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OpenDataSoft, the start-up that converts carriers to open data
This article was first published (in French) in May, 2016 on the Journal du Net.
The French company facilitates the opening of transport data through a platform dedicated to entrepreneurs who want to develop new intelligent services.
It may seem abstract, even futile, but without it the carriers would be doomed from the start. This is what the French company OpenDataSoft is defending, convinced that Open Data is an accelerator of innovation for mobility: “Our platform makes data streams coming in from various sensors reusable by as many people as possible, including developers who are not specialists in transportation. This is a powerful tool to leverage for innovation as it allows the creation of intelligent management applications.” says Jean-Marc Lazard, CEO and founder of OpenDataSoft.
Keolis was one of the first companies that was attracted by the Parisian start-up’s solution. Their partnership, which began in October 2015, has given birth to the Open Data Mobility. This tool is already active in Rennes: “It allows automatic and real-time retrieval of local transport information. The organizer of an event, for example, can use it to predict the service area for visitors or a shopping mall can use it to let people know that a tram is coming. The Keolis STAR application feeds itself by providing users with search and routes calculation,” he explains.
This makes for quite the showcase for OpenDataSoft, who has a focus on all major French cities, most of which have already opted for open data: “We are particularly present in the Paris Region, where we work with the RATP, as well as Autolib and Vélib,” states Jean-Marc Lazard.
SAEMES (A Parisian Parking Company) launched its Open Data portal in early 2016, which aggregates for the moment static data, such as the location of car parks, and will soon release real-time information. In this way, users will know which places are available to park their car: first on the dedicated portal and eventually on a mobile application. SAEMES is the first operator to do this in France at the regional level.
According to Lazard, this solution would give the company an important competitive advantage. “In this market, the user is not faithful to this or that operator but will go where it is the most convenient.”
As Lazard emphasizes, OpenDataSoft also addresses start-ups: “In Bordeaux, Qucit uses our platform to optimize bike sharing through self-service, thanks to predictive analysis.” All service providers and territories are affected, he assures, regardless of their size. “We sometimes hear operators or administrations say it’s expensive, but it is not. Our solutions cost a few thousand or tens of thousands of euros depending on the size of the network. And not only do they save money on the maintenance and development of their network, but they also contribute to greater final user satisfaction.”
With these arguments, the Parisian company wants to expand internationally. An ambition reinforced by a fund raising of 1.5 Million euros in July 2015: “This has helped us a lot for our communication and marketing, especially in the United States, a mature market and where there is not yet a lot of competition. In just six months we have signed contracts in several medium-sized cities like Durham or Chapel Hill for example, and negotiations are underway with bigger cities. In Europe we recently signed a contract with Swiss Railways (SBB), which did not yet have an Open Data portal. It is a three-year contract, with tens of thousands of euros per year.” continues Jean-Marc Lazard.
Overseas growth has also been accelerated by a recent agreement with another tricolor company present in about 60 countries around the world: the traffic management specialist Citilog. “The data, which we send to the cloud to the platform of OpenDataSoft, are used in Smart City projects. For example, Glasgow is able to regulate the level of intensity of urban lighting according to traffic in real-time, enabling significant energy savings. This idea is being deployed throughout the UK.” says Eric Toffin, CEO of Citilog.
Jean-Marc Lazard believes that opportunities will increase in the future. He already has a very precise idea: “Real-time information on the use of swimming pools, for example, can be disseminated to passengers of autonomous city shuttles. We are also developing with Transdev and several manufacturers a line of minibuses without drivers between Versailles and Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines for the last mile transportation.”
According to him, much of the potential of Open Data remains to be seen in terms of transport: “Between data from parking meters, open-air car parks or traffic lights, equipped with sensors but whose data is not freed, there is plenty for companies to do that wish to develop intelligent solutions and major urban projects.”