On the Use of Private Data to Improve Lives (Five Data Sources You Can Use Now to Make a New Business)

I have long been been a proponent of open government data, and I’ve made a lot of products that use it. I’ve helped a number of cities, including my own, in publishing data and coming up with good policies.

Over the last couple years, however, I’ve turned my attention to the vast troves of private data that could be used to build businesses and make lives better. I even started a Web site called “Analycize” to hold a future project to this affect, and I have great hopes for this in the future.

I’ve written quite a bit about this and published a goodly amount of  my own data over the last year or so, and I wanted to pull it all together into one post. Here’s the info:

Hidden Personal Data and the Passionate Stories Within, focused on Illinois Tollway data

Here’s a tweet about my Chicago Transit Authority trip data and the raw data:

Here’s a pretty big one— a year’s worth of my exercise, food, and sleep activities for a year as tracked on Fitbit, a leading quantified self toolAll of that data is in this massive spreadsheet.

There are two more sources of private data that relate to my children, so I’m not super-prepared to publish the info. But they are indicative of the types of systems that contain vast data (and easy extraction) but a paucity of tools to use it to make lives better.

One is MyMealTime, which is a way for schools to manage lunch, including a Point of Sale system and and online system for viewing and managing transactions and available lunch money. Upshot: I have a record of every item each of my children has purchased for lunch since May 2007.

MealTime Online - Details

Another is my kid’s grades and other school performance data, which is managed in a tool called TeacherEase. I’ve got six years worth of this data, all of it accessible with a simple scraper.

TeacherEase- Parent Main

Open data isn’t just for governments anymore. There’s a lot of room for products here, sheeple!

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