Digital Platforms can be defined as a collection of applications designed to hold and facilitate cross-use and access to other applications included on the platform. A Digital Platform usually includes applications for data-ingestion, a transactional engine to perform tasks or rules-based activities based on AI Machine Learning and analytical engines. Digital Platforms also include Application Programming Interfaces (API) that allows for different internal and external applications to talk to each other, and regulatory and compliance monitoring tools. All this is offered as an integrated, specialised, turn-of-the key service via Cloud Computing and seamless communication to enterprises, as well as to final consumers.
System Platforms and IT Platforms
These terms were used before the full effects of the Digital Revolution took place, as Platforms were then either 3rd party developed and installed on each enterprise’s site or property.
Open Digital Platforms
Open Digital Platforms means that the original developer has not become the gatekeeper, and the system is open to further independent development for improvements and new purposes other than intended. In addition, Open Digital Platforms can be Open Source.
Open Source Platform
Can be defined as an Open Platform in which the original developer and vendor allows for certain components of its software to be edited, modified, and adapted to different functionalities. This allows for innovative use of software applications. Open Standards is the final level of user autonomy and creativity as programming elements are publicly available and non-proprietary components can be added by multiple agents to the original Open Digital Platform.
Ongoing Enterprise Integration and Management Needs
Since the beginning of what is the now finished Digital Revolution, enterprises have strugggled to simplify, unify, integrate data and applications within an Enterprise. This explains the Enterprise Resource Planning (E.R.P.) boom when SAP, Oracle and Microsoft required multi-year, multimillion investments for customised on-site, closed, enterprise-wide platforms. This need has now further increased with the adoption of massive-data creation technologies like the KETTLs as explained here, and the need to integrate, analyse and bring that data to use, as well as having access to cutting-edge applications to manage them.
Enterprise Digitalisation Generated Business Capabilities
Digital platforms handle end-to-end increasingly complex business process and functions. In this present time, where by means of Digitalisation economic activity has switched from process-driven to data-driven, Digital Platforms have already become the most cost efficient, necessary and fast-innovation-sharing technology to deliver competitive services.
As previously discussed, the ongoing 4th Industrial Revolution and the KETTLs that form part of it, bring a sleuth of opportunities that require improved and often new Business Capabilities for enterprises and administrations to remain competitive. Digital Platforms offered by remote providers in the Cloud, bring cutting-edge, on demand, new capabilities, without necessary inhouse development time or fixed costs. As such, there is a multitude of specialised platforms jockeying for dominance in a given industry, who function like those specialised in facilitating advanced marketing campaigns in banking, or those managing IoTs enabled machines in warehousing.
Supply-Demand Adjustment Needs
Digital Platforms also allow for supply and demand optimisation within B2B, and in particular Logistics, through the creation of virtual market-makers to disintermediate and to lower costs. This was explored with the arrival of the internet, particularly in the late 90s. However, limitations of past existing technologies, and the lack of real time, reliable data, plus the resilience of 3rd Party Logistics and other intermediaries added to an overall lack of trust among agents, botching most of the previous attempts.
Sector and Supply-Chain Level Needs
Past production advances like just-in-time manufacturing, plus emergence of e-commerce, cost cutting needs and full globalisation, has been pushing Logistics and Transport enterprises to seek innovations to better coordinate suppliers, partners, intermediaries, other transport mode operators and B2B customers throughout the whole value chain, with spectacular results so far. Now Cloud Computing, with the added benefits of BlockChain Technology, which is covered in the next section, offers an important opportunity to further share information that is reliable, unbiased and in real time, thus generating an enhanced collaboration and transaction optimisation.
Ecosystem Level Needs
Until recently, Digital Platforms that were oriented towards final customer use limited themselves to connecting buyers and sellers for simple transactions. Digital Platforms are now multi-sided, value exchange driven that bring consumers, service and stakeholders together. This opens the door to new customer services, facilitates customer information and loyalty, plus innovation and further development of new business capabilities. Combined with BlockChain Technology, which brings transparency to transaction, it greatly facilitates new business models based on Collaborative Economy. These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying, to include travel, parking, clothes and residential and vehicle sharing. This use of Digital Platforms is very promising and deserves attention for its broader use in transport and logistics, and overall public administration.
