I have always believed technology is a means to an end. For me, the only thing that matters is building technology to solve important problems and deliver as much value as possible. It’s all about the use cases!
So I was really delighted when at the most recent Solid World, we were treated to presentations from BBC R&D, and NatWest. They both covered their use cases in detail, sharing firsthand how Solid can enable their organizations (which serve millions of people) to deliver value in ways they never before thought feasible. If you haven’t seen the presentations, then I strongly urge you to stop reading this blog post right now and go see for yourself.
The message to me was clear: we have now reached a point where the functionality and potency of Solid is being explored by global organizations with extremely promising results. This is a massive milestone! I’d like to highlight some of the common themes I heard across the presentations in the hope that they resonate with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
Content Recommendations with Solid at the BBC
User Centric & Consent based
First, Max Leonard and Hannes Ricklefs, from the BBC’s R&D team, described the BBC’s traditional “pipeline” architecture for managing data and serving content to their users. They then discussed how Solid prompted them to ask “what if we flipped this on its head and the BBC had a single user data store at the center of it rather than lots of service-specific stores” that need to be integrated together manually?
This led them to realize that it could be possible to build a platform that is able to place the organization's data, 3rd party data, and user personal data on an equal footing, which would improve the BBC's services for its audience. As if to drive the point home Max asked the question: "What would media recommendations from the BBC look like if we could help you use your Spotify or Netflix history?"
Solid allows this to be done with user consent as a first-order principle, so the BBC can protect a user’s privacy and digital rights out of the box.
Interoperability & Cross functionality
Max and Hannes hinted that the applications of this technology range well beyond entertainment, sharing that “if [BBC] were able to help people use their personal data in a way that [BBC] didn’t have to hold it, it could open up a whole raft of complementary services that would help people to make better decisions.”
This idea is a concept at the heart of Solid, which is to say, user data should be used in ways that provide people with the most value across a broad range of applications.
Customer Experience of “Life Moments” at NatWest
Single Source of Truth
Next, Charlotte Sadd, from NatWest, took us through how her organization can use Solid Pods to improve digital interactions associated with customers’ “life moments,” like a name change upon marriage, or registering a new business.
Charlotte demonstrated how a customer could use Solid-powered applications from different organizations to change their name or register a business. Since all the apps write data to the user’s NatWest Pod, changes only need to be made once. And they could even receive new offers based on their newly recorded “life moment” — a NatWest joint bank account offer prompted by their marriage, for example. All the while, the user’s data stayed within their Pod, meaning they never lost control over who could access it. A great example of Solid’s unique ability to improve both trust and quality of service.
I took away the following four major themes.
- The desire for a complete 360-degree view of a user
- The desire for a single source of truth for a user
- The desire to preserve data privacy and consent for users
- The desire for cross-functional and interoperable insights from user data
These are themes that are prominent across all the major verticals and industries. They’re not just difficult problems but they are common, mission critical, and deliver value to both users and organizations when addressed properly.
So I was thrilled to hear two organizations in completely different verticals attest to the fact that Solid helps them address these challenges in a way that delivers new value to their users while ethically managing their data.
Building a future web that is no longer hindered by a tradeoff between privacy and functionality is going to take hard work, imagination and innovation — and companies like the BBC and NatWest are leading the charge.
This is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see what additional value is realized as the Solid Ecosystem continues to grow and more organizations and applications embrace the next era of the web.