DataMarket charges up with open energy data

Want to build a business on open data? Add value by solving a problem for your users.

Hjalmar Gislason commented earlier this year that open data has been all about apps. In the future, it should be about much more than consumer-facing tools. “Think also about the less sexy cases that can help a few people save us millions of dollars in aggregate, generate new insights and improve decision making on various levels,” he suggested.

Today, the founder and CEO of DataMarket told the audience of the first White House Energy Datapalooza that his company would make energy data more discoverable and usable. In doing so, Datamarket will be be tapping into an emerging data economy of businesses using open government data.

“We are honored to have been invited to take part in this fantastic initiative,” said Gislason in a prepared statement. “At DataMarket we focus on doing one thing well: aggregating vast amounts of heterogeneous data to help business users with their planning and decision-making. Our new energy portal applies this know-how to the US government’s energy data, for the first time enabling these valuable resources to be searched, visualized and shared through one gateway and in combination with other domestic and worldwide open data sources.”

Energy.datamarket.com, which won’t go live officially until mid-October, will offer search for 10 thousand data sets, 2 million time series and 50 million energy facts. DataMarket.com is based upon data from thirteen different data providers including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency (EIA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the World Bank and United Nations.

Last week, I interviewed Gislason about his company and why they’re focusing on energy data.

What itch were you scratching when you founded DataMarket?

Gislason: When we wanted the best data to base sales plans and decision making upon, we would search on Google. We’d go to websites, where we found heterogeneous Excel files and Power Points. We had to spend time cleaning it up, manipulating it, before we could get a trend line. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a “Google for numbers?” We aggregate quantifiable data into a single database that enables comparisons. Most of the business is licensing the technology to other companies. It’s used by more than 40,000 people a month.

Why add energy data?

Gislason: DataMarket is a ‘nice to have’ for many people but not a must-have for anybody. We realized that we need to go for narrower audiences, starting to do with more vertical approach. Energy is the first target. The Energy Datapalooza is a great venue to kick off this first initiative.

What service are you providing?

Gislason: This is an aggregation service, mostly based upon public data. In the energy space, a key data provider is the Energy Information Administration (EIA). They have their own systems and way of publishing. EIA has 8 different systems and no unified way to search through it. That’s the service that we’re selling: aggregating, making it super easy to search, download, and compare. All the providers out there have been super helpful in helping.

What value are you adding to the open data?

Gislason: Lots of data has been made available already but there are two issues: discoverability and usability. If you’re a person that uses energy data, you have to be able to find it. You also have to spend a lot of time to clean it up. Now you can use our technology. We add value on top of it: we normalize it and provide services. We’re not taking away anything. We’re adding value for tens of thousands of people using this data every day.

What are the value added services?

Gislason: The magic actually happens in search. Take “oil production in Colorado,” with 16 data sets. You can visualize data, do charts or export the data. You can download the chart or the data view. You can use the API. You can connect in R. Data from the EIR, EPA, or UN all comes through the same interface.

You can get all these data sources for free. The business case is to gather a large audience by having data for free. The business model is a subscription service, on an annual basis. Pricing is not set yet. For professional use, it will probably be a few thousand dollars a year. We make a lot more data usable. It’s not initially commercially available but people can sign up. There will be a free 2-week trial for anybody.

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