Wang, Guo, Closed or open platform? The nature of platform and a qualitative comparative analysis of the performance effect of platform openness, 2020.
Digital Platforms allow companies and operators to interact and position themselves in the sector in a more efficient, clear and visible way. In Passenger Transport, Digital Platforms allow for the consultation of routes, schedules and tariffs, and for the reservation and payment of an increasing number and combinations of services. It results in a significant improvement of customers’ experience, while facilitating planning and operations throughout standardisation, integration and simplification.
Improved Teamwork between departments within the same organisation, and among all actors involved in the logistics chain.
Increased Collaboration between companies to balance supply-demand more efficiently obtaining a greater benefit for all parties. Increments derive from the improvement in the agility of negotiation between the parties, for example on a freight market, and greater universal visibility of supply and demand, among others.
Reduction of Transaction Cost due to Simplified Documentation of goods traffic between agents, plus reduction of transactions and waiting timesand redundancies.
Increased data transparency of all types of terminals and transport infrastructures.
Traceability by customers allowing for request generation and customer service to be integrated in the same platform.
Emergence of New Agents and New Services like Digital Freight Forwarders or Digital Chartering and Market-makers. Digital Platforms allow small, innovative agents to penetrate the market. As coordination and transfer becomes more efficient, new Digital Marketing Platforms are integrating a broader variety of providers, that offer specialised Value-added transport services.
Improved Planning Capabilities including standardisation, optimisation and streamlining in a variety of functional areas. The use of digital platforms simplifies and facilitates the control of the infrastructure and the fleet. The consultation of routes, timetables and fares, plus reservation and payment from a single customer contact point for different services throughout integrated apps. This facilitates and simplifies all these processes. Service delivered and customer satisfaction is improved at relatively low cost. Additionally, it allows for more security in data and payment management.
New Possibilities for Enhanced Collaboration: document simplification, reduction of transactions and waiting time, plus improved transparency allows reinforced teamwork among departments and companies
Operator-User and Operator-Supplier Relationship Improvement: thanks to the possibilities that the different digital platforms can offer.
New Capabilities in Customer Service and Follow-up Marketing as digital platforms facilitate the follow-up of the different communications, requests, with customers and suppliers.
CLOUD COMPUTING EFFECTS ON TRANSPORT PROCESSES
Cloud computing provides enormous computational power on-demand, without fixed costs and access to third-party on-the-cloud applications,
This technology is the base and enabler of most of the KETTLs being analysed here.
CC provides third party applications and access to AI to a broader range of agents.
CC is the necessary base for BigData, to collect, apply computer power and analyze enormous data-sets.
AI is in itself based on learning, and machine learning is only possible by repetitively analyzing huge and changing datasets provided by BigData, which in turn is based on CC:
Furthermore, it is at the base of the IoT, allowing for sensor data collection, integration, analysis and also sending back instructions to the devices on how to act.
Plays a similar role in Unmanned vehicles and advanced robotisation.
For this reason, more than a KETTLE, Cloud Computing is the predecessor and base of these technologies
CC is already a Near-Mature technology with a massive range of evolving functions. It has been broadly adapted, with a current increasing demand by developing nations, mid-size companies and administration agencies. Its technological maturity, plus its generalised adoption, makes it the main infrastructure of the Key Enabling Technologies, more than a KETTL itself.
CC Effects on Freight Transport
Ubiquitous, on-demand and Cost-Efficient Access to Data and digital services of added value, like software / hardware tools that, before the existence of Cloud Computing, required large investments in computing capacity or storage on servers.
Software and Technology Improvement: with the proliferation of new digital tools, no significant upfront investment is required to access them, allowing for new business capabilities.
CC Effects on Passenger Transport
Cost Efficient Access to New Capabilities: that require great computing power. Consolidation of widespread use of digital tools by universalising access to them by operators.
Change Operators-Suppliers Business Relationships due to new ways they access the capabilities (new services such as connection to remote servers, etc.).
Data Access by Users: as it facilitates at no significant incremental cost access to the necessary data by users.
Sources: CETMO and “Impacte de les KETs en la digitalització dels diferents àmbits del transport”, CENIT-CINESI – December 2020