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6th Open Data Ireland Meetup

Posted by Dominic Byrne on Tue, 28 May 2013 11:06:53 BST

The 6th Open Data Ireland Meetup took place on Thursday 18th April 2013 in EngineYard, Barrow Street, Dublin. The theme of this meetup was Commercial Exploitation of Open Data, and was attended by around 30 people.

Mick Byrne @themicker1971 was our compere for the evening and kicked off the meetup by introducing Jason Hibbets @jhibbets from Red Hat.  Jason spoke about the challenge of going surfing when based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The ocean is a two hour drive away for Jason, and it’s important that he have the right information about the weather before setting out.  Surfline http://www.surfline.com provide an information service about wave, weather conditions, etc. for surfers including open weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) http://www.noaa.gov  Unfortunately, due to communications problems, Jason’s talk was cut short.

Next up was Pól Mac Aonghusa from IBM.  Pól’s presentation was entitled  Open Data – reflections from behind the Big Firewall.  Pól spoke about a potential problem facing Open Data.  Many initiatives around the world have launched with fanfare, but what happens if value is not derived from the data?  Is there a risk of Open Data initiatives faltering and how can we ensure that Open Data publishing is sustainable.  He argued that engagement with different stakeholders and innovation networks have a key role to play in deriving this value.

Pól spoke about the privacy challenges relating to Open Data.  He said that this was not just about removing personal information from datasets, but also about how connecting together multiple datasets can allow new inferences to be made that may present privacy challenges.  In addition, it may also pose challenges for companies if commercially sensitive information can be derived.

Pól described a research project underway with data from Dublinked analysing occurrences of traffic congestion in Dublin City and identifying the cause of the congestion from other data sources.  He also spoke about companies maximising the possibility of commercial success – through stickiness, incentivising the producer of material and monetising.

A question and answer session followed including discussion on –
• the idea of automatically providing people with relevant data based on behaviour
• other dimensions to data including space, time and social relationships
• monetising through identifying a service that people want, incentivising the data producer to keep producing and a relevant business model
• anonymising data and managing risks to privacy
• whether much effort should be put into data quality by data producers or is it better to get the data out and let the community decide
• Pól gave an example of Fats, Oils and Greases Licences as a definitive source for hospital locations because of the legal requirement to register
• Finding new data sources such as the 100+ years of social housing data that could be used for interesting analysis

Beer and Pizza followed provided by EngineYard, with an opportunity for lots of networking.

After the break, Ben Hurley, of NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) @ndrc_i2i presented on  Commercial Exploitation of Open Data from NDRC’s perspective.  Ben spoke about the role that NDRC plays in bridging the gap from ideas to investment with their €25m investment fund.  NDRC deal with the commercialisation of any technology ideas - not just Open Data.  They provide mentoring, validation, design, engineering, venture teams and deep networks.  Success is largely measured by follow on investment.  Ben spoke about the steps in building a startup – (i) Idea (ii) size of opportunity (iii) business model (iv) customer discovery (v) customer validation – with the last three steps iterated.  He also spoke about the stages of a startup –

  • Product/Solution Fit – Do I have a problem worth solving?
  • Product/Launch Fit – Have I built something that people want?
  • Product/Market Fit – How do I accelerate growth?

NDRC have been involved with Open Data since the 18 Hour Open Data Challenge held in 2011 which was organised in partnership with Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Microsoft and the Irish Internet Association.  A number of startups have participated in NDRC programmes including – Hit The Road, City Hook, Parkya, Civiq & Building Eye

The subsequent question and answer session covered –
• Sustainability of Open Data – new initiatives possible but likely to be slow
• The fact that Open Data raw material is available to all throws up competition possibilities which requires that companies must constantly look to reinvent
• Payback for companies using Open Data is often provided by added value services with Open Data being just one part of an offering
• Another model is Open Data providers consuming repurposed data or offering services to the data provider
• The idea of state venture capital was discussed, but does this make organisations too comfortable – what makes the business hungry?
• Business to business examples include ParkYa who are focusing on parking operators rather than the consumer
• The risk of the Open Data source being turned off was discussed – this emphasizes the need to build relationships and partnerships such as mypp.ie and Local Government
• Should there be a legislative requirement to produce Open Data  - perhaps, but companies should still adopt a win-win approach and cultivate partnerships

A general discussion followed on the theme of the night broadening out into the wider subject of Open Data.  This included –

• The need to focus on win-win engagements by the Open Data Ireland community with the business sector at large
• For any discussion to lead to a genuine business opportunity, quantification of the return-on-investment must come early on
• The value of hackathons was discussed:
o Keep them, but should they remain a general get-together (there are good arguments for this, like encouraging wider innovation) or based around a pre-agree theme (e.g. a specific health problem to be solved)?
o Should they focus on community development, or generating potential commercial solutions?
o The diversity of attendees will ultimately decree success: senior management from impacted sectors (e.g. hospital management); consumers of services (e.g. patients); service providers (e.g. health professionals); entrepreneurs; developers
• The need to keep shouting for the release of Open Data and that it is true Open Data and not PDFs or via an Application layer
• Should we use the Open Data Ireland meetups as opportunities to progress ideas with specific potential – e.g. outputs from hackathons – and/or continue with a theme based approach?  Need for a number of themes to maintain interest of developers

Mick then gave a roundup of the evening and his own thoughts on Commercial Exploitation of Open Data.

The meetup wrapped up with details of Open Data Ireland Meetup #7 which will take place on Thursday 23rd May 2013 at 6:30pm in Engine Yard.  Booking at https://tito.io/open-data-ireland/

Thanks to everyone who attended, to Mick Byrne for facilitating the discussion and to Eamon Leonard @eamonleonard for hosting.

#opendatairl  tweets from the meetup have been storified at http://storify.com/Fingal/6th-open-data-ireland-meetup

Dominic Byrne @dominic__byrne
Fingal County Council.
20th April, 2013

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