IAM Global Moving & Mobility Standards Summit Advances Data Discussion

October 22, 2019

by Ray daSilva, President of Mobility Exchange

An inflection point can be defined as a decisive moment that marks a significant change.

On October 3, 2019, the International Association of Movers hosted an invitation-only event billed as the Global Moving & Mobility Standards Summit. Roughly 75 attendees represented key moving and mobility service stakeholders including corporate and government customers, relocation management and moving services companies, technology and services suppliers to the industry, and industry associations.


Brian Limperopulos, IAM Vice President, led the panel discussion. Patrick Duffy, President of the Bitcoin in Transport Alliance (BiTA), which represents over 500 member companies including the foremost names in trucking, transport and technology, provided a perspective of the near-term and long-term potentials for driving efficiency by leveraging blockchain and related technology. Sloane Brakeville, CEO of Fr8 Network, added insight into the efforts to build out a blockchain-enabled protocol that would facilitate logistics applications with the capacity to potentially reduce the friction caused by the inability of disparate systems to communicate and exchange data. Ray daSilva, President of Mobility Exchange, provided his views on a more immediate opportunity to leverage the IAM-led ISO data standards for Household Goods Descriptive inventories.


The panel discussion confirmed that the application of blockchain technology to the moving and mobility services industry may be at a very early stage. Indeed, while the initial excitement of blockchain and smart contract technology may have cooled, our industry has access to current technology which can bring immediate returns in the form of mitigating the friction and inefficiency caused by the lack of interoperability between industry software systems.


While the customers attending the summit were very supportive of this industry effort to bring together a coalition of key industry stakeholders to drive standardization and facilitate transparency through more seamless data interchange, serious concerns about confidentiality, security and privacy were expressed. Charles Olden of the U.S. State Department stated that any system design that would present potential vulnerability by storing aggregated relocation transaction data of transferees in a central data warehouse or hub would be a serious issue.


The good news is that current technology may be able to support a design where data requests are routed through a central hub, which does not store the data at all. Using role-based security, data requests would be authenticated and routed to the data owner. The business rules for such data access would be embedded into the data hub, which would act more like a phone switching system—connecting only the authenticated parties in order to facilitate communication without storing the phone call itself.


The creation and implementation of data standards are important foundational steps, and there was strong support for organizing an industry working group to tackle this critical element of the equation. Another important requirement is the universal directory or resource locator system, which standardizes the identification and codifies the information related to different service providers who may be selected into roles in a transaction. Using the phone system analogy again, this directory is much like the phone book, providing standardized phone numbers so that only the appropriate parties are connected on a call. Here again, IAM has led the industry in creating the IAM Mobility Exchange (IAMX), which is well on its way to delivering on its mission to provide this universal resource locator system.


Attendees from some of the leading industry software providers affirmed that standards by themselves are only part of the required solution. While standards permit disparate software systems to integrate and connect, peer-to-peer custom integrations are costly to implement and maintain. A standardized data hub operated by a trusted party would only require a single integration to facilitating data interchange with any other system which is connected to that hub.


One key concern expressed was how each industry participant can develop and protect competitive advantage if everyone has access to the same standards. It was concluded that having a trusted industry association like IAM as owner of the data hub levels the playing field while still allowing each participant to seek competitive advantage in how they implement and use the industry standards.


The panel reinforced this logic by referring to the example of software like Excel. Excel has become ubiquitous in its availability and almost a default standard for powerful spreadsheet software. Yet, most users only unlock 5 to 10% of the power of Excel, leaving ample room for those that wish to seek competitive advantage by using Excel in creative and useful ways.


While some providers still believe that peer-to-peer integrations could serve as the best path forward, there was a consensus that the conversation at this summit has advanced the industry to a place where it can better answer this question effectively in the future.


Chuck White, President of IAM, summarized the two-hour long summit by acknowledging the further consensus that the industry and its customers were ready to move forward. He accepted the challenge on behalf of IAM to take the standards initiative to the next logical stage to invite all industry stakeholders—and especially the industry associations—to join this important initiative so urgently needed in today’s competitive and challenging business environment.


If you are interested in this discussion—and you should be—reach out to IAM to get involved by contacting IAM Vice President Brian Limperopulos at brianl@iamovers.org. Once an inflection point is reached, positive change can sometimes accelerate at a remarkable pace.