It seems everything we touch these days uses data. Whether it is a phone, a watch or even a fridge, we live in a connected society. Increasingly, this is becoming a sharing society. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen mobile data sharing mature from a couple of devices (think mobile and car phone) to shared family groups and now to sharing for small and medium enterprises (SME); however, let’s not forget this has taken two decades. You cannot help but wonder why we don’t see more innovative sharing of data as we connect more and more devices to mobile networks.
An example I faced recently was when my daughter ran out of data. While this in its own right is not surprising, what was surprising was that the only option she had was to change her monthly tariff plan. She had no way to buy a small one-off bundle just to last her to the end of the month. Even though I am on the same network, I also had no way of gifting her any data nor could I create an ad-hoc sharing group, and so I ended up using the personal hotspot capability on my phone to give her Internet access. It strikes me that our mobile operator missed a trick here by a) not providing a small data top-up that she could afford and b) not allowing the sharing group to be defined. If this were possible, their marketing could go to town and introduce shared groups across families, communities, SME and large enterprises.
Imagine the local sports club signing up to provide a shared data bundle for its members. The benefit for the club would be inexpensive shared data for the members, while the advantage for the operator would be a sticky relationship. The club is effectively encouraging its members to move across to the operator. This could easily be extended to allow free streaming of the latest local tournament to the group members, etc. Another example could be banks or shops giving away data bundles to their customers as a form of loyalty reward, opening up a whole new market for the operator.
Scaling to large enterprise groups would permit an operator to sell value-added services; therefore, letting an enterprise manage its own organization by setting and controlling budgets for data usage. The idea of controlling an enterprise in real-time still seems impossible for many operators, but the potential savings are huge given that operators write off millions every month over disputed batch processed invoices.
Another area (and a big buzzword) is, of course, IoT and the fact that literally everything is being Internet enabled and controlled. I can even buy now a GPS tracker for my dog and measure his daily steps — although I don’t think he really cares about how much data he has left when it comes to his walk!
Data Management Challenges
All this leads to a highly connected future with data becoming a valuable commodity. However, now that data can be shared and traded just as any other product, this presents a number of challenges for operators providing the service as they need to adhere to the four golden rules of mobile data management:
1. Data absolutely has to be managed in real time.
This is table stakes to even join the party, but it is amazing how much processing is done in batch by operators even today. It includes managing the network session, charging the asset, aggregating and presenting information at the user level.
2. Sharing across hundreds of thousands of devices needs to be transactional.
Whether it is a flat group/community or multi-level hierarchy, every interaction needs to be properly accounted for to allow for correct notifications and credit limit controls. If multiple users are sharing data and the legacy batch process can only calculate overages after they occur, then there is little value to the operator.
3. Digital transactions need to be instant.
We live in the instant gratification age and consumers are no longer willing to accept waiting for hours, minutes or even seconds for balance management operations such as top-ups, purchases, etc. to complete. If nothing happens after you click, you are most likely to call the helpdesk, which defeats the whole point of going digital.
4. Users no longer will have a single tariff.
By this, I mean that users will have a wallet with the operator containing lots of individual bundles together with relationships/links to other wallets containing yet more bundles. All of these data balances need to be aggregated, prioritized, processed and presented to the user in a clean manner while complying with rule #1 listed above!
The challenge, of course, is just how do you manage high volumes of network traffic accessing highly shared database resources while at the same time presenting an open book to the user via a smart device. Traditional approaches all rely on a standard relational database to maintain the balance which is highly inefficient as data is constantly locked and unlocked to protect the overall integrity of the data. This falls apart when you have even just a few devices fighting to update the same balance records. Over the past decade, we have witnessed a multitude of NoSQL type databases which are generally great for fast queries, but not transactional updates. We have even seen blockchain technology that federates the control, but which takes ages to confirm an update.
The MATRIXX Technology Core takes a different approach using a patented non-blocking commit algorithm that mathematically ensures the integrity of the data while at the same time opening the floodgates to allow thousands of updates from the network. Basically, sharing on steroids!
One of our customers, Swisscom is already leading the way with IOT with their recent announcement, making it possible for their users to join all their devices into one subscription.
It’s interesting that Swisscom predicts that in the next few years over 100M devices will be connected to a mobile network in Switzerland alone. Moving forward, users will be able to merge all their devices into a single subscription, making things much easier to manage and finally allowing the dog to use roaming data while on holiday with his fitness tracker!