Examples of UK companies using open data
How are UK companies working with open data?
In this section we highlight 12 companies that use or produce open data as part of their work in different ways. From smart city planning to flood warnings, job opportunities to education options, the companies use open data to offer diverse services to businesses, government and individuals.
Arup uses open data to help plan smart cities and mitigate against risk and natural disasters in the built environment.
Arup is a multinational professional services firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. It provides engineering, design, planning, project management and consulting services for the built environment.
Open data is an important part of Arup’s work with smart cities and the technology that supports them. Arup has developed policy frameworks that focus on the role of open data to deliver new, better or more efficient services in cities, while responding to decreasing public sector budgets. Arup incorporates open data as part of the technical architecture required to overcome constraints in cities such as traffic and congestion, and improve engagement between citizens and city leadership. The company has developed a risk information action system, The Hazard Owl, which uses real-time natural hazard information from public data feeds. It is used to alert clients of natural disasters so they can mitigate against risk and help to protect their business.
Arup also sees open data as an increasingly meaningful source of information for the analytics and advisory services it provides.
Adzuna simplifies the job hunting process by helping users better understand the market and find the best jobs for them.
Adzuna is a search engine that aggregates job adverts to provide a comprehensive view of the jobs market. It combines adverts from several hundred different online sources, including the largest online job boards and vacancies advertised directly by employers. This gives job hunters access to over 1 million job adverts at a given time.
Adzuna uses open data to develop its Job Index, which provides an accurate, complete and timely view of the UK jobs market. The Job Index compares Labour Market Statistics (Jobseeker’s Allowance Claimant Count), published by the Office for National Statistics, with Adzuna’s jobs data to generate new metrics such as jobseekers per vacancy by location. These are reported in its monthly Job Market Report, which can be used by job hunters to compare the availability of jobs in different areas of the country.
The company also provides free access to its jobs data via an application program interface (API). The aim is to allow third-parties to reuse the data aggregated by Adzuna to power job-search services in their websites and develop new applications.
Doorda uses open data to help citizens and businesses discover and understand what is happening on their streets and in their local communities.
Doorda is a startup company that specialises in bringing together different open government datasets into a single online map. This enables citizens to access, understand and engage with public information on their local area.
Doorda aggregates open data from a number of different sources, including Ofsted, the Land Registry, the Food Standards Agency, the NHS and the Home Office. Citizens can use it for a number of different purposes. These include searching for properties, locating schools, understanding road safety, identifying crime and anti-social behaviour hotspots, comparing restaurant hygiene and accessing local news.
The company also specialises in making open data accessible and useful to businesses and government in unique, innovative ways. Through access to the Doorda API, users can work with vast quantities of open data to develop new commercial understanding of an area. Doorda also provides advisory services for businesses, enabling them to investigate the availability of wider open data relevant to their interests and create bespoke data solutions to provide local, national and international insights.
FoodTrade maps the food supply chain system to help people buy and sell fresh produce, contributing to the creation of a fair, sustainable and local food system.
FoodTrade is an online food platform that brings together local food producers and consumers. Producers, such as small farmers, restaurants or individuals, can feature their produce and map their supply chains to find new consumers and collaborators. Consumers can also use its search tools to find producers and sellers of various different types of food.
FoodTrade has enrolled more than 1,600 businesses into its platform to date, and has facilitated more than 1,300 connections between them and other users. As a result, FoodTrade can map supply chains and promote transparency within the food sector, in which most supply chain data remains closed.
FoodTrade recently launched FoodTrade.Menu, an automatic allergen labeller that uses open data from the Food Standards Agency. It can be used by restaurants and caterers to ensure their menus comply with allergen regulations. The menu data can then be fed into the FoodTrade platform to create ingredient lists and link users with local suppliers based upon the ingredients they need. FoodTrade will then make this extensive menu, produce and marketplace data available to the public through open APIs.
GeoLytix combines geospatial data with domain expertise to help people make better decisions about the location of their businesses.
GeoLytix is a specialist geospatial data and consultancy company. It offers a wide range of products based on geospatial data, such as maps, boundary data and points of interest, as well as analysis, training and consultancy services to develop new commercial insight.
A number of the company’s geodata products are based on open data from sources such as Transport for London (TfL), the Land Registry, the Department for Education, the Department for Health and OpenStreetMap. GeoLytix develops them by processing and adding new value to existing open datasets or by creating new, novel ones using open data. These data products can be purchased off-the-shelf with transparent licensing terms.
GeoLytix also releases a selection of its geodata products as open data. These include processed census data, a snapshot of postal sector boundaries, a subset of retail places, workplace data and manually geocoded supermarket locations. GeoLytix also develops complex, bespoke models to help business solve their location challenges.
Mime Consulting uses open data to enable students and their families to make informed decisions about their educational choices and career paths.
Mime Consulting is a data consultancy company. It offers a range of management information services including data warehousing, analysis, visualisations and dashboard design. It also offers user-friendly software and website design to help automate data collection, analysis and reporting.
The company has developed Skills Route, a platform designed to help young people make informed choices regarding their education. Skills Route combines students’ chosen subjects, grades and location with open data to provide personalised university, further education and employment options available in the future. It also shows how these choices can influence their career paths and future remuneration for their work.
Skills Route’s projections are based on open data published by the Department for Education. Specifically, it uses the Level 3 value-added dataset (L3VA), which captures the progression of students between Key Stage 4 education and the end of their Level 3 qualification (which includes A-Levels and vocational equivalents). It also uses other open data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and the UK Commission on Employment and Skills (UKCES) to ensure that it shows students the full range of further and higher education opportunities.
