Public and private sector organizations may have different reasons for opening or sharing their data, but they usually face similar challenges, such as accessing data held in siloed, legacy systems; enabling nontechnical, business employees to use that data; and accomplishing all this without the expense of custom solutions.
“Our purpose as a company is to simplify the process of publishing data and making it reusable,” says David Thoumas, Chief Technology Officer for Opendatasoft, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN). “It doesn’t matter if the goal is to share data with the public, among internal users, with external partners, or some combination of the three—we exist to help our customers do it all, quickly and easily.”
Sharing information quickly and easily is also the goal of the STAR Network, a subsidiary of Keolis, France's largest private sector transportation company that operates public transportation services. Long committed to opening its data, including real-time data from sensors in public transportation vehicles, STAR outgrew a proprietary platform that was too complicated for nontechnical users and required expensive custom development work for each new dataset. The company wanted to make its data easier for non-IT employees to work with and for developers to reuse.
The need to better understand and reuse large volumes of streaming data was something STAR had in common with ENDETEC-Homerider, a subsidiary of Veolia Water France that designs and operates sensors used by water utilities for quality control, flow optimization, and leak detection. Both companies also wanted the ability to manage data access by user category, some shared companywide, and some reserved for specific internal teams.
ENDETEC-Homerider and the STAR Network based their new data-sharing solutions on the Opendatasoft platform, deployed on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Opendatasoft has used AWS services since its founding, and joined the AWS Partner Network (APN) in 2016.
"We rely on AWS because of its high standard of service quality and its continuity, which is essential to helping us fulfill our mission of offering high-quality, real-time open data to our clients and their constituents," says Franck Carassus, Chief Operating Officer of Opendatasoft.
Both the STAR and ENDETEC-Homerider solutions use Opendatasoft to connect to existing datasets, transform data into consistent formats, and generate standard APIs for each published or updated dataset. The solutions hold data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) storage buckets and use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to provide flexible computing capacity that can resize automatically as data volumes grow. Both solutions manage data access by type of user and, in just a few clicks, employees without IT training can collect and publish data from almost any repository, including legacy systems not known for wide compatibility or ease of use.
The STAR Network used the Opendatasoft platform as the foundation for Star Data Explore, a public, interactive web portal with intuitive tabular, graphical, and cartographic tools. Riders can find out where to catch buses or trains; researchers can combine STAR data with third-party data; and developers can use the data in new applications. The portal provides real-time arrival information for about 10,000 bus and train stops and receives 300,000 API requests each day.
The ENDETEC-Homerider solution stores all incoming water sensor data in a data warehouse, from which internal teams, other Veolia subsidiaries, customers, and partners can select datasets, combine them with outside datasets, and use powerful, intuitive dashboards to create visualizations and widgets that can be shared and reused. The solution now contains more than 170 million lines of data accessed via about 300 dashboards by more than 160 users.
With data-sharing solutions based on Opendatasoft on AWS, both companies accomplished their goals of simple deployment and ease of use. Benjamin Bertelle, Design and Development Engineer for the STAR Network, says, “It only took us about 15 minutes to understand how the platform works, and we didn’t need to write one line of code to open up our data.” Cyrille Lemoine, Director of Business Development and Innovation at ENDETEC-Homerider, agrees: “Opendatasoft on AWS addresses itself just as much to novice users as it does to seasoned experts.”
By discarding its previous, proprietary data-sharing solution in favor of one based on Opendatasoft on AWS, STAR also achieved considerable cost savings. “With Opendatasoft on AWS, we no longer need expensive, custom development each time we open new datasets,” says Bertelle.
The new solution also helped ENDETEC-Homerider re-envision and expand its customer offerings. “With the new solution, we went from a material vision of our business to seeing it as a service,” says Marie Maurel, Project Manager for Sensor Networks at ENDETEC-Homerider. “By deploying Opendatasoft on AWS, we now not only sell sensors to water network operators, we also provide them access to data with high added value.”
STAR agrees that the biggest beneficiaries are its users. “Opendatasoft on AWS helps us better understand the public’s interest in our data and to imagine, even at the moment when we publish a dataset, a multitude of future uses and services for our customers,” says Bertelle.
Given the success of customers like the STAR Network and ENDETEC-Homerider, Opendatasoft sees AWS as vital to its long-term strategy. "With the help of AWS, Opendatasoft is growing internationally, and the flexibility we gain by using AWS helps us adapt to our customers' ever-changing needs," says Carassus. "The simplicity of our platform thanks to AWS is definitely a commercial advantage, and there is no doubt that our relationship with AWS will continue to expand.”
Opendatasoft, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner offers a turnkey SaaS platform that its clients use to launch comprehensive data-sharing portals in only a few hours. With this platform, Opendatasoft customers can provide internal and external customers with intuitive, customizable data visualizations, maps, and APIs. Opendatasoft, which employs 50 people and serves about 100 clients in 14 countries, has its European headquarters in Paris and its U.S. headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.