Proving concepts with Open and Linked Data (and wordpress)

I love finding excellent examples of stuff, more so when you find them in your own council and especially when they actually prove some concepts to other people.

So I was very excited to hear and actually see what a colleague here at the council Mark Painter has been doing with WordPress and linked data.

Mark has been doing lots of work on understanding open and linked data and recently put together a proof of concept site for area profiles, which brings together mosaic data (as an xml file), neighbourhood statistics and IMD data from CLG support by swirll.

I love this proof of concept because we need to do more of this here in Devon and it also supports and proves the concept around my content strategy…one other reason I love this is because this was all done through good old WordPress 🙂

I must reiterate this is a proof of concept and may break at any time as mark continues to explore how to make this better…he has already started to look at how he incorporates the Crime Data into this as well…



Location Based Architecture – Phase 1

Since colleague Martin Howitt first shared his idea about a location based architecture I’ve seen so many opportunities and areas in which it could add huge value.

So when I saw the latest developments within IOS5 and the new method for managing tasks across devices I naturally got a little bit excited.

Like Remember the Milk, Reminders can be set up to be location-aware. Thus, when you’re approaching your house, you’ll get a notification reminding you to take out the trash. When you get to the office, a whole new list of reminders will come up.

Reminders will sync wirelessly across devices using Apple’s new iCloud feature. This includes syncing with Outlook and iCal on the desktop.

I accept this feature has been in other apps like remember the milk and even to some degree foursquare and gowalla (albeit non task focused but information flow) but if you could add some additional workflow layer to get wider benefits this could truly transform the consumer and business user’s experience with a smart phone.

I’ve briefly blogged about stages and themes of social media development within organisation…

5) “check in” for content and services around me and for me

I am not currently aware of any council really progressing this aspect, but I know some are using services such as foursquare and Facebook places as a method to engage customers/citizens.

Essentially it is about using the location-based services as a means to access particular services or content. An example might be within libraries, someone checks in and then is made aware of a particular offer or event that is being promoted, a simple process really but it does take some planning and co-ordination across channels in order to maximise the opportunity.

An internal example here might be a public sector worker checks into a public building and is pushed tasks via workflow…….

6) “push notification” for content and services around me and for me

This is the only evolutionary step in these stages/themes as this is really pushing the previous stage/theme to a more proactive level and again building on the location-based architecture approach.

The main difference in this area is that i wouldn’t need to check in, in order to be pushed tasks, my smart device which naturally has GPS (ok this is a future thing as we need connectivity and devices to catch up), knows where I am and pushes a notification as I pass within a reasonable distance of a public building/space where I have tasks to complete.

Stages/themes 5 and 6 both require a significant underlying architecture and infrastructure in order to maximise the value and opportunity. This post is not the post to explain the infrastructure, that will have to be another time.

IOS5 is obviously a great step forward and as a current iPhone and iPad user i look forward to using this feature.

I hope however for the consumer market and developer community that other mobile platforms follow suit and look to embed these features into the operating system and exploit the users “location” to drive information and tasks directly to them.

The potential and opportunity could be increased further with a gamification layer, linked data but i need to think further on how these would actually work in reality.

For some this is just might be another mundane Apple update, but for me this signals a new opportunity and direction for location-based data.


Linked Data & Business Intelligence – Is this a two sided coin?

I haven’t blogged much lately and there is good reason for that, firstly I’ve recently gone through a restructure and redundancy process, I still work for the council but have moved somewhere else as part of the redeployment process (more on this in a separate post).

However one of the things that remains the same is that I’m still lucky to get involved in very interesting projects and this creates many problems for me. 1) I try to create links between projects when none clearly exist, but when they do they make a lot of sense, 2) my mind is never really quiet for long periods to allow me to find inner peace and 3) there is so much to get involved in that I have to ensure that I stay focused on the now, whilst keeping an eye or two on the future.

I’m fortunate to be involved in some Linked Data work that going here, mainly thinking and planning first steps but it is really fascinating and I can see why Linked Data fans champion the need to do more – I really do see the value, but we need to actually provide it through real world application before some senior folk will really support it.

For those who don’t know what Linked Data is:

Linked Data describes a method of publishing structured data, so that it can be interlinked and become more useful. It builds upon standard Web technologies, such as HTTP and URIs – but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers. This enables data from different sources to be connected and queried
Via Wikipedia

We had a session today to learn more about Linked Data and the practical first steps we can take in order to start proving value not just internally but across some partnerships.

One of the others areas that I’ve been involved in but not so much on a practical level is looking at the Business Intelligence capability across the council.

For those who don’t know what business intelligence is:

Business intelligence technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining and predictive analytics……..Often Business Intelligence applications use data gathered from a data warehouse. However, not all data warehouses are used for business intelligence, nor do all business intelligence applications require a data warehouse
via Wikipedia 


Now one of the interesting aspects for me is that there are similarities in these two areas which I think I need to explore further as I learn more about each over the coming months etc.

On face value they seem to be two sides of the same coin – Linked Data looking primarily externally to create meaning and context, whilst business intelligence looks across internal systems and applications to create meaning and context.

I would think it is fair to say that we are in the very early stages of each of these projects and it will take time for us to get to grips with how we want to see both develop.

But I can’t help but think that we need to bring these two agendas together somehow without compromising each project – perhaps through shared learning, data modelling, data cleansing and approaches to master data management.

I could be wrong and I maybe over complicating two very complicated areas already….but surely the outputs of the internal business intelligence tools should form the basis of our published linked data for others to consume.

I guess time will tell 🙂