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Smart Steps: Telefonica Digital cracks open the data pile

Remember this Telco 2.0 blog post from way back in 2008? And even this one from 2007? We’ve been arguing for years that the operators’ data resources are a major opportunity, and more recently we’ve been participating in efforts to solve the privacy, security, and operational barriers to making use of it through the World Economic Forum’s Personal Data Ecosystem project.

So, what about some implementation? After all, implementation is the subject of a major forthcoming Telco 2.0 strategy report.

We’ve often written about Telefonica, especially about the BlueVia developer environment, their wholesale CDN product, their efforts to diffuse innovations between their European and Latin American contexts with Wayra, the highly successful O2 Media advertising unit with projects like Priority Moments, and we mention their partnership with Joyent for mobile-optimised Node.js hosting in the cloud in our forthcoming Cloud 2.0 Strategy Report.

Telefonica Digital, the integrated business unit that holds all their Telco 2.0 projects (there’s a good overview here - note the focus on spreading successes like O2 Media from the UK to Brazil), has just launched a new data product, Smart Steps.

Smart Steps is a mapping tool that shows levels of footfall, dwell times, flows, and other data about how O2 UK subscribers move around British cities. It provides crossbreaks of the data on various demographic factors, and provides for like-for-like comparisons. The target markets are retailers, stadiums, event organisers, transport operators, and government.

There’s a video here.

Note that they’re not falling into the trap of thinking that data = advertising. There’s much more that can be done with data than just trying to get people to click on ads, and with the kind of cost per click that even Google is getting these days, there are probably more profitable things that can be done with it. They’re also marketing the tool through a partnership with market research firm GfK, showing the need for the right channels to market.

And he data view, and the tool, are designed to aggregate out personally-identifying information. They describe it as being “about crowds, not individuals” - a good sound-bite summary of how to make use of personal data in itself. It’s important to avoid the traps of overtargeting, oversharing, and overcomplicating.

We recall a presentation from dunnhumby, the company responsible for one of the most successful data operations ever, Tesco Clubcard, at one of our events - surprisingly, the vast quantity of data collected by Clubcard was used to classify customers into as few as eight groups. The beauty of this is of course that they were the right eight groups, the ones that captured useful insights into customer behaviour.

We also wonder if the data set that underlies Smart Steps might be the one generated by Priority Moments. As the users who opt in to Priority Moments check in at venues and shops, and they also use O2’s WLAN hotspots, they generate a lot of location-based information that’s specifically retail-related. Now that’s a two-sided business model.

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