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Uber, Amazon, Alibaba, Airbnb and other companies have popularised digital platforms which bring service providers in touch with hundreds of millions of clients all over the world.

These platforms are particular business models made possible by the emergence of new information technologies and establish the American or the Chinese superpowers. According to the MIT, if platform economy represents 50% of the growth of the first 30 companies worldwide, it is no surprise that 73% of these companies are American, 25% Chinese and only ... 2% European!

Nowadays, these mega-platforms focus primarily on the exchange of information, like Google and Facebook, or on the economy of sharing, like Uber and Airbnb. Since their business models are based on advertisement and service fees, quickly attracting the largest audience is vital, and emerging in big markets like the United States or China was a great advantage.
The ‘winner takes it all’ logic seems to always apply: the biggest player takes advantage of the considerable ‘economies of scale’ effect and becomes very difficult to displace. However, if such a company emerges on the European market, everything is much more complex, despite Europe's 508 million citizens, because the variety of languages and cultures is not suitable for platforms with global ambitions. But is this so certain?

The success factors of today's platforms will change. The Internet of things will encourage the creation of innovative services, only this time they will deliver an added value for every application, unparalleled by the informational or collaborative type of Internet we know today. Furthermore, the key success factor will not be a matter of the audience rewarding the first mover but the capacity to aggregate services with added value in an innovative way. The intelligent plant as proposed by Schneider Electric, originating from the Internet of industrial things, will be characterised by an interconnection of machines and systems at the production site, allowing companies to offer remote monitoring and predictive maintenance services to optimise production times.

The objective of these new digital technologies is not only to improve operational efficiency and user experience but also to use data to create new services combining ideas from different sectors. Why is scale interesting in this case? Platforms are starting to offer integrated ecosystems in the banking sectors as well. For instance, Crédit Agricole and its CA Store aggregate services for start-ups or developers in these ecosystems in order to create new account consulting services and, in the future, real estate services combining financing, remote surveillance, personal services, home automation etc.

Moreover, Renault, PSA or Jaguar Land Rover will accelerate the process of offering entertainment and assistance services, as well as services allowing interaction with the environment, which will progressively make the car more autonomous and the passenger happier!

These upcoming innovations will affect traditional sectors, such as the automotive and the banking industries, where there are a number of global leaders, but they will have to integrate an environment where Europe has the necessary experience and advantages: quality infrastructure, affordable telecommunication services, mathematical, data science, design and creativity skills. In short, Europe missed out on the first digital wave but it should take advantage of the coming tsunami.

  • Eric Falque
  • Henri Tcheng

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