Orange Spain and Madrid-based Kineo Mobility Analytics have won a contract to provide the country’s public works and transport ministry with Big Data analysis of user movements to aid the construction of new rail and road routes. The partners stated that the contract requires them to use anonymous data collected by mobile-phone antennas to study user movement patterns pertaining to road, rail, sea and air travel with a view to aiding the ministry’s decision-making process when it comes to rolling out new infrastructure.
Under the terms of the €158,000 (US $193,360) contract, Orange and Kineo will report back within four months with their findings.
This project provides a good illustration of two salient points about today’s mobile telecom business. One is that operators continue to look for ways to branch out and make themselves more relevant as traditional services face commodity status. One very good way to do this is to leverage customer data, which operators, by their very nature, possess in extremely large quantities. Orange’s network has 16 million users on it, with a further 3 million via MVNOs that run on the operator’s network.
Since one major trend in today’s marketplace is the expansion of data analytics in the public and private spheres alike, Big Data applications are a fertile field for mobile operators.
In this case, Orange Spain is partnering with a data analytics firm to provide the country’s government with material that it can use to improve planning and logistics for transportation infrastructure. While this harvesting such data is not the core mission of an MNO, the data exists and can serve a purpose that was originally not foreseen. While the dollar amount of this contract is not very high, relatively speaking, it is essentially all upside because Orange is monetizing a pre-existing asset.
The second point to make is that with the increasing concerns about privacy, operators need to be careful about the uses to which they put the data they collect about their subscribers. Even with data being anonymized, knowledge that it has been shared can potentially sit ill with customers—particularly now, in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. Sharing data with commercial and mobile advertising entities to sell products is much more likely to raise concerns than a public-spirited application such as helping a national government to improve transportation, which is likely to benefit everyone with no apparent downside. In the emerging era of Big Data, it is a good idea to be on the right side of history, and with this partnership, it seems that Orange Spain is doing just that. In addition to the revenue generated, the operator stands to burnish its public image and strengthen its brand.