Open Data Inspiration

ODI-logo-xlgNext week I am lucky enough to be spending a couple of days training with the Open Data Institute team (assuming the ‘never-ending storm’ doesn’t intervene). We are doing an in-house, slightly custom version of the ‘Open Data in Practice‘ course that the ODI offer and I’m looking forward spending a couple of days concentrating on a topic that I was pretty non-plussed about until reasonably recently.

There is no doubt that working somewhere where ‘data’ is at the very core of what you do makes you look at things differently. My interest in data journalism/storytelling (including, yes, infographics and data visualisations) is increasing all the time and I now feel I was lucky to have received all that exposure to the ‘open data’ world back when I was moaning about it.

[..as an aside I am still entirely undecided about the ‘linked data’ stuff. I am warming to it but it is still the element of all of this I find hardest to get my head around.]

One of the things I am most looking forward to is someone from Placr, one of the startups based at the ODI, coming in to talk to us about building a business on top of open data. I am starting to see more startups using open data as a core element to their business but for the time being it seems a long way from the ‘data is the new oil’ hype of a little while ago. The businesses that are using it though seem really interesting and frequently have that mix of entrepreneurial and civic spirit that I’ve always found appealing.

Placr are the team behind http://transportapi.com/ and given how much of my life I spend on public transport it is one of the applications for open data I am most interested in.

Last week I was reading this BBC piece about the concept of ‘extreme commuting‘ and was thinking that wouldn’t it be great if you could get one app that fed you data for each step of your commute. This could be a mix of trains, Tube, buses and all from different suppliers but something that was intelligent enough to know that my train was late so that would mean missing my bus and then suggest the next best option.

Currently my commute each way includes two 15 minute walks, one train company and potentially up to three bus companies (depending on which bus shows up first.)

It might be entirely unrealistic (or might be out there already – couldn’t find it though!) but if something like http://transportapi.com/ had the data then maybe someone clever could stitch it all together. That is something I would pay for!

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