Open Data Leads to Innovation
Aug/Sept 2013
Peggy Smedley, Editorial Director

Data. Data. Data. Or more importantly, should we all be reciting two simple words instead of one? And should those two words be: Open Data. Open Data. Open Data? President Barack Obama is emphasizing Open Data with so much fervor these days it just might spark new life into the meaning of M2M. While much of the vendor and analyst community references Big Data, the president is putting much more significance on Open Data and what it can mean to the future of our economy, jobs, and even national security.

Candidly, it’s kind of ironic since we have been talking about Open Data, Big Data, M2M, or whatever you want to call it, for quite some time. The concept of gathering and analyzing information, for instance, to run manufacturing systems has been around for years. But it’s only now others are starting to catch on to the real benefits of comparing historical data with prescribed data through the use of the Internet. The good news is now more and more of the general public is starting to truly comprehend the idea that once access is given to all this government-held data really amazing things will happen, very quickly. More specifically, Open Data can ignite innovation and prove to be the valuable resource necessary to galvanize entrepreneurs and others to think beyond traditional boundaries.

And it’s no wonder in mid-May some had been calling it a historic step when President Obama issued an executive order to make government data open and accessible. As the editorial director of Connected World I was more than thrilled to see this order issued. As you will recall in the June/July cover story, which hit newsstands prior to the president issuing the order, I had interviewed Nick Sinai of the Dept. of Energy, not knowing the president was going to sign an executive order. He was very determined, stressing Open Data is a key focus of the administration and hinted more was coming. However, even I am surprised to see the steps the president is taking to push for more innovation in this country. I was pleasantly surprised, especially considering this was the M2M App Challenge theme at Connected World Conference this past June, and the success the hackers/developers experienced accessing the data sets was certainly exhilarating.

With the executive order the administration insists Open Data will continue to promote transparency and efficiency and will revitalize much needed economic value for fueling entrepreneurs and innovators to create solutions using government data. The administration is providing even more government information resources that will be made open and machine readable, while in an effort to protect everyone’s confidentiality, privacy, and even national security.

The administration wants to unlock more data from the government vaults as fuel for entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery. This is similar to what happened when the government made both weather data and GPS freely available to anyone. Since then, we have witnessed amazing solutions come to market such as navigation systems, smartphone apps, fitness devices, The Weather Channel, advanced warning systems, and advanced farming systems, just to name a few. Ultimately, this has fueled a vast array of private-sector innovation within the past few decades. With the executive order the president hopes to see Open Data initiatives inspire innovators to develop solutions for public safety, education, and healthcare; simply anything to improve our lives and boost our economy.

It’s important to realize access to more data can help health professionals now determine other variables such as glucose levels and heart rate, or even identify things like arrhythmias. Or in the auto market, it can determine fuel consumption, driver behavior, maintenance, and the list goes on.

Now through the executive order, the president is looking for some real status reports from the agencies that report to him. This might be the first time we are truly taking an active approach to inspiring and incentivizing companies and individuals to put their hearts, minds, and a timetable to applying Open Data.

While nothing in an executive order is concrete per se, the president has made it very clear he does want to see companies, entrepreneurs, and others work together and think about Open Data, Big Data, or whatever the moniker, in a whole new light. Now that’s something to talk about.

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June/July 2014
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