We all talk a lot about big data and its impact on integrated marketing, customer connections and social marketing. However, a new kind of data may soon be making the headlines: Open data is quietly becoming a force with $5 trillion annually in potential value. Also known as “liquid information,” open data is data available for anyone to use, reuse and distribute for free. It is usually public data and made machine-readable and accessible through an application programming interface (API).
The Open Data movement empowers governments to make public data available to citizens who will use it to add value to services and the economy. A great example is when President Reagan made GPS data available for industry innovation – data which had previously been a solely military asset – and spawned a big new economic sector. The Open Data files include results of government research as well as census, economic, public safety, climate, job skills and other categories. Project Open Data and Data.gov are two good examples of federal government open data initiatives, but many local governments are also utilizing this information.
For example, using open data from the City of New York, analysts are tracking potholes using smartphones, mapping the type and health of street trees and even predicting an every day version (called NYChenge) of the twice-yearly phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge – when rays from the setting sun align perfectly with the grid of east-west streets and thus shine directly across the island.
In a private sector example, using federal and state data from several sources, one company integrated 30 years of weather data, 60 years of crop information and 14 terabytes of soil data to help farmers around the globe make data-based decisions for their operations, according to this IBM Open Data slideshare. The IBM “Smarter Cities” products use open and other kinds of big data to help municipalities capture, share and benchmark their citizen data to improve service levels and predict problematic spots for crime, housing shortages and even road congestion before they become issues.
With approximately 60 nations releasing up to a million data sets, many companies can capitalize on the information to improve benchmarking, planning and other business functions. Organizations can also release their own data, which can be shared and integrated with other information to identify new revenue sources, support new business practices and promote innovation.
Marketers, too, can make more precise decisions than they ever dreamed possible. With open data, for example, highly localized information allows marketers to customize their messaging to be relevant to consumers in specific regions of the country. Open data on weather, housing trends and census could also be added to analytics models to improve the predictive power – and hopefully make content or other advertising more engaging and effective.
There are of course some cautions. Open Data can come from anywhere, and so there is no guarantee around accuracy or viability. It also is by nature public data, which has a high degree of visibility, opening up data governance and privacy concerns.
The creative use of data – big, small, open or proprietary – is a core part of marketing today. Testing out new forms of data in your analytics models, campaign management programs and programmatic media planning is a great way to keep your business in the #TopRight corner of the market. Take the TopRight Digital Assessment to better understand how to connect with customers using data-driven marketing practices.