Innovators called on to capitalise on 100 public datasets

4 Nov 2011

Across Europe, the open data revolution could unlock a treasure trove of data worth up to €27bn. Dublinked has called on innovators to unlock the value of more than 100 environmental, traffic and planning datasets.

In Europe, the US and the UK, jobs and businesses are being generated by savvy innovators and entrepreneurs who have developed open data products that serve the public, whether they are travel apps or games or better ways of analysing environmental impact.

Through a unique initiative launched today between Dublin’s local authorities and NUI Maynooth, businesses, technologists, app developers, researchers and entrepreneurs are now invited to join “Dublinked” – a membership network to mine, exploit and utilise public data to generate new revenue streams and address regional challenges.   

Dublinked, the new regional data-sharing initiative, sees previously unreleased public operational data being made available online for others to research or reuse. With the initial data coming from Dublin City Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, South Dublin and Fingal County Councils, it is expected that other public and private organisations in Dublin will link up with Dublinked to share their data and invite research collaborations.

The information is curated by NUI Maynooth to ensure ideas can be commercialised as easily as possible and to minimise legal or technical barriers that can be impediments for small and medium businesses (SMEs) seeking to develop and prove business ideas.

The Dublinked event is part of Innovation Dublin 2011, which takes place across Dublin from 17 October to 18 November.

Open datasets

The initial release of data consists of more than 100 environmental, traffic and planning datasets including:

  • Planning application data from across the region
  • Water flow, rainfall and energy monitoring
  • Air, water pollution and noise maps for the Dublin region
  • A wide array of usable mapping from development plans, river catchment and drainage
  • Parking, residential and disabled parking, as well as detailed traffic volumes

“Dublin, like all cities, is complex to plan, manage and service,” said John Tierney, Dublin City manager on behalf of the Dublin local authorities.

“Dublinked gives others the chance to see the complex planning and operational data that contributes to resource planning and operational decisions that council staff make every day,” Tierney said.

Dublinked is unique in providing both open data and an additional membership zone. Members can access additional datasets in the research zone and participate in regular member events. Fees vary and are based on company size. The first event on regional water data will take place on 24 November.

Speaking at a recent seminar to more than 120 Dublin businesses today, Dublinked co-ordinator, Dr Ronan Farrell of NUI Maynooth, said businesses and entrepreneurs would use this data to develop innovative and interesting business ideas which would drive job growth while also enhancing city living.

“We have seen fantastic examples in other cities of new user interfaces for public transport information, the property market or healthcare data. One of the unique benefits of open data is that applications developed here can easily be adapted for other cities around the world and we look forward to working with our Dublinked partners to develop new businesses from Dublin,” he said.

Smarter cities, empowered citizens

To enable the start-up phase of this project, IBM Research has offered a technology platform using open-data collaboration technologies and research tools.

“IBM Research is delighted to be providing our open innovation platform to Dublinked and to be part of making city data available to the wider research community, not only to drive innovation, but to drive collaborative and rigorous research,” said Dr Lisa Amini, director, IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre.

Andrew Montague, Dublin Lord Mayor, said, “As a website designer I know the power of unlocking data, eg, the real-time public transport passenger information that’s available on phones, or for finding the nearest dublinbike.

“Dublinked is the first regional data-sharing initiative which we are proud to unveil during the Dublin innovation festival. We look forward to seeing regional information being merged, reused and re-imagined in unexpected ways.”

Adam Greenfield of Urbanscale, the New York-based author on networked cities and ubiquitous computing, spoke on how cities, citizens and businesses can benefit from access to city data.

“Just as the novice programmer is invited to learn from, understand, and improve upon — to ‘hack’ — open-source software, the city itself should invite its users to demystify and re-engineer the places in which they live and the processes which generate meaning, at the most intimate and immediate level.

“We are quite comfortable in asserting that open resources will give rise to the most vibrant ecosystem of third-party development, an ecosystem of entrepreneurs free to search the space of possibility and elaborate on niche opportunities previously unimaginable.”

A good example of the kind of business that can be created out of open data is UK-based PLACR. PLACR’s products include popular apps like Bus Mapper, UK Travel Option and that thousands of consumers in the UK use.

“Open data is incredibly exciting and its potential is practically endless,” Jonathan Raper, CEO of PLACR, explained.

“However, one of the issues can be that public-sector bodies often do not move at the pace that SMEs require to prove their ideas and get it to market. What is exciting about Dublinked is that the local authorities have partnered with NUI Maynooth to curate the data and remove many of these impediments. This is a key learning from around the world,” Raper said.

In advance of Dublin City of Science 2012, is hosting Science November, a month dedicated to news, reports, interviews and videos covering a range of Irish science, research and innovation.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years