Every time you access your phone or computer, an entire universe of applications, hardware and enabling technologies comes together in order to deliver the services and information you want on demand.
Picture the complex choreography – the thousands of instructions processed; the data that needs to be delivered to the right place at the right time; the traffic that needs to flow efficiently – in order to deliver the information, service or product that you want. And it all happens in nanoseconds.
At the core of this universe is the data – your data – that travels across networks.
Think about a day in the life as you provide and use information. Let’s follow Jerome Smith, a 45-year-old married father of two living in suburban Philadelphia, during his morning, pre-office routine. He’s a finance manager at Global Coffee Treasures, a $300 million consumer goods distributor.
Jerome logs in to Global Coffee’s finance system to check whether the scheduled payment from Wal-Mart arrived, and to see if the suppliers in Kenya have been paid. He notes that both transactions have been processed – along with a $5,000 payment to a vendor he doesn’t recognize. He Skypes his accounts payable manager to investigate; they’ll discuss it when he gets to the office.
Next, Jerome checks his Gmail from home, sees his reminder from Ticketmaster that tickets for The Who are now on sale, so he clicks through to purchase, using his stored credit card. And mixed within the barrage of ad banners for whiter teeth and the like, he bookmarks a $25 coupon from Home Depot for lawn supplies. (He’s a subscriber to Home Improvements magazine, and is planning to do some landscaping next weekend.)
Meanwhile, his 13-year-old son is on his laptop updating his Facebook page, and downloading the movie “Iron Man” from iTunes.
Once in his car, Jerome MapQuests directions on his iPhone (News - Alert) to his radiologist’s office for an appointment.
Within the space of 15 minutes, Jerome’s interaction with information has implications for:
--Data security – accessing sensitive company financial data to ensure that the cash flow is as expected, while being able to identify and explore a potentially suspicious transaction; as well as in Ticketmaster’s third-party systems in purchasing his concert tickets.
--Value added services in an instant – filtering the junk ads and email from the useful coupon from Home Depot, who has been able to increase store traffic and sales from targeted subscriber information
--Precise billing – ensuring that the transaction for Jerome’s son’s movie is billed the premium price of $12.99 (it’s a just-released download), and not the $9.99 price after 30 days of first release
--Protecting children from online predators – screening both viewers of Facebook (News - Alert) as well as setting limits on account visibility
--Anonymizing personally identifiable data – ensuring that the combination of Jerome’s home location in respect to the radiologist’s office address is useless for any other purpose
“Your” data fuels all these applications. How do you access the services you want? How is your information protected? An emerging category of technology, called “Network Intelligence,” is enabling such applications and ensuring data protection and delivery. Like Business Intelligence software, which extracts data inside business applications for analysis and decision-making, so-called Network Intelligence identifies and extracts relevant data traversing networks.
Information gleaned from “network intelligence” technology feeds a variety of network-based applications – from mobile phone subscriber services to data theft prevention software – making them more “intelligent,” e.g., more precise billing, better customized content, faster response to suspicious activity, more efficient service delivery.
The abundance and ease of services we’ve come to rely on and enjoy every day have traditionally raised concerns about trading off the protection of your information. There are already thousands of safeguards in place for privacy and data protection – some are automated, others regulated and still others simply common sense.
Organizations ranging from the Direct Marketing Association to the GSMA to Google (News - Alert) itself are motivated to police themselves in order to drive usage and revenue, while users themselves are given opt-in and opt-out capability and access to privacy policies. Regulators such as the Federal Communications Commission provide the necessary additional safety net, while privacy watchdog groups raise the alarm in the blogosphere when gaps in the system are identified.
As people demand more and better services and content, whether for personal, enterprise or governmental use, all those playing their role in the Internet ecosystem have a self-driven interest in self-regulation. It really comes down to responsible and ethical use of technology not only on the part of the vendors and service providers, but also on the individual and organizational user as well.
Thibaut Bechetoille is the CEO of Qosmos (News - Alert) (www.qosmos.com), which provides enabling technology for “network intelligence.” Its software and hardware platforms identify and extract data travelling over networks in real time.
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Edited by Patrick Barnard