Smart Open Lisboa – What is open data and why should I care?

June 21, 2016

At this point, you have probably heard about the new startup program in town, Smart Open Lisboa. It is the first smart cities and open data program in Lisbon and it promises to upgrade Lisbon’s city life. However, what most people find it hard to understand is what is open data? Why should you care? And how can you use it to create useful products that could be used by millions of people?

Well, we wrote this blogpost to clear your mind from doubts so that you and your startup can still apply to the hackathon we’ll be organising (it will be the mother of all hackathons, so brace yourselves), this July 1-2.

What is Open Data?

In theory, and according to the Open Definition, Open Data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone, without any copyrights or patents. Many organisations, especially governments, collect large amounts of data every day, and this data can be used in several ways, if it’s made available.  

Open Data triggers innovation and collaboration, combining data and content to solve common problems and improve people’s lives.

How can I use Open Data?  

Open Data does not contain information on a specific individual but it is available more as a bulk of aggregated information. There is open data in maps, transport, science, products, education, libraries, finance, culture, or economics. All you need to know is how to use it.

For instance, imagine you had aggregated information on each neighbourhood of the city of live in: how many people live there, their age profile, number of supermarkets and convenience stores, crime statistics, price trends in housing, signal coverage, etc. All this data could be used to create a real estate platform, allowing people to make better choices when buying a house or renting an apartment for example.   

Examples of Open Data

In an article on TechTarget, they give 10 examples of Open Data, according to Doug Laney, research vice president for Gartner Inc. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration or just to better understand Open Data, check out these examples from the article below:

“Embedded open content – Legal assistance site Lawyers.comhas developed an open application programming interface (API) that provides legal and other websites access to its trove of legal articles. Recipient websites can use the API to embed headlines relevant to their audiences.

Open data mashup – Students at Kansas State University put together a series of seven deadly sins maps from open data sources, depicting contemporary crimes of wrath (violent crimes) or envy (burglary, robbery, larceny and stolen cars) across the United States. “It’s a clever example of how different metrics can be mapped,” Laney said.

Entertainment and open data – is an interactive, visual search engine that gives users a chance to listen to music and see how the style of one band’s music is related to others. The data mashup uses content from YouTube.

Real-time open data – @Fbomb_co is an aggregation of people all over the world dropping “f-bombs.” Glorifying profanity? Although the example might not seem particularly useful at first blush, Laney encouraged the audience to consider the value something like this could create if the tweets were highly relevant to the company.

Syndicated open data – Data that’s packaged and sold from syndicated providers costs a little more, but, according to Laney, it’s also more reliable. Examples include Factual for data on hotels, doctors and restaurants, or Acxiom for marketing data.

Commercializing open data. aggregates what real estate is for sale in a specific area, but it also provides crime statistics, price trends and connections to mortgage information. provides a similar platform for users to buy and sell vehicles.

Open data and gamification – #tweet-a-lot is a platform that enables businesses to run a tweet competition to get an event or topic trending. Anyone who posts a tweet using the designated hashtag is a player, and players play for a prize.

Banking and open data – The Open Bank Project has created an open API so third-party developers can help banks build secure, modern apps for customers quickly.
Open data catalogues – The ProgrammableWeb is one example of an open data catalogue, with more than 10,000 commercial APIs available to download, Laney said. He also pointed to government organizations, such as, which provides hundreds of open data sets to the public. In cases where open data is overwhelming, open data metacatalogues “will tell you where to go for certain kinds of data,” Laney said.”

Did we get your attention? Then, find out more about Smart Open Lisboa right here.

P.S.: Smart Open Lisboa is brought to you by these influential founding partners: Lisbon Municipality, PT, Cisco, Turismo de Portugal, Startup Lisboa and Beta-i. And this week we have just announced the support from other great sponsors, MASAI by Card4B and KIC Innoenergy.