OpenDataSoft Helps Companies, News Media and Cities Share Open Data via API

Mark Boyd
Aug. 15 2014, 01:45PM EDT

France-based open data business OpenDataSoft is in the enviable position of having had an income-generating, sustainable business from day one, with a 100% customer retention rate (that is, zero churn). ProgrammableWeb talked to Chief Marketing Officer Marie-Cécile Huet about who is using the service and how open data can be automatically provided as APIs on the platform.

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Open Data Publishing Platform

OpenDataSoft is an open data publishing platform that operates as a pure-play software-as-a-service offering. Unlike other businesses targeting the open data market that often use a hybrid revenue-generation model, OpenDataSoft has managed to build a successful revenue-generating model by providing its core service: a turnkey open data publishing platform.

Customers — city authorities, utility companies, news media and private companies — can configure their accounts to post data publicly, share among internal teams or make available to specific partners.

“Users can add processors, for example, automatically geocode the data so it can be displayed on a map or add metadata. After data is uploaded and published, it can be exported as JSON, CSV, and we automatically generate an API for the data set,” explains Huet. She continues:

As the data publisher, you can also fine-tune the data set API. For example, we resource the open data portal for the city of Paris. They have made available data on location of rental bike stations, so developers can add that data to their applications via an API.

The National French railway company also uses OpenDataSoft for their portal, so there is open data available to everyone. But railway employees can also log in, put in their credentials and they have access to other data sets for their work that are not available publicly.

The security for publishing data is very clear, it is very easy to fine-tune. You can even set authorizations for particular fields within a data set.

Automatic API Generation = Monetized Data Assets

Huet believes OpenDataSoft can also enable customers to monetize and track usage of their data assets. The way the platform is set up allows for data owners to publish their data and identify which data sets and fields should be available for free reuse and public access, and it allows for registering of data users so that there is a system to monetize the data when it is used in third-party applications. “It is completely feasible for the data publisher to charge end users to use the data in the data marketplace,” confirms Huet.

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The service is of immediate use by city authorities, which has caught the eye of the Open Data Institute in the U.K. and BaleFire Global in the U.S. (which operates throughout North America, Latin America and across Asia). Both have signed up to partner with OpenDataSoft to help the service expand its market reach. While taken up by the cities of Paris and Brussels, city authorities are an underserved, but potentially opportune, market for OpenDataSoft.

Using the Open Data Platform

Huet discusses some of the other OpenDataSoft customer markets:

News media who want to do data-driven journalism are our second customer market after public administrations. They have used the platform to do their research, and it is really easy for them to use the platform to create and embed interactive maps, charts and galleries of pictures into their articles without having to involve developers.

But the biggest current market is private companies in general, mostly public transportation and utilities companies. We also currently have strong prospects in telcos and energy.

With the private companies, OpenDataSoft lets them share data internally and with their customers and partners, and with the general public, but that depends on the use cases. For example, they can operate an open data portal that is open to anyone but then a closed portal for themselves or a supplier. They can also sell that data.

One example is Veolia. They do waste management, water resources protection, etc. They have developed an application for the protection of water that combines sensor data, public data, weather, so then they have been able to monitor water resources in real time, and they use this application internally for their business units, but they also sell it to their partners and suppliers. So they can monetize data that was just there before.

This is backed up by Veolia’s Cyrille Lemoine, who writes on the OpenDataSoft website that “the OpenDataSoft platform looked like the relevant solution to easily aggregate and publish our data in a user-friendly intuitive way (interactive data visualizations, automatic API generation).”

OpenDataSoft provides a public data portal for visitors to explore sample data sets and has a range of price points, depending on academic or industry use. Huet confirms that to date, there has been zero customer churn (that is, all customers have continued using the platform after initial signup), with several customers signing three- and four-year plans. A playground is also provided to test the platform.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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