Whether it’s online shopping, interacting on social networks, or booking a trip, digital platforms are part of our everyday lives and are a successful model for the global digitization of the economy in terms of growth and market position. The well-known big players are mostly from the USA and China rather than from Germany or Europe.
However, a trend has also been observed in the German economy in recent years: In the industrial environment, more and more companies are taking advantage of digital business-to-business (B2B) platforms and offering their customers platform-based value-added services.
The Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e.V. (BDI – Federal Association of the German Industry) which speaks for 40 industry associations, such as the VDMA, and represents more than 100,000 companies, has been intensively involved with these platforms for several years. In 2020, for example, the third edition of the BDI overview “German Digital B2B Platforms“ was published. In this overview, 78 selected digital B2B platforms of German companies are presented.
However, the BDI has gone one step further. Using ten German digital B2B platforms as examples, the ifo Zentrum für Industrieökonomik und neue Technologien (ifo Center for Industrial Organization and New Technologies) was commissioned by the BDI to analyze the central mechanisms of B2B platforms, including network and economies of scale, competition on and between platforms, the openness of these offerings, and the role of data.
The study analyzed three types of digital B2B platforms:
One of the participating companies was us, ondeso GmbH. In addition to offerings from Cumulocity, MPDV Mikrolab with MIP, Siemens with MindSphere and SAP with Asset Intelligent Network, ondeso represented the IIoT platform segment.
In the study, ondeso was characterized as a non-affiliated „Platform for IT security and maintenance of industrial software“. The study notes: „The ondeso platform thus serves two sides of the market: Plant operators ask for the security and stability of the software of their machinery. On the other hand, equipment suppliers have an interest in efficient processes, tailored to the needs of individual customers, for maintaining the software of their machines, as this has a positive contribution on the effectiveness of the products and is beneficial for customers. In addition, the need for the physical presence and the associated travel of service staff on site is reduced. ondeso uses interfaces to market participants on both sides to bring the information (on updates and releases) and files of the machine manufacturers into line with the structures and processes of the plant operators.
Finally, the study states: “As an independent provider, ondeso is able to work with different equipment suppliers and manufacturers to offer operators a comprehensive service from a single source. This reduces the friction caused by heterogeneous machine parks.”
In the executive summary, the study summarizes its results as follows: “In the context of platform competition, the role of data is currently the focus of interest from both a business and regulatory perspective. Using empirical examples from the ten case studies, the study illustrated that data-centric B2B platforms primarily provide a neutral infrastructure to which companies entrust their data securely against unwanted access. The examined business models explicitly do not provide for unintended use or monetisation of user data by the platform operators. It has also not been observed that the data stored on the platform leads to a lock-in of users of B2B platforms.”
The study results, including corresponding recommendations for action, were also presented in webinars to the political sector, for example as part of the “political Berlin” or “digital Brussels”.
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