Fourth (and final) of a series of posts from an unpublished book chapter written in 2002

Project 3: Managing a service platform
The web service technologies used by the MAP can also be used to offer operators a distributed service management model. By defining a standard set of services for management, applications can offer both central and local management tools appropriate information.

This approach can also be used by management packages, so that information is delivered in an appropriate fashion, ready for processing and delivering to end users. Different sets of services will be used by different roles, so that high-level management may only be delivered usage and financial information, while local technical staff will be delivered detailed operational statistics and data.

Where web technologies are used, information can be gathered into digital dashboards, applications that collate and display a users key information streams. These can be delivered to desktop browsers, or embedded in email tools like Microsofts Outlook. Using MAP techniques, alerts and other event and workflow oriented messages can be delivered to mobile devices, with drill-down screens available on wireless PDAs.

One advantage of this approach is that a local service platform at an operators headquarters can be used to aggregate information from several, globally distributed, service platforms. This is important if a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) is offering a partner-hosted service platform that may or may not contain all the components offered in the operators main market. A dashboard solution can monitor both local partner-provided services and services built on top of the operators own common component architecture.

Next steps: MAP as the universal aggregator
A new role for the mobile operator
The role of the mobile network operator is one that is likely to change dramatically with the shiftfrom voice to data services and the move to an experience-based customer relationship. While data services are often seen as business to business solutions, operators will have to offer them while maintaining a business to consumer focus.

Currently digital consumers spend most of their online time using a small number of online brands and portals. What is surprising is that this pattern has persisted despite the open nature of the web browser, and the attempts of ISPs like Freeserve to capitalise on theirmillions of users with their own portals. Data-based mobile services and new devices will cause the current access model to change dramatically as new users come online; users who do not have the deep interaction-based relationship with a PC and web browser, instead using interactive TV and mobile devices. It is these new devices will be the target consumers of web services as they web services provide operators with an application-to-application relationship.

With application-to-application web services, there will be a need for a new form of intermediary an organisation that can provide the interface between a consumer and the web services they want to use. Its users will needto access services provided by a wide range of service providers in the shape of both personal web services and corporate services. Any new aggregation service will need to provide a consistent user experience across a wide range of services. User experience will be a critical feature of this new intermediary, as many different web service aggregators will be vying for the consumers online custom.

A Multi-Access Platform based on the Multi-Access Portal approach is ideally suited for acting as an aggregation hub for a wide variety of web services, whether they are based on Microsofts .NET MyServices or Suns ONE or even if they are existing HTML web applications. The XML integration approach used in the MAP is based around using the same standards as used by third party web services, allowing operators to use the MAP to deliver applications built around collections of web services.

Sitting between the digital consumer and the web service providers, the MAP can aggregate services, providing users with one user experience and, where possible, one billing relationship. This is an opportunity for mobile operators to become the trusted intermediary for web service applications for a new generation of online consumers.

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