SDM: Less Profiling, Higher Profile

After having spent the past few months conducting research for an upcoming report addressing the subscriber data management (SDM) market opportunity, it is evident that SDM is becoming more popular for a variety of reasons – just not the ones I had anticipated.

While in theory the well-known and well-publicized capabilities – such as the potential to offer personalized services and advertisements enriched by integration of presence and location capabilities – are still out there, the implementation phase is proving to be tricky, given that subscribers have recently become much more aware of how their usage patterns can be tracked, profiled, stored, and potentially even sold to third parties.

This phenomenon is playing itself out not only with telcos, but also in the Web domain, where recent public outcry over planned changes to Facebook influenced the application developer to reverse its strategy and even provide users the opportunity to provide input over how the data would be managed in the future. (See Facebook Asks for Feedback on New User Terms.)

It seems like the days of counting on Web users to involuntarily hit the "I Agree" button repeatedly in search of a free cool killer app are gone for good. And if the Web is encountering push-back on content profiling, then telcos will surely find the approach more difficult to implement as well. The irony in this development is that for years network operators have striven to emulate the intelligent content manipulation techniques that Web applications have implemented, and when they are finally presented with the technology to accomplish this, the window begins to close.

Still, what I have learned by listening to network operators is that they can use SDM to optimize the customer experience and reduce operating costs by less controversial means. These include using SDM to simply obtain a better understanding of which mobile terminals are using which content, and therefore, support more effective marketing campaigns through the optimal pairing or terminals and content, as well as optimizing network bandwidth without utilization of policy control by not attempting to deliver an SMS message when a mobile is offline.

Although one could argue that these approaches do not fully exploit the highly sophisticated techniques that SDM delivers, as long as it provides users with better service and terminal options without compromising personal data, I don't think there will be too much objection.

— Jim Hodges, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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