By now you are without a doubt convinced that Solid is something very cool and potentially groundbreaking. However, you might still be wondering about what organisations can do with Solid in very concrete terms.
In the last few years, we have discovered a plethora of use cases for which Solid can be used. Most of them, but certainly not all, can be generally categorised within two types.
The first type of use cases has to do with the ability of Solid to make data stores and views for these data stores interoperable.
Indeed, Solid is an open standard, or in other words a collection of rules or a protocol that several parties have agreed upon. The most essential rule of the Solid protocol states that there are pods and apps and the rest of the Solid rules state how these pods and apps should interact with each other. This means that multiple Solid pods, which are in fact data stores, can effortlessly interact with multiple Solid apps.
Let me give you a few examples of cases in which this can be useful.
First of all, there is the case of large company groups and their subsidiaries. In many cases, these subsidiaries all store data about their customers but fail to interconnect this data in a proper way. Just think about several big retail groups that have both subsidiaries containing mostly brick and mortar stores and subsidiaries that almost solely focus on e-commerce. An example of such a group is Walmart. On the one hand, you have the Walmart brick and mortar stores and on the other hand, you have Flipkart, a subsidiary of Walmart that is mainly focused on e-commerce. When all subsidiaries within such a company group would adhere to the Solid standard, it is much easier to interconnect customer data and hence create a competitive advantage.
Second, there is the case of strategic partners that wish to collaborate. There are several good examples of this category of use cases.
One example is a group of local media broadcasters that want to provide an answer to big media streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+. When these local broadcasters all adhere to the Solid standard, they can easily create a decentralised social network that can be accessed by multiple views. This way, you as a user can create a social network and make recommendations across platform borders just like you would be able to add Disney+ friends on your Netflix and recommend Netflix movies to Apple TV users.
Another interesting example is that of sector organisations that wish to provide a secure and open back-end for their member companies. For example, a sector organisation of HR service providers might use Solid to create a back-end for personal data about applicants so that these applicants can reuse their personal data at each of the individual HR service providers.
Third, there is also this special case of the SDGR or the Single Digital Gateway Regulation. This European regulation states that European citizens should never provide the same information more than once to any European authority. This means that, for example, if you move from the Netherlands to Belgium, you shouldn’t have to tell both of those countries that you have moved house. Solid can be used to build a platform that satisfies such a stringent requirement. That is, each distinct government agency can offer their citizens a Solid pod and make sure that their local ‘MyCitizen’ profile is, in fact, a Solid app. This way, a person who moves from the Netherlands to Flanders, can connect his or her Solid pod at the Dutch government to his or her Flemish citizen profile.
The second type of use cases has to do with the ability of Solid to enable people to reuse their data from one party at another.
In most of these cases, we see the same pattern over and over again:
On the one hand, we see that several governments, public interest organisations and financial service providers want to make sure their citizens or customers can reuse their data at other parties.
Governments mainly do this because they want to give their voters a better citizen experience and create a better economical situation by making sure that companies that require personal data can manage this data in a better and easier way.
Financial service providers also want to give their customers a better experience, for example, making it easier for entrepreneurs to reuse their bank transactions in their accounting application, but also to make sure that they are compliant with regulations such as PSD2.
On the other hand, we see that financial service providers are the ones who are most interested in letting citizens reuse their data from other parties. They mostly do this to facilitate onboarding or to offer proactive advice. For example, just imagine you can reuse your income data to apply for a home loan. This way, you don’t have to collect every payslip from the last few months and your bank does not have to worry about the correctness of this data.
Even though you now have a better understanding of what Solid has to offer in very concrete terms, you should not forget that the power of Solid lies in the fact that it is an open standard. This means that many of the use cases I just mentioned are actually also possible to execute without relying on the Solid standard. It is only when a company implements more than one of such use cases using Solid that its power will become apparent. Indeed, organisations should evaluate Solid based on its long term benefits and its ability to reduce the total cost of ownership of an information system.