Open Up Opportunities in Your Business With Open Data
“Knowledge is Power.”
This famous quote is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon in 1597. There’s been a number of variations on it over the years, with one of my favourites being from Dale Carnegie, who said: “Knowledge is not power until it is applied”.
I’m a firm believer in solid research – it’s vital to know your numbers and establish your facts before making business decisions, so I’m always on the lookout for better and more efficient research avenues. I recently attended a public lecture at the University of Melbourne presented by a data specialist from the City of Melbourne Open Data program. I was very pleased to learn more about a great research tool called Open Data, which has amazing potential to help drive businesses growth.
Open data description.
Open data is data that can be freely accessed, used and shared without restriction on any form of copyright or control. The idea is that governments, businesses and individuals can utilise the data to bring social, economic and environmental benefits.
Open data is not a new thing, in fact probably just about everyone who owns a smartphone will have recently used some form of technology that accesses open data, e.g. a weather app, navigation app or public transport app. Smart developers are utilising open data to create value that benefits people and in turn, produces a financial reward.
Sources of open data.
There’s an enormous range of open data sources available. The most effective way of finding what you need would be to simply search online for ‘open data’ and whatever topic or location you’re interested in. Australia has some open data sources available at each of the three levels of government – Federal, State and Local, for example:
There are also many other open data sets available from sources around the world at just a click of a button. Examples include the following, to name just a few:
- Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Australian National Data Service.
- Data61 (CSIRO).
- Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure.
- Dataverse Project.
- Open Street Map.
- EU Open Data Portal.
- ArcGIS Open Data.
Types of open data.
There are many types of open data available – the following short list provides just a few examples:
- Motor vehicle traffic counts.
- Property planning information.
- Weather data.
- Pedestrian counts.
- Geographic Information System (GIS) data.
- Renewable energy installations.
- Tree counts and species.
Once you’ve developed your understanding about open data, the next step is to think about how you could use this data to help in your business. There are lots of different possibilities, depending on the nature of your business, your focus and your imagination. You might simply use the data to help you internally within your business, or you might make data available to your customers on your website, or you might even develop your own app.
Some examples of potential applications for open data include:
- A shop owner using foot traffic data from the City of Melbourne pedestrian counters to identify the best location for their next outlet.
- A tourist company providing its customers with a datalink to show the real-time availability of public bikes available for rent.
- A business owner using real-time street parking availability data to show their customers the location of the nearest vacant car parking spaces.
- A convenience store developer combining data on motor vehicle traffic counts with proximity of other competing businesses to identify optimum sites for new petrol stations.
- A pharmacist showing reported influenza cases in the neighbourhood around their store in an effort to boost vaccination sales.
- An arborist combining data on tree species and overhead power lines to identify high-risk areas in likely need of tree lopping services.
- A real estate agent accessing data on upcoming development sites to identify future growth opportunities.
- A commercial solar panel servicing company identifying areas with high concentrations of solar installations.
Expand your research and expand your thinking.
Open data represents an amazing opportunity for you to grow your business. Expand your research to access the amazing information that is freely available to you, and it will help to expand your thinking. One step leads to another, which leads to another and so on – each piece of the puzzle can create a new link in your value chain. This powerful data could help to drive efficiency and maximise effectiveness in your business and potentially even create whole new incomes that you hadn’t considered possible before.
Open data really can open up new opportunities for your business!
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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