A wide range of businesses across the UK are realising the potential of open data.

With analysis of 270 companies, ranging from start-ups to ecommerce giants, the ODI (the Open Data Institute) has highlighted how and where it is being most commonly used.

As we've just started Data Month here at Econsultancy, here's a little look at what they've found!

First thing’s first...

What is open data?

In a nutshell, open data is data that is freely available to be used, re-used and redistributed by anyone. 

Similarly, a company that uses, produces or invests in open data could be classed as an ‘open data company’.

Business location 

The ODI’s research shows that while businesses do not necessarily need to be tech-driven or London-based to engage with data, the biggest proportion of open data companies are located within the capital.

Unsurprisingly, the largest cluster is found near Old Street roundabout, with 26% being based in the boroughs of Hackney and Islington.

Young and old

Despite the density of Old Street, open data companies aren’t only start-ups.

The average age of an open data company is eight-years-old, with 34% of companies being aged between four and nine.

This shows that, while young or new companies tend to use open data to fill a gap in the market, older companies are increasingly discovering how open data can generate further income as well as save time and resources.

Types of data

With 57% of companies using it, geospatial/mapping data is the most popular type.

Transportation, environment and demographics are also used by over a third.

However, as most companies use data from multiple sectors, this shows that the greatest value is found when combining datasets.

How different sized businesses commonly use data

Startups: Forming new businesses

More and more businesses based on open data are appearing. Essentially, these companies usually offer a product or service that requires open data to exist.

An example of this is Doorda – a start-up that allows businesses and citizens to access and make sense of local and national open data.

The company provides 'insider information' about specific neighbourhoods, such as crime and road traffic accidents, utility consumption and planning requests. 

Startups: Forming new businesses

Many established small to medium sized businesses are using data to widen the amount of products or services they offer. 

For instance, when software development company Shoothill was commissioned to integrate data from the Environment Agency into street maps, its realised the potential for creating a new product line based on flood alerts. 

Larger companies: Embracing open data

Many large businesses are realising how using open data can attract and engage new clients. 

From town planning to wind engineering, global companies like Arup offer a vast amount of services.

Intent on offering existing clients innovation, it is now integrating open data into its technical infrastructure.

With 'Hazard Owl', it is able to alert clients about natural disasters with real-time risk assessment.

As this analysis shows, the use of open data is becoming more and more widespread. 

However, with poor quality and accessibility still cited as barriers for innovation, there is still a long way to go before companies are able to rely on it fully.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 8 July, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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