Data is key in dominant business models. Yet, "something is missing in digitalisation," says Douwe Lycklama, owner and founder of Innopay, who will be a keynote speaker at the Graduation Day of the EIT Digital Master School in Eindhoven on 24 November. "The infrastructure for data is underexposed." Collaboration, standardisation and interoperability are part of the solution.
Graduation Day is the official send-off for 247 newly-graduated EIT Digital Master School students who have completed their two-year technical master programme at two of the top technical universities in Europe. This includes training in innovation and entrepreneurship to help guarantee Europe's leading role in the global digital economy. This talent is highly needed in Europe, because, according to the European Commission, companies struggle to find skilled ICT specialists.
Innopay, a fast-growing Dutch consultancy specialised in innovation and a recent EIT Digital partner, is also hiring. People like the EIT Digital Master School graduates are greatly needed, says Lycklama. "I am just like these students. I am fond of technology, but I also know how to turn it into a viable business. We need people who can relate technology to business and regulations in the fields of payment, data and identity. There is a lot of new technology, and that means there is also a lot of confusion and hype. The Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are often mentioned in the same breath. These graduates can explain to decision makers the difference between hype and reality."
All new emerging technologies have one thing in common: they are all about data. Lycklama believes that data is the future, but it has not been well addressed yet. "In particular the infrastructure for data is underexposed. That is the infrastructure that is needed for people and companies to gain control over their data, such they are less locked. The law gives them the right, however the functionalities are missing."
According to Lycklama, data sharing is an emerging topic. "A lot of digitalisation is taking place, with data being the dominant business model. Competitive power is determined by the biggest companies who can obtain the most data, because with a huge amount of data companies can work on Artificial Intelligence."
This hunt for data makes digitalisation a "Wild West". "When you look at social media platforms, there is one central company that collects all the likes and comments. That is strange. Why do I need to have an account on Facebook if I want to connect to you? Why can I not connect with you via a different platform, as it is possible with email, GSM and browsing. In these applications we have a choice and no data centralisation. We need interoperability in platforms. Otherwise, we encourage perversion and safety risks!"
Innopay stepped into the data business in 2003, when it got deeply involved with the creation of iDEAL, a reliable, secure and easy online payment method. Practically all Dutch banks, web shops and companies now use this payment method. "Our ambition is to be the leading company in digital transactions, which extend nowadays also into digital identity, invoicing and data sharing. Our approach relies on how to collaborate with competing parties in a digital world to make better services for consumer and business users."
Innopay collaborates itself in the EIT Digital Innovation Activity Digital Chain of Trust , a Blockchain-based service to store records securely, with, amongst others, Frauenhofer Gesellschaft, System@Tic Paris-Region, Poste Italiane and Fondazione Bruno Kessler. "We are very enthusiastic about EIT Digital's ambitions to foster collaboration in Europe. If you want to innovate, you cannot work alone."
iDEAL was one of Innopay's first projects fifteen years ago, when e-commerce started to flourish and innovations in online payments were needed. "In the pre-iDEAL era, each bank created its own solution, meaning that all retailers and customers needed accounts at different banks. In such situation where consumers and merchants have to have accounts with all players, so-called ‘multi homing', the market doesn't mature. Fragmentation holds back customers.
Then banks decided to start working together, just as they already did with card payments. We were asked to help the banks intensively developing the solution. As a neutral party, we mobilised knowledge on all disciplines, from operational to juridical, and developed an scheme, a set of agreements. Behind the ease of payment, a whole world is hidden. The message here is: technology is fun, but you have to balance it with other operational and legal disciplines as well. Payment is a typical example where technology and business come together and touch all areas."
In the world of data sharing, there is a lot to do. After all, in the digital age, every action becomes a transaction. With every action on a smartphone, in an app or an Internet of Things tool, the users pays with data. "We feel that something is missing in digitalisation. And that is the soft infrastructure to make sure that you can share data. We need Many to Many character of data sharing to make the next wave of digitalisation. This means, sharing data in a safe and easy way, with you in control."
To bring about this next wave of digitalisation, Lycklama believes standardisation and networks of trust are needed. In the logistics sector, Innopay launched the iSHARE standard which provides logistics companies with a uniform, simple and controlled way of sharing logistics data, just as iDEAL did with payments. "It is about adopting a set of agreements for data sharing without being forced to work with just one platform. Standardisation is a way to grant access to data to different actors in the chain. Only companies with a trusted status can operate in this network."
The iDEAL solution seems to be an ideal solution for data sharing in other sectors as well. Lycklama points to, amongst others, the electronic billing market, digital identity and data sharing. But also the market related to the charging of electronic cars. "In every Dutch city, each municipality was working on its own charging infrastructure, resulting in every city providing its own passes to charge a car. Now we've made sure that all car owners only need one pass to charge their car in any city in the Netherlands by making the chargers interoperable. That is unique."
Another digitalisation issue, according to the Innopay founder, is the use of data sharing rights. "With the new privacy regulation in Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), people have rights relating to their data, but they lack the means to claims these rights. That entire piece is missing. There is no soft infrastructure for the owners of data. We need here a solution like iSHARE that we made for the logistics sector."
Lycklama feels the Dutch Digitalisation Strategy is a first step by the Dutch Government to increase citizens' control over their own data by building a soft infrastructure for data management. The Strategy outlines a clear framework for personal data management as well as agreements about identification, authentication and authorisation - which basically means standardisation of existing technologies.
With regards to Europe, Lycklama sees great opportunities for the continent concerning digitalisation. "Europe has already shown that we can make things happen if we work together. Just take a look at the GSM standard. GSM, as we know, comes from Europe and is built on collaboration. We could have chosen to rely on a provider from China or the USA, but instead we chose a system which, through European collaboration, one can reach the entire world. And this got adopted worldwide. Data sharing solutions should also come from Europe. Collaboration is essential if you do not want to depend on single platforms."