It is still early days around the use of Open Data in Vancouver but already a number of interesting things are afoot.
Everybody here knows about Vantrash – which has just garnered its 1500th user. Our goal was to get to 2500 users (as this would represent 1% of the city’s households) and would really be more like 3% market penetration given that many households have private garbage contractors. This without any advertising or marketing.
But Vantrash is no longer the only example of open data hard at work. Three other stories have emerged – each equally interesting:
Big Players Start to Experiment – Microsoft:
Microsoft recently held an internal apps competition – I served as a judge – and many of the winners I blogged about back in February have been released and updated for public use (and the code, so that others can fork or improve the applications). Indeed, on Thursday at Goldfish in Yaletown, Microsoft held a demo event so people could see what they’ve been up to. (There’s a full article here.)
My favourite was VanPark2010 – an application for finding parking spaces, and parking meter costs/hr around the city. One of the things I loved about this app is how it prompted other actors – like the various parking companies to share some of their data as well.
Also of interest is VanGuide (also available on the iPhone, yes, a Microsoft app coded for the iPhone…) – a platform any number of companies could use to create mashups of whatever they wanted around a map of Vancouver. Personally, I like the geo-tagged tweet indicator – let’s you see what people who geo-tag their tweets within Vancouver are talking about.
The linked news article above also talks about FreeFinders (another app that some local newspapers or arts groups should consider looking at) that can allow you to see what free events are taking place around the city; MoBuddy (for planning trips and then caching your trip plans so you don’t have to use data roaming when traveling) and Mapway.
The lesson: A large company like Microsoft can see open data as a catalyst for new applications and services, and for getting developers excited about Microsofts tools. They are willing to experiment and see open data as part of the future of a software/service ecosystem.
Open Data Drives Research and Development:
Over at the Centre for Digital Media at the Great Northern Way campus, a group of students has being experimenting with the city’s open data catalog and Bing Maps and have created a taxi simulator that allows you to drive through the streets of downtown Vancouver. This is exactly the type of early R&D that cities that do open data get to capitalize on. In the future I can imagine not only video games being developed that use open data, but also driving or even traffic simulators. I’m really pumped about the great work the Taxicity team at GNW has been doing (and, full disclosure, it has been a real pleasure advising them). Check out their website here – and yes, that it me in the Ryerson sweatshirt…
Open Data Allows for Better Policy-Making and Research:
For a policy wonk like me I’m really excited about this last example.Bing Thom Architects Foundation released a report analyzing the impact of rising sea levels on the City of Vancouver. In a recent Georgia Straight article on the report, the researchers explained how:
The firm was able to conduct this research thanks to the city’s open-data catalogue, which makes information about the shoreline available on the city’s Web site. Heeney, Keenan, and Yan recently visited the Georgia Straight office to talk about their work, which examined the impact of sea level rising in one-metre increments up to seven metres.
Now city councilors are better able to assess the risks and costs around rising sea levels thanks, in part, to open data. This is the type of analysis and knowledge I hoped open data would enable – so great to see it happening so quickly. (sorry for the lack of link – I’ve been unable to find a link to the report, will post it as soon as I find it)