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Posted by James Staten on September 30, 2013
There’s no doubt that, to consumer marketing professionals, data about the users of mobile network are highly valuable. But AT&T is finding that enterprise application designers, corporate security & risk professionals, corporate trainers and CFOs are very interested in this data as well - so much so that the US-based network operator is turning access to and collaboration on its data into a new business service.
Under the guidance of Laura Merling, VP of Ecosystem Development & Platform Services (and formerly of Mashery), AT&T Business Solutions is embarking on an ambitious plan for sharing its data in a secure programmatic fashion leveraging RESTful APIs. It had previously shared it data in a more informal fashion with selected partners and customers but found this approach difficult to standardize and repeat on a larger scale. It also has participated in data collaboration efforts such as the well-known hackathon with American Airlines at South by Southwest earlier this year.
Now it is formalizing this effort and taking some key Adaptive Intelligence best practice steps to ensure secure data sharing and at the same time easing enterprise developer access and use. The approach starts with good data management which involves data aggregation from multiple systems and data anonymization to protect identities and personal information of AT&T mobile clients. From here AT&T has created programmable interfaces to each of its data sets that ensure read-only access to the data governed by enforceable business policies.
What data is it sharing? It starts with location-based data and analytics (GPS ping data aggregated to show patterns of mobile movements, followed by the anonymized and aggregated customer data and insights (matching ping data to customer group data - such as income, age, type of mobile device used, etc.). But the data sharing strategy isn’t just about learning about mobile device use but also about network performance and use patterns (including its wifi hot spot network), analyzing the AT&T bill to identify patterns and optimize your own use, and eventually viewing AT&T as a data authority on user identity and access management. How would this work? Well as Merling put it, AT&T already verifies the identity of its customers. Therefore it has the ability to help mobile app developers, enterprise security and risk professionals and other network and network service providers validate that the mobile device and the person using it are who they say they are when they ask for access. No, your mobile phone isn’t yet your new ID. Logins and passwords and MFA still must accompany that use. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could federate your enterprise identity server to AT&T and get validation that the mobile connection coming over your VPN really is coming from the same users’ phone as the user credentials received?
There are eCommerce implications here as well that could make it easier for startups and other companies to take payments. AT&T already takes credit cards from all its mobile users, why not authorize AT&T to add charges when you buy things through or with your phone? No more sharing your credit card number with various retailers (online or physical).
And AT&T isn’t just throwing its data out there and a bunch of ideas about how you might leverage it. It is crafting each data sharing service in direct partnership with its existing enterprise customers who have immediate plans to leverage this data programmatically. Undoubtedly Verizon, Vodafone, BT and the other major mobile and wifi network operators are thinking along similar lines. But the Adaptive Intelligence approach being taken by AT&T will give them a distinct advantage as it unifies all its data sharing requests and empowers its customers and prospects to use this data to create the next innovative insights and services. This is something that could not have been achieved (certainly not at the scale now possible) if the approach was closed data, negotiated access and one-off sharing approaches that are common today in enterprise data sharing.
This is the Adaptive Intelligence approach and AT&T is a clear leader in the new approach to big data business intelligence.
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