As communication service providers continue to transform their business models to become digital services organizations, blockchain technology will provide significant opportunities to re-imagine many of their core capabilities to streamline operations, enable ecosystems, improve security and elevate customer engagement. This post will explore these concepts in more detail.
What is blockchain, anyway?
A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block contains typically a hash pointer as a link to a previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification of the data.
Functionally, a blockchain can serve as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. A blockchain facilitates secure online transactions.
It’s a decentralized and distributed digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively
How to leverage blockchain
Here are sample use cases that communication services providers can explore as they formulate their plans to leverage blockchain for their digital transformation programs.
- Digital Rights Management (DRM): DRM in the media industry has become very painful and complex for all participants because today’s solutions were not developed to support the diversity of current business models such as music downloads, streaming services and set-top box consumption via multiple devices. Current DRM solutions are complex because data is siloed with record companies, movie studios and publishers. Using the concept of blockchain to manage DRM for the music or video industry can make data more transparent, accessible and easy to understand. It can also foster the monetization of assets more quickly. For example, by leveraging “smart contracts” in buying a song on iTunes, it can result in immediate distribution of value between three parties based on a predefined contract term (e.g., 30% to Apple, 30% to the record label and 40% to the artist). Communications leader Verizon is reportedly exploring using Blockchain for managing DRM.
- Roaming Settlement: Currently all mobile telecommunications companies have to register with a third party company that will process roaming data and financial settlements between the home and visiting networks. Blockchain technology will allow all mobile companies to manage the roaming data and financial settlements without a third party, which will reduce their cost of roaming while allowing them to settle the financial transactions faster by leveraging “smart contracts.” This is achieved by eliminating the third party roaming settlement and clearing house companies.
- Software Defined Networks (SDN): SDN has the potential to transform the telecom industry by providing carriers the ability to flexibly deliver bandwidth “on demand.” This introduces new security challenges to the network, which were absent in traditional networks. With SDN, if a single rogue element such as a switch or compute element, injected by a malicious element is accepted by an SDN, they may be able to copy, alter and disrupt communications on the entire network. A blockchain-based security, authentication and auditing system might provide answers for this challenge.
- IoT Services Management: Telecom companies are increasingly viewing IoT and M2M as areas that will lead their business in the coming decade. Mainstreaming IoT and M2M will mean the introduction of billions of devices in the network. A traditional centralized approach for verifying and managing billions of devices will not be feasible. With blockchain technology, service providers will provide the alternative to essentially “outsource” the management, communications and scalable infrastructure problems to the peer-to-peer network that maintains the blockchain. Using such a technology will also improve the security for the IoT solution.
- Programmatic Media: The digital media business is going through rapid transformation and the inherent challenges are great. Issues from third-party measurement and ad fraud to viewability and fake news sites have the industry in need of better tools to legitimize the spend. Companies such as AdEx (for video), RebelAI (for programmatic), NYIAX (for digital “futures”), MadHive (OTT and Advanced TV) and Ownage (in game currency and marketplace) will use the permanence and decentralized benefits of blockchain to make digital media as well-lit a place to do business as traditional media sectors.
- Identity Management & Third-Party Data Purchasing: Privacy issues will continue to plague businesses of all types, but blockchain could put a layer of protection on future data breaches. Here, companies such as Civic Technologies provide secure, robust identity management. When it comes to buying data to inform media purchases, Comcast is developing tools for first-party data-matching that provide an airtight layer between the data used for targeting and the media placements it impacts. In addition, WOLK has created a bitcoin-based token that can be used to buy consumer data for targeting from third-party providers.
These are all fascinating examples that are helping organizations to rethink their operating models, business processes and organization structures as blockchain presents a world of new opportunity. And with these concepts, the technology itself is just that – a new and potentially powerful capability to help enable a broader transformation in how a firm operates.
Partner - Communications, Media & Entertainment practice
Olu is a partner and co-founder of the global communications, media and entertainment practice for Infosys Consulting. Over the past 20 years he has advised senior industry executives on new business launch and digital transformation, focusing on launching digital products, digitization of customer interactions and enabling organizational agility. He has worked with clients in the US and Europe spanning from Fortune 100 and Global 2000 companies to start-ups. Olu has helped his clients to successfully design and launch new businesses including a mobile payments company, two wireless service providers and two competitive local exchange companies.
You can follow his insights on Twitter @adegoke_muyiwa