The Open Data Platform

The core R&D component for Open Data at FOKUS, the Open Data Platform (ODP) is an open source solution that is customizable depending upon an organization’s specific requirements.

The ODP is an integrated open source software solution for public agencies and private institutions that make their data available as Open Data, i.e., publishing it according to Open Data principles. The ODP was designed and developed within the EU Open Cities project to enable participating cities to publish their data.

The Open Data Lifecycle

The ODP supports the entire Open Data lifecycle process, which includes identifying, publishing, discovering, enriching, and consuming data. Initially, civil servants identify and prepare relevant raw data in various non-proprietary formats using internal procedures. In the next step, selected datasets are published. A data catalogue improves the usability of the metadata by enabling consistent search and navigation across multiple data sources.

Using linked data and semantic web technologies allows for sophisticated structuring, filtering, or combining and mapping different vocabularies used in different city administration departments to derive aggregated datasets. Such linked data can be stored centrally within the ODP, which provides enrichment tools and triple store services. In the final step (in the Open Data lifecycle) data is consumed by citizens, businesses, and civil society via the use of web (or mobile device) applications. These applications serve multiple roles, including increasing transparency, participation, and collaboration. In addition, they also contribute new data, which can further be published, discovered, enriched, and consumed.

ODP Features Classified by User Roles

The ODP has varying capabilities for diverse stakeholders, including data users, data owners, data stewards, and platform administrators. Data users can search, browse, download, rate, comment, tweet, and discuss datasets. Additionally, they can query data (and metadata) via an API and get notifications for new datasets and categories. Via the ODP provided data portal, data owners can maintain data (and metadata) entries throughout the lifecycle (i.e., users can publish new datasets, including new bulk dataset uploads, edit datasets, or even hide their datasets). The data steward role refers to an individual (or group) that is tasked with transforming existing registered data in the ODP into linked data to provide seamless machine-readable access for web mashups and mobile applications. Uploading RDF (resource description framework) objects into the ODP data store is a core feature of the platform. Other main features are multi-language support, customizable data categories and metadata schema.

ODP: Technological Aspects

The Fraunhofer FOKUS developed ODP is an integrated solution based on open source software. The platform consists of three components:

  •  a data catalog based on the CKAN (comprehensive knowledge archive network) software,
  • Liferay, which implements an Open Data portal, and
  • a repository for linked data based on Virtuoso DBMS

Additionally CKAN provides numerous features including customizable metadata schemas, metadata-APIs, and dataset harvesting capabilities. However, the ODP goes beyond CKAN.

The ODP complements CKAN with a feature-rich, easily extendable Open Data portal, as a front-end component. Implemented in Liferay, a Java-based open source content-management-system, the Open Data portal integrates social media and supports community activity features, comprehensive user management, as well as a user friendly interface.

Unlike other platforms (e.g., Socrata), the ODP is free and it is available as open source software under the AGPL (Affero general public license) terms. To enable Open Cities app (i.e., application) challenges, the ODP was successfully deployed and hosted by Fraunhofer FOKUS for Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Berlin.