opting in and opting out and opening into new regions. People are trying to webwash themselves with the idea of reinventing themselves”, he says. 

But Tesco’s loyalty card scheme put the retailer at the big data bleeding edge when it first began in 1994, and Jewell admits that for certain companies, where the value is right, he is happy to share his information. 

He admits: “It is a question of value. I use loyalty cards, but the perceived value is appropriate for me. Transparency, maybe not, but the value is there.”

Picture: Flickr user mjtmall