Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

Open data use breaks out of startups and London, says ODI

The Open Data Institute has released research showing open data is being used commercially outside London and beyond startup companies

Open data is being used commercially outside London and beyond startup companies, according to the research by the The Open Data Institute (ODI).

The findings from the Open data means business: UK innovation across sectors and regions research draw on the testimony of 270 companies with combined sales of £92bn and more than 500,000 workers.

Almost 40% of companies using open data are more than 10 years old, with some more than 25 years old, according to the research.

It revealed the most popular datasets being used by the companies are geospatial/mapping data (57%), transport data (43%) and environment data (42%).

The companies surveyed listed 25 different government sources for the data they use. Ordnance Survey data was cited most frequently, by 14% of the companies. The non-government source most commonly used was OpenStreetMap.

One of the companies interviewed is FoodTrade, which uses open data from the Food Standards Agency to tell small restaurants about allergens. Its CEO and founder, Ed Dowding, said: “We want to be the 'Wiki' of the food system. We want to make market intelligence open to people so that they can then help themselves and start trading with each other.”

Another is GeoLytix, a data consultancy that has gathered and mapped data on more than 10,000 supermarkets in the UK and published it as open data. This, says GeoLytix, allows supermarkets to identify market competition and opportunities for new stores, and developers to create new services for shoppers. 

Read more about open data 

Sarah Hitchcock, a partner at the firm, said: “Without open data, GeoLytix would not exist, we use it every day. In return we release our own open data, which along with making us happy helps to establish GeoLytix in the market place.”

The ODI’s research revealed that 46% of companies using open data hail from outside the IT sector. Almost half (49%) of the companies surveyed are based outside the capital, and those in London are spread across the city, not just in so-called “Tech City” and the fashionable Shoreditch area.

ODI CEO Gavin Starks said: “Open data is a material resource for many UK companies regardless of their location, sector or size – and companies are both consuming and producing open data to create new products and services across major market segments.

“Our research also highlights how the UK can build on this success – there are many practical steps companies can take to exploit the opportunities of open data, but this must be supported by policy commitments to provide stable access to high-quality open data from the public sector."

Read more on IT for government and public sector