Open Government Platform Aims at Businesses

A company best known for its tools to help governments open their data now wants to provide the same aid to businesses. Socrata today launched the API Foundary, which can convert Excel spreadsheets (and other data repositories) into customizable APIs. The company will continue to focus on governments, but it also is courting enterprises--or anyone who wants to share data and "mass produce APIs."

"Some of the same problems we're seeing from governments are relevant to businesses," Socrata's Will Pugh said. "A lot of this stuff is sitting around in Excel spreadsheets," which makes it difficult to share. The new Socrata API Foundary can take those spreadsheets and turn them into APIs. As governments opened their data, so now can businesses. But will they?

Socrata customers have estimated creating a new API costs up to $100,000, according to Socrata's Saf Rabah. "API Foundary helps our customers mass produce APIs," said Rabah. There's a strong case at saving money, as Rabah said most customers would pay a few thousand per month for Socrata (though developers can get started uploading public datasets for free). The low barrier of simply uploading Excel files may be the real kicker, because organizations could open data without programmer or database administrator intervention.

Rabah is quick to point out that Socrata also allows for updating and real-time datasets via the Socrata Open Data Syncing API. That requires a little more technical intervention than re-uploading Excel spreadsheets.

Regardless of how the data gets into Socrata, the company provides powerful tools for developers to access it, including SQL-like select and group options.

This sort of self service API creation will help bring about our prediction that every company will have an API and maybe more than one.

Be sure to read the next Government article: Energy Information Administration Releases Electricity API