Latest news: 2017

Open data is today's digital raw material

23.10.2017 8:44

FMI continuously provides a large amount of open data free of charge – to anyone who wants to use it. Like any other raw material, data can be used to create completely new products or services

Image: Innocorp

Image: Innocorp

Open data is the digital raw material of today – citizens, companies and communities can mine it freely. "By opening the FMI's data sets, we want to create opportunities for new business, research and education. By increasing the re-use of public data we are seeking to increase transparency and create new markets and innovations by providing data for them to use," says FMI Director General Juhani Damski.

Open source code and cloud computing help handle large sets

Open public data is any data generated by a public organization which is available in machine-readable form and free of charge, for both private and commercial purposes. The FMI made weather, marine and climate observation data, as well as model data, available as open data as early as 2013. At present, a significant amount of frequently updated data is available, containing numerous observations and predictions modelling environmental conditions.

"The shared sets are large and are updated often, which creates challenges for distributing and exploiting the data," notes the FMI's Roope Tervo. "The FMI has a plethora of software at its disposal, which is used to produce, process and distribute environmental data. Last year we also started releasing the software as open source code. The code makes it easier for service developers to handle and process challenging data," Tervo explains. Publishing software as open source code is an attempt to increase the recoverability of weather and climate data and improve the use and development of the software. The open source code is intended to support research projects, international collaboration, development cooperation and business in Finland.

The FMI's open data is already being used in many services, applications and projects. Geographic information systems (GIS) consultants also mine data from elsewhere, as well as from the FMI. "We help our customers to take advantage of GIS to improve their activities in a variety of ways. We analyse things like transport optimization, business location optimization, and environmental impact. For example, as well as FMI open data, the online Finnish holiday planning service Finterest.fi also uses data from the National Land Survey, Finnish Environment Institute, Transport Agency, Metsähallitus, University of Jyväskylä and Statistics Finland services," says Kari Mikkonen, Managing Director of GIS Consultants Finland Ltd. "Open data continues to grow and generate benefits for companies like ours which combine open data from different sources."

Sodankylä generates satellite data free of charge

FMI research data is also available more and more often as open data. