Open data is changing society and will fuel smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) startups, the Open Data Institute's (ODI) chief executive has declared.
Speaking at Cloud Expo 2015, Gavin Starks outlined the importance of open data in a world where digital information is increasingly flowing from multiple devices and sources.
"Open data is not just changing our business, it's reflecting a fundamental shift in culture to an open society," he said. "These are fundamental shifts in how we are behaving, not just in technology."
Starks highlighted how open data is important in the creation of smart cities, particularly when it comes to laying the network infrastructure required to support them.
As a member of London's smart city board, Starks argued that open data access would help to reduce disruptive roadworks in the capital.
"[On] the Smart London board we have a core ambition of improving the lives of Londoners using open data," he said. "Our mission there is to add a million people to the city every 10 years without tearing the whole place down and rebuilding it; we need to open up the information systems.
"The guiding principle of all smart city work in London is it should be based on data. It's really fundamental; we can't address the fact you spend £600m a year digging up the roads in London unless we've got all the different proprietary information about who's got what cables in the road."
Starks went on to emphasise the importance of open data for small businesses, particularly startups developing IoT products.
"Open sensors are building a new market to enable sensors to talk to each other and sensors to talk to businesses. So [startups] are wiring up the IoT," he said.
"If you believe that for each new sensor deployed there is a business to be built, this is an essential piece of wiring that can only work if it is open."
Starks cited examples of commercial buildings working with energy businesses to open up sensor data to find new ways to save on energy consumption by improving system efficiency.
"There is a trend here of opening up the information for common good," he said.
Starks also stated that making data open is critical for the long-term future of businesses if they wish to embrace technological innovations.
"It simply isn't possible for single companies to anticipate all the future technology developments that will be needed. We predict adopters of closed systems will regret taking short-term gains at the expense of long-term gain," he said.
The government has also acknowledged the importance of open data within the public sector by creating its first Open Data Camp, with the goal of improving public services through wider data sharing.
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