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Big data issues: an opportunity for postal operators?

December 8, 2015

Claire Borsenberger, senior researcher, and Emmanuel Vivet, deputy director, international affairs, Le Groupe La Poste, examine the big data market and the role posts can play in providing secure services for customers

The development of big data and the explosion of personal data disclosure through connected objects (Internet of Things) are threatening privacy as never before. Fostering consumers’ empowerment over their personal data is essential and in order to be fully empowered, consumers need information and tools.

Postal operators have a role to play in this regard. Protection of personal information and communications has been in their DNA for centuries. They are generally considered as safe, trusted and reliable institutions. They benefit from a large physical network of outlets, which could become a bridge between the physical and digital worlds – post offices could become the place where low digital skilled people learn to use, search and communicate with digital tools.

In particular, personal data stores (PDSs) provide a secure tool in terms of conservation of personal data and access to the data (identity management with secure authentication services). As Ira S Rubinstein (2012) noted in ‘Big Data: The End of Privacy or a New Beginning?’, PDSs allow individuals to manage collection and use of their personal data by themselves. They are an empowerment tool for consumers.

Many postal operators around the world have already invested in the digital economy. They are developing relevant and promising digital services and solutions for consumers like hybrid mail, e-letters, e-registered mail, digital mailboxes, online payment solutions, and authentication and secured archiving services.

One can mention for example services like My Post from Australia Post, Connect from NZ Post, Digipost from Norway Post, E-boks by Post Denmark or Digiposte from La Poste, which are now largely used by citizens and consumers. Top of the list is E-boks with four million users, and Digiposte, which gathers 1.5 million users. Initially conceived as digital mailboxes, these services tend to be transformed in user-driven tools to collect and share personal data, as real PDSs.

Another example of postal operators’ entry on the big data market is the launch of a ‘platform of connected objects’. Thanks to this platform, companies will be able to develop services around their connected objects (data storage and analysis, billing, and a link with physical services provided by postmen at the door); and consumers can retrieve and control the data from their personal connected objects.

In line with its digital strategy, La Poste is providing such a service, encouraging a dynamic use of data (crossing and analyzing data from connected objects to bring value) while protecting privacy.

December 8, 2015


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