Businesses Finding Profitable Uses for Open Data, Says Expert

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    Big Data Makes Organizations Smarter, but Open Data Makes Them Richer

    One of the most common predictions I read for 2014 is that Big Data will become no big deal this year. In other words, you won’t have to “sell” it to the business or convince anyone of its value, because that will become a given.

    I can see that being true for enterprises and government, and that may be enough to turn Open Data into a market of its own this year.

    According to this article on Programmable Web referencing his book, Open Data Now, author Joel Gurin contends it will happen this year.

    “It’s a very exciting time for open data,” Gurin told the website. “Entrepreneurs are finding new uses for data that has been around for years. And there are a number of companies already using open data.”

    Using open data is not so much a technology question. After all, much of this data has existed for years and new federal policies are making it more accessible for developers. In fact, Gurin says APIs will play a key role in making this data useable.

    The real question is how to put it to use for the business, and specifically, how to make money off of it.

    Gurin has been studying this question, and part of his work includes a project called OpenData500, an in-progress list of businesses that Gurin says are successfully using open data to create revenue streams.

    Several winning business models have already emerged, including paid services that rely on free U.S. government data sets. The most valuable approach so far is combining open data with proprietary data and reselling that as a service, Gurin said.

    Gurin was also able to identify the industries that are already using and advancing open data, including:

    • Health care
    • Energy
    • Precision agriculture, such as the Climate Corporation, which sells weather insurance
    • The financial sector
    • Data journalism

    I can certainly understand that last one. For several years, I was obsessed with sunshine laws and open records. I knew there was a wealth of information there, but lacked the tools and skills to use it. I guess I wasn’t the only one.

    Mind you, open data is not without its problems, but Gurin seems to think these issues are manageable.

    The Programmable Web article also looks at several specific businesses and how they are using open data. It’s definitely worth a read, if for no other reason than to help you start thinking about how your organization might use open data. If you want to check out what’s going on locally, OpenData500 maps the list’s candidates by state.

    You might also want to check out this list of open data resources. Also, CIOs at non-profits may want to consider how open data and open information can be put to use for the greater good.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.
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