The problem with directly integrating one system with another is that it isn't scalable. Well, connecting one to another is simple, but the number of point to point connections grows faster than the number of systems connected.
So decades ago, organisations looking to connect their in-house systems turned to approaches such as the enterprise service bus, so each system could be connected to a common intermediary.
Telstra Data Hub can play a similar role for connectivity outside the organisation.
For example, a retail chain may use multiple logistics company, and each logistics company may serve multiple retailers. But Telstra Data Hub can be used in such a way to prevent the various retailers and logistics providers from seeing their competitors' data.
Participants' data can be augmented with data from third parties, said Telstra Data Hub product owner Julian Butler, and the open ecosystem will provide access to analytics and other tools.
Telstra Data Hub runs on Azure Cloud, and was co-developed with Microsoft.
"We are combining the unique elements of Telstra’s largest, fastest and most reliable mobile network and growing 5G coverage with Microsoft Azure, our Intelligent Edge capabilities and our global expertise in leveraging technology to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more," said Microsoft Australia chief partner officer Rachel Bondi.
The initial focus is on supply chain, water management, and agribusiness.
Supply chain "is a great example," according to Butler, because there are so many links and there is so much value to be derived from knowing where an item is, what condition it is in, and where it came from.
iMove CRC managing director Ian Christensen said there are some 350 different freight data sets in Australia, but they are all siloed and not connectable. This means there is "knowledge, but no good way to bring it together," he said.
Furthermore, "most supply chains aren't 100% digitised," warned Linfox CIO Conrad Harvey.
Grant Thornton Consulting partner Ian McCall warned that compliance concerns could put a brake on data collaboration, as revealing certain operational data could be deemed to be in breach of ASX rules.
And while everyone is trying to squeeze value out of their data, there is a possibility that the dominant player in a supply chain may try to appropriate all the value arising from such sharing.
Telstra Data Hub is also being applied to water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, and to water use in the Murray Darling Basin.
Other areas under consideration include intelligent transport, smart cities, and smart spaces, said Butler.
According to Telstra group executive for product and technology Christian Von Reventlow, Telstra Data Hub could yield "more than $100 billion in incremental value to customers and the economy through digitisation and data driven collaboration," and in addition there is "a huge opportunity" to scale globally.
McCall was more pessimistic: "the world is going to dictate what Australia is going to do."
Telstra Data Cloud already has a small number of paying customers - "at least five" - even though it is not yet generally available, said Von Reventlow.
"People understand why this makes sense."