Cities and many other public sector organisations produce and collect countless amounts of different data all the time to support their operations and decision making. Data is collected all the time on subjects such as the amount of traffic on a city's streets, how well buses stick to schedules or what books are borrowed from the libraries.
All this data used to be kept just for the use of the city itself. However, over the past few years cities have started to make data available to all in an open format, what is termed open data.
For example, the Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) which is shared by Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen, brings together the open data produced by the cities. The service enables anyone at all to access a data source and use the contents.
At the moment, the HRI.fi service contains over 1200 different data sources. There is information about almost anything possible, such as cyclists in Helsinki at certain measurement points with an accuracy of one hour, and which books have been borrowed most in the Helsinki region over the years.
From statistics towards real-time data
Open data is interesting and offers many opportunities. For example, Helsingin Sanomat (a newspaper) has used open data as an aid to info-journalism and produced articles on changes in the population structures in different parts of the city. But how can open data be used to create commercial innovations which would enable the mass of data to be put to productive use?
The European WeLive project, in which Laurea is a member of the consortium, is trying to find solutions to this question. The three-year project began in the spring of 2015. The WeLive project is trying to harness unprocessed information i.e. open data to make new developed service innovations for public administration, organisations, companies and private individuals with various players. During the project an innovation platform for utilising open data will be created as well as tools to make joint development easier and also business models.
The Welive project is being coordinated by the Spanish organisation Tecnalia. There are a total of 12 partners taking part in the project from Finland, Spain, Italy and Serbia. Three of the partners represent the public administration, four research and the remaining five companies. As well as the main partners, Finnish involvement includes the City of Espoo, the City of Helsinki and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council. The project will implement a two-stage pilot in three different cities; Bilbao in Spain, Trento in Italy and Novi Sad in Serbia, and in the Uusimaa region.
- The challenge in developing commercial applications for open data is that the data material is usually statistics. Looking back at the past rarely gives rise to a business, comments Sami Kauppinen, project manager at Laurea.
- In order to make the data more useable, it would have to be updated in real time.
Read the whole article in the latest issue of Forerunner Magazine here.