Digital Platforms can be defined as a set of applications designed to host, provide access and facilitate the cross-use of other applications housed in the Platform.
A Digital Platform includes three elements: first applications for data-ingestion, also a transactional engine to perform rule-based activities based on AI Machine Learning, and thirdly analytical engines. Digital Platforms also include Application Programming Interfaces (API) that allows for different internal and external applications to talk to each
Digital Platforms are a technology of immense impact because they provide, through Cloud Computing huge computational capacity, advanced analysis, ultra-specialized applications, and even AI generated directives and actions an integrated and outsourced service. 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
Digital Platforms provide state-of-the-art capabilities to manage devices equipped with Internet-of-Things, robots, unmanned vehicles, as well as management of all business functions. Digital Platforms provides these advanced capacities without the need to invest in IT infrastructure, nor expensive programming nor team of resident experts. This low cost and low risk access to new capabilities democratizes innovation, and accelerates the adoption of the other Key Technologies, the point that we can consider Digital Platforms as state-of-the-art productive infrastructure.
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.
These are terms used for platforms dedicated to a single corporation, which owns and hosts the platform, and usually developed by a third party. With the Digital Revolution and the appearance of the current Digital Platforms that provide the latest advances at low cost, they are in much less in use. They are still in operation either to avoid strategic dependence on Digital Platform Providers or as IT legacy systems.
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. Who in turn provide improvements, innovations and new uses. In addition, in order to facilitate access and innovation, they also are Open Source Platforms.
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.
DIGITAL PLATFORMS, ADOPTION AND EFFECTS
Enterprise Level Systems and Data Integration
Since the beginning of the process of Digitalization, enterprises have struggled to simplify, unify and integrate data and applications within a given enterprise. Before Cloud Computing, this was achieved, with significant multi-annual investments by installing Enterprise Resource Planning (E.R.P.) provided by SAP, Oracle and Microsoft
Presently Digital Platforms offer full data integration, plus a myriad of additional functionality, just when the progressive adoption of the Key Technologies is generating and exponential growth of data, moreover they do it without the risk of obsolescence.
Management of New Capabilities Generated by Key Technologies
Digital platforms are able to 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.
Digital platforms offered by remote providers in the cloud, provide state-of-the-art analysis and management tools for all new Key Technologies and the new capabilities they bring, and they do it on demand, and without any internal development time nor fixed costs which greatly simplifies and facilitates their adoption. Examples of capabilities range from advanced marketing campaigns managed by Intelligence Artificial already in place Banking, to the administration of semi-autonomous teams with Internet-of-Things in warehouse management.
Digital Platforms also allow for B2B supply and demand optimisation through the creation of virtual market-makers to disintermediate and to lower costs, achieving what was unsuccessfully tried in late 90s with the adoption of internet for B2B uses. particularly in the late 90s. Present Digital Platforms eliminate the previous technological limitations and lack of reliable data that, have prevented to date a generalized acceptance of virtual markets among companies and organizations.
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 in-house 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 Chain Optimization
The transport and logistics sector has proven track record of creating new capabilities and optimizing them to meet the changing needs of the manufacturing sector. Transport and Logistics answered to the Just-in-Time production developed by Toyota in the 1980s, to the e -Commerce of the 90s, to the globalization phase since the early 2000s, and to the current In-shoring and Near-shoring phase taking currently place. These changes and the need to increase efficiency have driven logistics and transport companies to seek constant innovations and operational improvements to coordinate customers, suppliers, partners, intermediaries and other transport mode operators throughout the chain of value.
The widespread and growing use of Digital Platforms, its technological maturity, its continuous development and application to new technologies and uses, added to its relative low cost, lead to the conclusion that organizations, companies and administrations related to passenger and freight transport should seriously consider its rapid adoption to not only increase efficiency but also to avoid losing competitiveness in the short term.
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 AND CLOUD COMPUTING EFFECTS ON TRANSPORT
Digital Platforms allow companies and operators to equip themselves with new capabilities and incorporate new technologies without the need to invest in their own computer systems and without large investments, particularly in the area of operations, machinery, equipment and vehicle management.
Likewise, the Platforms analyse and manage all commercial flows with the ability to optimize all functional areas. In Passenger Transport, Digital Platforms allow the consultation of routes, schedules and rates, plus reservation and payment of an increasing number and combinations of services. It results in a significant improvement in the customer experience, while facilitating planning and operations through standardization, integration, and simplification.
Digital Platforms Effect on Freight Transport
Improvement of Operations with application of Artificial Intelligence housed in the Platforms to administrative processes and operations management plus, security, monitoring, predictive maintenance and use of robots and machinery equipped with Internet-of-Things.
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 a reduction of transactions, waiting times and redundancies.
Increased 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 Markets for the end user, and for spare parts, equipment, other means of transport and in all components of the value chain.
Digital Platforms Effect on Passenger Transport
Improvement of Operations with the application of Artificial Intelligence housed in the Platforms to administrative processes and operations management plus, security, monitoring, predictive maintenance and use of robots and machinery equipped with Internet-of-Things.
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
New Capabilities in Customer Service and Follow-up Marketing: Platforms oriented towards the passenger client offer new capabilities for monitoring and analysing all interactions with the user, facilitating the satisfaction of their need and the development of new services. They also provide the passenger with flexibility in planning, purchasing, and changes as well as provide additional information during the journey.
New Markets Operator-Supplier for spare parts, equipment, other means of transport and in all components of the value chain.
CLOUD COMPUTING EFFECTS ON TRANSPORT
Cloud computing provides enormous computational power on-demand, without fixed costs and access to third-party on-the-cloud applications, CC behaves as an infrastructure for many other technologies, particularly when it is offered through digital platforms equipped with Artificial Intelligence.
Cloud Computing Effects on Freight Transport
Ubiquitous Access to Data and Value-Added Services, on demand and in a cost-effective way generally by Digital Platforms. For more details, visit the Digital Platforms page.
Cloud Computing Effects on Passenger Transport
New Digital Capabilities with No Fixed Cost: With the proliferation of new digital tools, no significant initial investment is required to access them, enabling new business capabilities. For more details, visit the Digital Platforms page.
Expansion of the User-Operator Interaction. New ways in which users access information and interact digitally with the operator, all facilitated by Cloud Computing.
Expansion of Knowledge on Users and Use Guidelines: The new capabilities offered by CC-based Digital Platforms are of special relevance in the tracing and analysis of purchase behaviour and use of the service by the user. For more details, visit the Digital Platforms page.
Sources: CETMO and “Impacte de les KETs en la digitalització dels diferents àmbits del transport”, CENIT-CINESI – December 2020