Empowering Smart Cities with Open Data by PediaCities

Written By Gary McCauley


In this era of social media we have access to raw data like never before. Our ideas, likes and dislikes, and the Internet of things (IOT) are captured by social network indexing more of the world around us. To make decisions that affect businesses and personal lives, we need a combination of answers that are generated from Big Data and smart human decisions. PediaCities empowers smart cities by setting Big Data in context; since, context is as important as the data itself. PediaCities moves governments and jurisdictions closer to data-driven recommendations that provide creativity, intuition and imagination in making the best decisions possible for their cities. To know more about how PediaCities can fuel your decision-making, read the blog on “Empowering Smart Cities with Open Data by PediaCities”.

Open Data By Pediacities.com

The ultimate value of data can often not be predicted. That’s why, the U.S. Government released a policy that instructs agencies to manage their data and information more generally as an asset from the start, and wherever possible, release it to the public in a way that makes it open, discoverable, and usable. The true meaning and value of any information is only realized when placed within the right context. A unit of information or data can prove valuable in many contexts if it is normalized and stored in an open format.

Openness of government data strengthens our democracy, fuels capitalism, promotes the delivery of efficient and effective services to the public, and contributes to economic growth. Governments and organizations around the world are now taking advantage of the economic benefits and innovative linkages that come from making their data open and available to the general community. For example, when the U.S. Government released weather and GPS data to the public, it fueled an industry that is currently valued at tens of billions of dollars per year. Now, weather and mapping tools are ubiquitous and help everyday Americans navigate their lives.

One of the challenges faced with open data has been in adopting a standard and having the right technology for publishing data to make it easily useful to the public. Open Knowledge Foundation, a non-profit organization that uses advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and enable people to work with it to create and share knowledge. Over the years, this foundation has developed the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) to overcome the open data challenge.

CKAN is a powerful data management system that makes data accessible – by providing tools to streamline publishing, sharing, finding and using data. Each dataset is given its own page with a rich collection of metadata, making it a valuable and easily searchable resource. CKAN is aimed at data publishers (national and regional governments, companies and organizations) wanting to make their data open and available. Today, CKAN is the world’s leading open-source data portal platform. It now powers more than 40 data hubs around the world, including portals for local, national and international governments, such as the U.S.’s data.gov, UK’s data.gov.uk and the European Union’s publicdata.eu.

While CKAN addresses the fundamental technology challenge for open data publication, data publishers and users are still challenged with contextualizing just raw data into information for actionable insights. This is because CKAN mostly provides a universal technology for converting media into raw searchable datasets. Additional development is mostly required to put the data within context to facilitate decision-making.

Ontodia, an Open Data Solutions company, has developed the PediaCities platform; an interactive encyclopedia of data about cities. It partnered with ExterNetworks to run a managed cloud infrastructure on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host this platform. PediaCities.com is an online portal that curates, organizes and links open data about cities which is published by governments, municipalities and organizations into a contextual form that empowers you to derive immediate actionable insights. PediaCities is a free platform for jurisdictions and organizations of all sizes to publish and manage datasets including preloaded contextual maps, data and Key Place Indicators (KPIs) for all the 30,000 towns/cities in the United States.

Coupled with CKAN’s technology and Ontodia’s expertise on Big Data and Analytics, PediaCities provides the following premium features:

  • CKAN’s technology is leveraged as the foundational technology for collecting and storing raw datasets in PediaCities. CKAN is a proven universal open data publication technology that is used to power the largest data portals of countries that support open data (U.S.’ data.gov and UK’s data.gov.uk).
  • OpenData.City in PediaCities is an enhanced library that encapsulates the CKAN foundational framework and delivers an open data system that is highly adaptive to any US jurisdictions. OpenData.City provides the following features:
    • Sophisticated plug-ins
    • API management
    • Advanced configuration settings
    • Analytics dashboards to create contextual maps
    • Pre-seeded contextual demographic data and maps from the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Patent and Trademark Office, FBI and various other federal agencies.
  • OpenData.City also supports ISO 37120 indicators that converts raw open data to actionable insights based on the uniform city assessment benchmark. This is coupled with the KPI contextualization technology. The ISO 37120 standards were published by the International Standards Organization (ISO) to help “measure the performance of city services and quality of life.”
  • By leveraging Pediacities’s KPI technology, users can build dashboards that garner insights from disparate data sources (public and private sector) to help them track the progress on issues they care about using the data published in OpenData.City.

In a nutshell, this innovative platform does the following:

  • Uses the open data and builds an enhanced library module in OpenData.City using the data publishing technology of CKAN,
  • Layers on the contextualization technology of PediaCities KPI,
  • Combines additional ISO 37120 indicators to the OpenData.city library, and
  • Integrates with the processing tools that provide immediate actionable insights,

A version of PediaCities.com is currently in use by New York City as NYCPedia.com. NYCPedia currently has 929,191 articles and over 14 million facts about New York City. We believe that NYCPedia is a contributing factor to New York’s position as the Top municipal Open Data City in the world. See the “OpenData.city is Live” blog by Ontodia’s Co-founder and CEO, Joel Natividad for more background on PediaCities’s origins.

Ontodia is now all set to roll out the PediaCities platform nationwide (U.S.). Since New York, and prior to the nationwide launch of PediaCities, Ontodia has been developing innovative modules like the PediaCities KPI to scale its infrastructure. It is helping governments, organizations and the public to derive greater value from open data. This platform requires minimal customization and promotes ease of deployment irrespective of the size of these organizations within the US. Organizations that sign up can get all the benefits of Open Source such as:

  • Hundreds of CKAN contributors ranging from companies like Ontodia to state governments
  • No lock-in period
  • Ability to tailor their data portal with Ontodia’s PaaS offering
  • Access to hundreds of CKAN extensions
  • Managed cloud offering running on AWS backed by SLA

ExterNetworks operates a managed cloud infrastructure that runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and provides deployment support along with ongoing 24×7 monitoring services from its Network Operations Center in Piscataway, NJ.

If you are faced with access to limited datasets in the cloud that takes a lot of effort in contextualizing, now is the time for you to leverage PediaCities’s free open data management platform. Get started immediately for usable and actionable information. We at ExterNetworks will be happy to help and support you with the management of your IT and cloud services. You can also reach us at TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.


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Gary McCauley is responsible for management and sales of ExterNetworks National Accounts. He has over 20 years of experience in providing technology services to the channel and providing insights and trends to help business decision makers implement sound strategies.