Dublinked (Dublin’s Regional Data Innovation Network) is an initiative of the four Dublin Local Authorities and Maynooth University, to explore how open data, big data and crowd sourced data can help our cities work better and promote economic innovation in the Dublin .They celebrated 3 years of working to open up public data in the Dublin Region by hosting the inaugural ‘Data Opens Doors’ Summit which took place yesterday.

The sumimt echoed Dublinked’s Mission Statement which states ”Our Mission is to encourage the next generation of jobs and companies in the area of urban solutions, by enabling data-driven innovation and promoting Dublin as a world-leader in developing and trialling new urban solutions.” The theme also explored, when public data is ‘open’ it can be used for the development of new products and services that can make cities more efficient and improve quality of life for citizens.

Pauline Riordan, the Dublinked manager (pictured below) who organised the summit, put together a wide and varied program with great guest speakers and topics.
The two keynote speakers Julian Tait and Ciaran Gilesnan were very interesting and spoke from different sides of the coin. Julian has been leading the Open Data Cities programme for FutureEverything which seeks to bring about a change in the way that public bodies within Greater Manchester share data with themselves and citizens. This also laid the ground work for the Greater Manchester Datastore DataGM and created the Open Data Manchester community. Ciaran is the founder and CEO of Buildingeye.com that launched in 2011. Buildingeye is capable of geolocating planning applications in cities using local authority data so that citizens can see what is being planned in their local area. More recently Buildingeye went live in the city and County of San Francisco in the United States.

Julian’s keynote looked at how the Open Data Manchester community which was initially a community of developers and activists has broadened into one containing both local and national public officials and how the forum has evolved into one where local public bodies seek advice so that data can be released. He showed what could be done if we do the same in Ireland.

Ciaran’s keynote was very interesting as you got to hear how Buildingeye was founded and some of the problems that they encountered. He mentioned asking Cork County Council if he could use their open data and they said let’s see how you get on with other county councils. When he came back to them later after having got agreement from other county councils, he was given a firm no. He also recounted how certain county councils were restricting how their open data could be used, which was in stark contrast to the reception he got in America where the authorities he dealt with there were very accommodating.

One of the highlights for me was the Startup Stories, where eight of Ireland’s innovators and entrepreneurs showcased their products, services and apps which use open data. The eight innovators and entrepreneurs were wide and varied offering products and services that harness the potential of open data. What surprised me was the fact that the products, services and apps showcased needed open data to function, and there is a good chance that you will have heard of some of them and possibly even used some of them too. The eight products, services and apps are listed below.

Localmint helps around 1.5 million consumers each month find local store details like opening hours and locations across Ireland, the UK, Australia and the USA.

Evercam is a hosted Video Management System, which makes it easier to share access to cameras, and promote discussion of where cameras fit into our lives. Evercam is open-source, with customers including Dublin City Council and SAP.

LoyLap, is an application designed to strengthen the business and customer relationship in bricks and mortar businesses.

Energy Elephant, allows you to make your business more energy efficient by providing virtual energy assessments.

Bus Nearby and Powercheck are two apps developed by Neil Turner. Bus Nearby provides real time information for Dublin bus and Powercheck, developed for ESB Networks which provides real time information to customers.

Brandfire are a customer loyalty, sales promotion and reward agency based in Dublin who create innovative loyalty programmes that help brands to build lasting relationships with their customers.

FoodCloud connects businesses that have too much food with charities that have too little. They have developed a platform that makes it easy for charities to get notifications of donations of food that are available in their communities. Using the FoodCloud App and website, businesses upload details of their surplus food and specify a time for collection.

Publicpolicy.ie whose goal is to promote better economic, social and environmental policies and this is done by carrying out independent research and communicating the results to make it as easy as possible for interested citizens to understand the choices involved in addressing public policy issues and their implications.
Two other speakers impressed me and they were Pamela Duncan who is a Data Journalist for the Irish Times and Catriona Crowe who is head of special projects at the National Archives of Ireland.

Pamela is normally found in the Irish Times examining spreadsheets, mapping data or building interactive data visuals and she is also one of the main contributors to the Irish Times Data, a blog dedicated to the analysis of some of the many datasets available to the newsroom. Pamela regaled us with the story of how she examined lots of data and documents to write a story of who was funding Sinn Fein in America. The Danish American actor Viggo Mortensen was one of the people she found had given money to Sinn Fein.

Catriona Crowe is the manager of the Irish Census Online Project, which has placed the 1901 and 1911 censuses online free of charge over the last 5 years. She explained what challenges were faced when getting the censuses online and also showed us how you use them. It was interesting to see what our ancestors did and there was even one family who registered their family pet dog. Hopefully they will continue their sterling work and get more censuses online soon.

The Open Data Summit showed how open data can be used for good whilst also being virtually anonymous and secure. Virtual anonymous data is data which is not directly linked to anyone person and good example of this is Dublin Bikes usage, where you can easily find out the percentage of users according to their age and sex but you will never know the full details of each individual user. Open data will be used a lot more as security and anonymity fears are allayed whilst also making our lives a lot easier. The Bus Nearby app and the ESB Powercheck app are great examples of how open data can be used to make our day to day lives a lot easier.

I look forward to seeing what changes open data will bring into our day to day lives and how the IoT can harness it. At next year’s summit we shall see how more charities, county councils and businesses around Ireland see the potential of open data and start using it. Charities like the Simon Community can use open data to find out if there is beds freely available at homeless charities and by also using the Foodcloud app and website they can make sure that there is food to feed them.

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