When Open Data meets business ‘hackers’

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Is developing a business model based on open data possible? A group of innovative hackers, nutritionists, software developers, engineers, data experts, and entrepreneurs on the Open Food Hackdays believe it is, and will prove so.

Hedwig Ens

Around 200 pioneering thinkers gathered the weekend of 10 and 11 February in both Lausanne and Zurich to jointly develop new solutions for a transparent, efficient, and innovative food industry based on open data. These Open Food Hackdays were organized in partnership with the Opendata.ch association that stands for open sharing of information and data. The best projects with the most start-up potential will receive financial support and intense coaching to encourage their development.

An application that helps you shop for healthy food by retrieving product information when you send him a picture of the barcode, an interface that analyzes the content of your beer up to the molecular level, and a participatory platform for travelers looking for authentic food experiences around the world. These are just a few of the 22 projects launched during the weekend. The common theme behind all applications is the source of data: all of them are based on data made publicly available from different sources.

“The take home messages of this event are that there are many brilliant people in this room, that they can be very productive, and that access to data was the core of this productivity.” Explains Luc Henry, scientific advisor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in his closing words of the weekend.

One of the data sources comes from the OpenFood.ch project: an open access database on information about barcoded food products sold in Switzerland. To create this database, a total of 14.000 products were photographed to extract among others the nutritional value from the labels. They hope to increase this database by uploading the DNA sequence data of the food products.

Oleg Lavrovsky, from Opendata.ch, stressed the importance of having more open data: “This weekend were the first two days of 1000 days to come. We experienced here a rich creative fertile mix of ideas, but we still have a long way to go. Opendata.ch is convinced that open data is the future. By sharing data we can create and give new opportunities, and make the world a better place.”

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