Presented by fonYou

In times gone by, you would get to know your village shopkeeper and they would get to know you. You’d have a friendly exchange and buy the things you need for your family. Once in a while they would say something like “I’ve got in some more of that hot chocolate you like, if you’ve run out.” It would be hard to take offense at that exchange. Sure, it’s salesmanship, but it’s useful to you — it’s potentially going to create a great experience for you. So, therefore, you don’t mind.

In our digital world, we should be aiming to emulate that sort of useful exchange — yet too often, we fall woefully short. Imagine if that same shopkeeper was listening into a private conversation you were having with another customer and then immediately tried to sell you something related to what you were talking about privately. That would be an affront and you’d take your business elsewhere if you could or at least try to limit your visits to their shop. And what if that same shopkeeper tried to sell you another twenty things you don’t need after your shopping basket was already full? That would be another affront or at least an annoyance. Digital equivalents of this are all too frequent and they should be a point of collective shame for technologists and marketers.

So, what is the real difference between those different shopkeeper scenarios? It isn’t relevance — that now-overused phrase only takes you so far. Remember the often-referenced scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise was subjected to a barrage of advertising enabled by retina-scanning? It may all have been relevant, but it was a horrible experience that no sane person would want to be part of their own future.

The answer is context. So, what do we mean by context? It means two main things. Firstly, it’s who they are, which gives you an important view on what they are likely to care about. So, for example, are they gadget aficionados? Are they millennial mothers? The second element is more about their immediate situation. Are they at work and not wanting to be disturbed? Are they streaming kids’ content? Are they online and playing games? Are they traveling? Is their mobile device being infected by malware?

So how can we put context back into our digital exchanges to ensure that business is more successful and mobile users get a better experience? At a time when it is normal to feel worn down by the privacy missteps of digital giants, it is the humble mobile network operators who have been sitting on more data than the digital giants could dream of, enabled by our constant cellular companions. An almost unimaginable amount of customer data traverses their networks, including data from browsing and apps.

And yet, mobile network operators have tended to be far more careful with their customer data than many other digital giants. They know that unlike “free” digital services where the user becomes the product, they have lucrative connectivity services that they are very reticent to mess up. The incentive is built in for them to be responsible with their customer intelligence.

The mobile carrier: At the centre of the creation of new digital businesses

With their care regarding customer data and the fact that they have more of it than anyone else, the mobile carrier is in prime position to provide context for a new digital business paradigm, to enable better exchanges with customers across virtually any industry. Adding context simultaneously allows you to be more sensitive to the customer’s needs and more successful. It allows businesses to collectively lift their game and become a better provider of whatever solutions their customers may need.

So, how could mobile carriers get to this “hub” position for smarter business everywhere? Over the past few years, we have seen enormous advances in cloud and AI technologies. These two technology trends mean that the ability to process and glean actionable insight about customers from vast data sets is already here. So let’s bring this into the real world.

In Latin America right now, one mobile carrier is using context to help bank the unbanked. Using AI, the context they can discern from their mobile network activity that a user is willing to renew his mobile subscription when it becomes depleted, and his social graph and consumption behavior suggest he is suitable to acquire a debit card. With this intelligence, the mobile carrier together, with a banking partner, are able to engage with the user in the right context and offer something which is meaningful to the them. With a high proportion of mobile customers without bank accounts in the region, the customers are potentially winning by becoming banked, and the bank, which would otherwise face very high customer acquisition costs, is also winning.

Thinking through other applications, what if a customer is struggling with finding a cab in the middle of the night? This situation could be detected based on mobile device activity and the user could be presented with the option of taking an Uber instead. What about a gaming user that is searching for new titles online? This situation could also be detected based on mobile device activity and the user could be presented with a group of new suitable titles that match the categories he likes to play. The difference that context makes is huge. It is no longer blindly selling to anyone that will listen. It is proposing a useful service that the customer is likely to want or need — so everyone benefits.

Virtually any industry from banking and retail to healthcare and transportation could become more successful if they could act upon the mobile user’s context to suggest goods or services which could be genuinely useful to their proposed customers. To get there, operators need the heavyweight processing power of the cloud and AI working in tandem, but the tools to get them there are already out there. It just takes the will.

The future that we envision is one where data is used for good business and good experiences. We have all had enough of spam, of privacy mess-ups and annoying, poorly-targeted advertising. It is time for something better. And the mobile network operator can make this a reality by leveraging advanced cloud and AI technologies.

Fernando Nunez Mendoza is Founder & CEO of fonYou.

fonYou’s iCarrier platform creates new customer knowledge by extracting mobile data usage directly from the carrier network. By applying AI and Machine Learning techniques the iCarrier predicts what customers will need, creating a whole new world of commercial applications. fonYou is building the mobile carrier of the future with AI, today. Ready to join us? visit

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