BRU Airport’s Cloud Platform is Taking Shape - PART 1

At this very moment, cloud-based collaboration is already taking place at Brussels Airport. Eventually, the entire community will jump onto the wagon, says Jean Verheyen, founder & CEO of technology provider Nallian. This is for the benefit of all participants, particularly truckers who will get fixed slots for loading or unloading their vehicles at BRU.

Jean Verleyen, CEO of Nallian  -  picture ms
Jean Verleyen, CEO of Nallian - picture ms

Jean is former SVP of Porthus, which was sold to Descartes in 2010. Based on his experience he designed a set of principles on how to better data-based collaboration. Inspired by what prospective users told him, he integrated innovative technology from the cloud and social media world, merged it with good old solid B2B technology, and created Nallian’s data sharing platform, a platform truly designed for collaboration within communities of independent companies.

“Companies have so much valuable data sitting in their systems that can help their business partners do a better job. At the same time those systems are not always geared up for absorbing their business partners’ data, hence the need for a platform that sits in between.” In the meantime he is followed by some of his former colleagues, and the rest is history.

Sharing data approach
He acknowledges that companies have often been reluctant to share information, for reasons of complexity, or lack of transparency on what happens with the data. “What we have created is a platform with the ease of use of LinkedIn, where it is extremely easy to link business partners, and where master and transactional data is shared under full control of the data provider,” says Jean. “As a participant, you can choose which data you are willing to share with whom and for what purpose, and you can check who has used what. We see that with such levels of transparency companies are much more open to sharing data.”
One single truth, open for all, always fresh.

Slot booking tool for trucks
One big advantage of such “shared data” approach is that information can be reused indefinitely, which means that companies need to share each data element only once. And because it is the responsibility of the source to manage and update his own data, other community members know they can rely on that single version of the truth at all times. Also, the “shared data” is intentionally kept independent of specific applications, so it is open to be reused by extra applications.
“One of the next applications we provide to the BRUcloud community is a slot booking system for trucks, followed by integration of all the administrative processes.” All these applications can reuse the same data no matter who the provider of the application is. This means that the hurdles for new applications are significantly reduced, enabling Brussels Airport to create an ecosystem of application providers, increasing the value of the cloud even more.

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Bundling data in a shared system
“In the past IT was merely a matter of integrating systems,” says Jean. “But then data was duplicated and scattered over multiple company or application specific systems. The ultimate aim is to bundle each piece of data in a shared system so that applications can take smart decisions based on the always fresh collective data of all participants. I often compare this with a navigation system. The built-in system is based on road data that is as old as the car itself. The collaborative system Waze on the other hand can be smart because it bases its decisions on the real time data as provided by all other users. And that’s exactly what we want to achieve with the Nallian platform.”
“Users tell us that systems such as Cargonaut and Dakosy are a thing of the past. These are monolithic blocks in which all functionality comes from one single provider. Today there is a tendency to choose best-of-breed providers for each individual part. Existing architectures don’t easily accommodate such mix and match, which means that you’re highly dependent on the goodwill and the capabilities of your existing providers. And we all know that no-one can be the best in every single aspect. So with Brussels Airport we are rolling out the Next Generation BCS (BRUcargo Community System).

Marcel Schoeters in Brussels

Part 2 to follow in our next issue.

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