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How to commercialise telecom data while protecting privacy

How to commercialise telecom data while protecting privacy

Commercialising telecoms data doesn’t mean that telecom operators are handing over this information, writes the CEO of Real Impact Analytics

Telecom data is one of the richest sources of information available, yet it’s not being used to its full potential. There’s immense potential for businesses to work with telecom companies, using the data collected, to increase the potential of the products and services they offer. They can do this, and still respect the privacy of individuals.

When a person uses their phone, hundreds of data points are created each day. Commercialising it doesn’t mean that telecom operators are handing over this information. Rather they analyse patterns in communities and share the anonymised, strictly non-personal findings of these trends, with other businesses in order for them to provide a better service to customers. As we know, the better the service delivered o the customer, the more they are likely to spend, increasing a business’ profitability.

Deriving value from telecom data is especially relevant for businesses in less developed nations, many of who do not run a regular census (for example, Angola hasn’t run a census since 1970), or have significant ways of collecting consumer data. Mobile phones represent people’s lifelines, making the data gleaned from their use an important asset for both businesses and essential services – such as maintaining medical and supply lines during an epidemic, especially when it comes to analysing mobility of populations.

The commercial value of telecom data

The data collected by telecom companies can be utilised by businesses through apps that analyse the data, answering specific business queries. But businesses have to know the right questions to ask. Which ones lead to results? By looking at the mobility of customers can help inform significant business investments.

Big data is useless for businesses unless they can get insights from data analysis they can act upon. For example, Real Impact Analytics is working with a retail chain in the Caribbean and has developed an app to locate the optimal sites for expansion. The app combines area footfall, community based data on where people live and work, and integrates this with current store locations to identify where a new store is most needed and will deliver the best revenue to the chain.

Data analytics apps can tap into the data collected and analyse potential opportunities for the business to increase revenue. A restaurant chain may wonder why they don’t get more customers from the business park down the road. Using the anonymised mobile data, they may discover that most of the workers don’t leave the office at all during the lunch time period. The restaurant company may then decide to bring the food to them and focus on expanding their catering services.

Ensuring the privacy of the individual

The important thing to note is that this can be done without compromising subscriber privacy. By not taking the telco data in its raw form but by aggregating and anonymising the data and looking at community patterns, business insights can be achieved without any access to personal details.

Any business that runs a website will have an analytics function, like Google Analytics, that provides an overview of site visitors – such as how many visitors came to the site via Facebook, or what percentage of the views were from a specific country at specific times and dates. Telecom data can be filtered in a similar way.

Data is being analysed in bulk, to assess patterns and trends. Businesses use these data analytics apps to discover how busy their store will be at 3pm next Saturday, rather than if Bob Smith will visit at 3pm next Saturday.

Customers benefit from the technology

Mobile users generate between 30 and 150 meta-data records a day from using their devices. This data sits with the mobile operator and isn’t always used to its full potential to increase revenues. However, by commercialising this data, telecom companies can not only provide benefits to business, but businesses can act on the insights gleaned and use the information to provide a superior level of service to customers. Mobile network operators can generate ten of thousands of dollars per year from each partner so there is huge potential to add to the bottom line.

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