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Data gathering should be a priority for service providers with smart home ambitions

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Communications service providers (CSPs) are looking towards future revenue opportunities beyond connectivity (provision of broadband access) and there are a number of opportunities they can look to pursue, from smart, managed Wi-Fi to tech guru services and home chore automation, through to IP camera subscriptions, baby monitoring, pet/bag/vehicle tracking and customer care bots – or even digital butlers.

The term connectivity+ neatly sums up these near-term opportunities for CSPs to add value via broadband-dependent services and apps that go beyond connectivity. In parallel, they can become more involved in the smart home, a whole category of add-ons ranging from smart door locks, doorbells and refrigerators to active security systems and health monitoring/remote health.

In all cases, CSPs are just one of the places consumers will be able to get these services (whether from them directly or via partners). There will be plenty of ‘OTT’ competition. And as with everything, understanding consumers, thanks to privacy-compliant personal data and the analysis of it, could decide who best anticipates needs and delivers the most compelling offers, fastest.

Daniel Hesselbarth, Principal, Business Consulting at EPAM, a leading global development, digital platform engineering and product design agency, believes that while CSPs have existing customer relationships that may, in theory, give them an advantage over competitors in the race to provide connectivity+ and smart home services, this relationship is fairly one-dimensional and data-light today – far from sufficient for the world we are entering.

“The CSP may know the customer from a commercial standpoint – as a revenue generating unit – but not their behaviours and experiences as a person, family or group of people in a home,” argues Hesselbarth. “Huge amounts of data are not being analysed by the CSP, such as fluctuations in terms of bandwidth per device or whether the customer is particularly security conscious.”

“The router knows everything,” he affirms. “You know the type of device, whether it’s mobile or fixed-line, the quality of service, usage behaviour, problems with lag and interference. The CSP would be able to determine all of that through the router. The CSP needs to collect and analyse the data properly to leverage its window of advantage and build up new services.”

Assuming GDPR compliance is properly executed and legally watertight and that the trust of the customer is maintained, the CSP is advised to ramp-up the collection of home usage data through the router and/or mobile devices via its own apps.

Hesselbarth believes it is the data- driven CSP that will enjoy the most success in the emerging connectivity+ and smart home markets. “Telecoms will have to adopt new business models based around data,” he says. “The data they will have access to is enormous as more devices become connected. Telecoms are in a very good position to leverage this data and offer customers personalised digital services.”

He stresses: “The single most pressing activity the CSP needs to do is build up their competency in data gathering. They need to collect GDPR-compliant data and apply intelligence in order to deliver personalised information and recommendations to the customer and to cycle back into services and product updates. This further requires a change in the organisation’s culture by building up in-house competency and hiring data scientists.”

CSPs can draw from experiences in television, where data science is already a top priority. And of course, many CSPs with the broadband focus to explore connectivity+ and smart home are also television providers. Television services provide examples of the organisational and data ‘re-engineering’ that is relevant to other activities. One can be found at Liberty Global, the pan-European cable operator/CSP.

Liberty Global now features a cloud-native microservices architecture built on AWS that provides one ‘back office’ for set-top box and OTT video services for cross-device customer journeys and a data lake that uses AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) to better inform decisions around product design, customer satisfaction and potential new revenue sources.

“One result is an environment ripe for self-disruption, continuous innovation and optimisation by instituting rapid design, build, test and deploy programmes,” explains Aliaksandr Baradyntsau, European Head of Media & Telco at EPAM. “This digital transformation journey helped Liberty Global enable agile processes, regular production releases and speed up time-to-market.

“The data lake leverages insights from individual viewing behaviours and greater audience trends to make each interaction more personal with anonymised data,” Baradyntsau continues. “With this foundation in place, customers have continuous access to new enhancements like tailored recommendations and individual watchlists.”


Broadband and beyond: the next steps for service providers

This is an edited excerpt from the new Videonet report, ‘Broadband and beyond’, which argues that even ultra-fast broadband will become commoditised, so communications service providers (CSPs) need to think about how they differentiate themselves and where they make money in future. They need to look towards connectivity+ services like premium managed Wi-Fi and family management, and place themselves at the centre of the smart home, whether offering customer care bots or security cameras.

The report explores the opportunities ahead and the operator transformation needed to capitalise on them, including a focus on cybersecurity, a data-driven culture, and agile device and service development. The report concludes that fixed-line providers are well-placed for this journey, from smart customer home all the way to the smart city, and reveals why.

You can download the (free) report here.

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