OpenCorporates makes information about companies and the corporate world more accessible, discoverable and usable for citizens and businesses.
OpenCorporates is the world’s largest open database of company information. It has collected data for over 84 million companies from over 100 jurisdictions and aims to record a URL for every corporate entity in the world. Users can search the database for a particular company or browse companies by jurisdiction, to identify characteristics such as company type, trading status, incorporation date, registered address and company directors.
OpenCorporates aggregates data from a number of different sources, often through automated scraping of web pages and PDFs. Sources include national company registers, government websites, national information centres, official company filings, gazettes and data released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Access to OpenCorporates’ data is enabled via an API, and reuse of the data is governed by an Open Database Licence with share-alike and attribution clauses. This requires users to publish their work back to to the open data community as open data. Those who wish to use the data without the share-alike restrictions, or API rate and volume limits, can do so under commercial licensing agreements. Users include journalists, governments, major credit reference agencies and anti-money laundering organisations, which use the data to better understand, monitor and regulate companies around the world.
OpenSensors.io provides an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that helps users create smart products and services to build better connected systems and environments.
OpenSensors.io offers smart products and services such as real-time data access, data security and storage, analytics and machine learning via its IoT platform.
OpenSensors.io’s real-time messaging engine can process millions of messages a second from any internet-connected device, such as a sensor or camera. Businesses can use the platform for many purposes – from automating huge networks of car parks through licence plate recognition cameras and motion sensors to optimising office spaces by configuring devices such as thermostats, lights and locks to respond to the preferences of the people working in them.
Anyone using the Opensensors.io platform to publish data can use it for free, providing their device publishes their work as open data. As a result, the platform provides access to valuable real-time and historical open data generated in thousands of projects and their connected devices. This enables other individuals and businesses to use the data to experiment, innovate, research and incorporate it into their own products and services.
Shoothill creates visuals and tools to convert geospatial and statistical data into dynamic, accessible information on flood risks.
Shoothill is a software development company that specialises in data visualisation and online mapping. It currently offers three mapping products that can be used to understand and reduce the risk of flooding in the UK, based on open data provided by the Environment Agency.
Shoothill’s FloodAlerts product is an online graphical representation of flood warnings, which provides localised updates to keep users informed about flooding in their area. Shoothill’s GaugeMap is a live map of river levels, based on data from 2,400 river level monitoring gauges and is updated every 15 minutes. Each gauge is assigned a Twitter account for local citizens to follow, which tweets snapshots of this data twice every day. Users can also visualise flood risks and calculate the risk of flooding to their property by river or sea, using Shoothill’s Check My Flood Risk.
Shoothill also provides access to selected Environment Agency data through APIs, which enable others to develop new products and tools using the data. This includes the Flood Data, River & Tidal Levels, Groundwater, River Flow and 3-Day Flood Forecast datasets.
Spend Network helps the public sector to spend more efficiently and helps suppliers to compete for public sector contracts.
Spend Network is an innovative startup using public sector spending data to develop new products and services. It aggregates public sector spending, tender and contract data for the UK and EU from around 330 different sources, collected through government websites, APIs and Freedom of Information requests.
Access to Spend Network’s data is provided via an API, which contains information on the spending between UK public sector organisations and their suppliers for over 30 million transactions, worth over £878bn. Typical services for businesses include spending and contracting data analysis to forecast tender pricing and timelines. Spend Network also helps the public sector to understand its spending patterns and identify inefficiencies in the procurement process.
The company plans to launch a procurement pipeline product for public sector organisations. The pipeline will visualise spending patterns in the public sector and alert potential suppliers to contracting opportunities, helping them to better prepare for and win public sector contracts.
Swirrl helps organisations organise and publish their data using open standards that ensure it can be accessed and used by others.
Swirrl is a small technology company that provides open data publishing solutions to make data easy to find, understand and reuse. Swirrl’s PublishMyData platform is used by public and private sector groups to publish and manage their data online in structured, machine-readable forms.
Swirrl helps publishers to meet open standards from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It creates custom browsing and discovery features, such as visualisations and applications, to ensure complex data can be used by non-technical users.
Swirrl also provides training, consultancy and custom support services, to help organisations better understand how to unlock the benefits of open data. The company plans to release new features for both publishers and users to enable data to be used more easily, and to help develop smart cities with its open data expertise.
TransportAPI unifies transport data from key industry sources to help individuals and businesses to create new transport-related products and services.
TransportAPI is a transport solutions platform that seeks to create a single, comprehensive source of UK transport information. It consolidates timetables, routes, live running and performance history information for a wide range of transport types, including cars, buses, trains and bicycles.
Open data from a number of sources is aggregated into Transport API’s unified platform, accessible via an API. These sources include Transport for London (TfL), the Department for Transport, Network Rail, Traveline and OpenStreetMap. Access to the API is based on the usage rate required by the user, with free access provided for limited use and different commercial packages available to users with more advanced requirements.
Businesses can use Transport API’s accurate, detailed and timely transport data for a range of commercial purposes, from advertising to journey planning. It has fostered a network of over 1,100 developers and organisations that work with the data to create apps and other services.
Note: Company sizes are based on the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry’s classification of enterprise categories.
How to cite
Please cite this report as: Open Data Institute (2015) Open data means business: UK innovation across sectors and regions. London, UK. Available at open-data-means-business-uk-innovation-sectors-regions