- About Us
- Planning and Development
- Capital Planning and Policy
- Real Estate Management
- Building and Zoning
- Zoning Board of Appeals
- Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
- Notices, Applications, Forms
The first in a series of occasional reports on Cook County entrepreneurs
Last week’s launch of MetroChicagoData.org, the largest regional Open Data portal in the nation, is another big step towards realizing the promise that Open Data has for digital entrepreneurs. The premise of Open Data is to publicly post all government data that is not subject to privacy or HIPA laws. For digital entrepreneurs, this means there is a wealth of free material for use to build applications, websites and other digital products. In the past, free access to this kind of rich data was unheard of.
The Bureau of Economic Development interviewed Jeremy Smith, one of the founders of SpotHero.com. SpotHero.com offers people the ability to reserve discounted parking at over 15 major parking garages in downtown Chicago. Open Data allowed them to put a product online quickly. “We tried to get the same data through the private sector, but biggest problem is that certain API’s weren’t really robust enough for our needs. We even discussed aggregating this information on our own. The logistics just didn’t make sense, and luckily with Open Data we had an immediate solution that allowed our business to start going. The key is to get going as soon as possible. The longer you wait, you will never take action,” said Smith.
Here’s more of our discussion with Jeremy Smith:
ECD: How valuable is Open Data to SpotHero.com?
Smith: Open Data was very important to our company in the pilot phases of our business. We used to be centered around events venues and destinations, so we used to have an entire section of our website that allowed people to search through the open data to find all the historic and popular destinations in the City of Chicago. We loved it, but were also keen on how our users were interacting with our site. One of the things we found was that most people were looking for parking in neighborhoods (not necessarily for a specific venue).
ECD: What additional Open Datasets would help SpotHero?
Smith: Parking ticket counts, more updated and accurate traffic counts, car ownership, by age, location, demographic, and a list of city owned parking structures
ECD: What would you say about Open Data to a person thinking of opening a digital business?
Smith: I think it’s a great start to begin building an app. You need content to have a working app and as we’ve seen from Open Data, people can make some really cool stuff just using what is out there. As you start growing and learning, then you can start taking your business to a new level and direction just like SpotHero did. That should be the end goal, to use open data to create something that helps out but also to create sustainable businesses that look to solve key issues in the city.
ECD: What value do you think open data has for developers and digital entrepreneurs like yourselves? What would add more value?
Smith: I think open data has unlimited possibilities. The key is really to make public more of the data sets that the people want . Not everything in Chicago Open Data is relevant. There were some sets that I was very surprised were considered “open data sets” and I think those are just noise around the sets that really have value and allow developers to create off of them.
I truly believe that you need to ask people “what information do you want?”. Answers to that question will help you gauge what sets people are demanding and what they will take action on. If you limit the options and spoon feed data sets, you’re probably limiting what could be created. By seeking public input, you might be able to get a much more targeted and effective campaign going right away. Plus, you could have the ability to say “yay” or “nay” to the Open Data sets that people would ask for.
Click here for SpotHero.com
Click here for MetroChicagoData.org
Contact UsCook County Bureau of Economic Development
69 W. Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602
312-603-1077 or 1000 (o)
E-mail us at: Info.Edev@cookcountyil.gov
Scan the QR Code with your smartphone for a map and directions.
Click here to reserve discounted parking from Spothero.com, a winner of the "Apps for Metro Chicago" Open Data application contest.