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SP360: Service Provider

By Roland Klemann, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)

The promise of Big Data has inspired many visions of transformation and opportunity. Big Data has even been compared to oil in the late 19th century, when it stood ready to fuel a new age of unprecedented growth. But this will happen with Big Data only if information can be refined, sorted, and moved in real time to the points where it will create value.

Big Data was front and center at the New Digital Economics EMEA Executive Brainstorm & Innovators Forum, June 12-13 in London. This event, with its unique brainstorming format, incorporated four tracks: Telco 2.0, Digital Commerce 2.0, Cloud 2.0, and Digital Things 2.0. Across tracks, data played a significant role in all its forms: big data, small data, and personal data. In general, attendees were uncertain if Big Data is “the next big thing”—or maybe just overhyped.

One thing, however, is clear: a flood of data – terabytes to petabytes to exabytes – threatens to swamp many organizations’ processing capacity. Extracting key insights in (near) real time from this data deluge seems at times an impossible challenge. And the data ecosystem, as it stands now, is far from established, blocking the value chain between those who create the data and those who could potentially benefit from it.

Enter the “Data Infomediary.” We at Cisco IBSG believe a new class of players, the Data Infomediaries, will connect data originators with data beneficiaries, and thus harmonize, realize, and monetize the vast potential of Big Data.  Data originators (very often consumers) want to take control of their data – by knowing about it, exercising control over it, and exploiting it in new business models. On the other hand, the beneficiaries of data — individuals, enterprises, and/or public bodies—need to provide value with the data.

Here are the four roles we envision for Data Infomediaries:

  1. Federation: Data needs to be taken from the place where it was created to the place where it has value. However, there is no viable marketplace for personal data today. The Data Infomediaries would locate the sources of data, work out the legal/business deals, and clean and standardize the data format so that it works with multiple systems. From the consumer’s perspective, data that is stored in Facebook, for example, could be moved to Myspace or Amazon without having to be recreated each time.
  2. Innovation: Many organizations are challenged to experiment with large amounts of data. By refining data from multiple sources, and by providing enablers such as identity management, the Data Infomediary makes it easier for companies to experiment.
  3. Trust. The Data Infomediary could protect data from sabotage, while assuring government agencies that the data is being used properly. The privacy issue looms large. The Infomediary could ensure that an Internet player’s data is not perceived as destructive but rather as something of value, to be used according to consumers’ wishes. Data Infomediaries will be trying to gain the trust of consumers and Big Data players, basing their brands on trust.
  4. Scale. The price of handling Big Data will be prohibitive for many organizations, creating the need for third-party services to do their heavy lifting. Data Infomediaries would play a crucial role in coping with the huge volume of data by offering more scalable and economic methods of storage while aiding in data processing.

Cisco IBSG believes a number of players can step into Data Infomediary roles—whether service providers, IT firms, banks, enterprises, Web 2.0 companies, government-sponsored agencies, or new start-ups.

Participants at the New Digital Economics EMEA Executive Brainstorm & Innovators Forum didn’t feel that any class of players had already established an inside track to becoming a Data Infomediary. And there is good news for network-based service providers: In an audience poll, the overwhelming majority of Forum participants agreed that service providers have a “right to win” in the Big Data space, thanks to their end-to-end mastery of the network. Far from being a “dumb pipe” simply transporting reams of data, the network is crucial to connecting the various data domains. Those who see far and wide across the network will be able to collect data and provide context for those who wish to use it. Selected service providers may choose to take on role of the Data Infomediary. Big Data can serve as a complement to – not a substitute for – SPs’ existing business models.

The hype about Big Data is not an illusion. Just like oil more than a century ago, it stands to radically alter the way we live, work, play, sell, travel, heal, you name it. But the pain points on the path to Big Data value will need to be overcome.

Only when industry players step up to the overarching role of the Data Infomediary will the game-changing, transformative force of Big Data become a reality.

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