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Big Data's Value Gets Bigger With Open Data

by Dave Hannon

September 11, 2012

By Dave Hannon

Open source. Open platform. Open software. Open data. Open eyes.

The value proposition for big data stems from the fact that it's, well, big. We could debate definitions all day, but in my mind, big data brings value because it is data that wasn't originally created with a specific goal in mind in most cases. It's data that in the past hasn't be leveraged well. It's social media, it's machine-to-machine data, it's well, I don't have to define it to you. You know what it is and why it's valuable.

But the value of that data, generated within the enterprise or by consumers, can increase exponentially when it's combined with government, NGO or other publically available data such as housing, genomic, or GPS information. Imagine gathering up all of that data, analyzing it, and creating new data based on that analysis -- and then make THAT data available to others, either for free or for a hefty price tag, depending on just how valuable that data is to others. 

This is the world of open data.

Open data isn't new as a concept -- the idea that some data (or information) should be freely available to all is actually a very old concept. As Alexander Howard points out in this piece, some innovative companies have already built business models on open data. Think about GPS navigation systems and weather services, for example. But when it's placed within the context of the big data innovation explosion, its meaning changes significantly, opening new opportunities.

A recent Gartner report suggests companies "seeking competitive advantage through direct interactions with customers, partners and suppliers, open data is the solution. For example, more government agencies are now opening their data to the public Web to improve transparency, and more commercial or

ganizations are using open data to get closer to customers, share costs with partners and generate revenue by monetizing information assets."

Imagine, for a moment, that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association decided to start charging for the weather data it produces? As Howard points out in the Slate piece, that's $10 billion sitting on the table. Or, if you're not quite as interested in using public data to make money, this guest blog on Third Sector from Ian Goodman of Lasa suggests some charities could be using open data to grow their charities.

So how do you do it? How do you leverage open data for fun and profit? Gartner says using APIs and data exchanges can help companies leverage open data for profit. "As a strategic enabler, APIs are a powerful means with which to build an ecosystem, and a first step toward monetizing data assets ... Open data APIs provide simple, Web-oriented means for data exchange, and linked data techniques are effective for generating big datasets. When considering the long-term benefits of an open data strategy, organizations should investigate the types of data exchange now emerging where information producers and consumers share data for profit."

The good news is some open data APIs are already out there. Space agency and SAP ERP user NASA has posted an API on its web site here. If you've got a business model that can leverage NASA data for profit--you're off like a rocket.

If you're an SAP user and you've got a plan to leverage open data for internal or external use--let me know. or @Daveatwispubs on Twitter. 

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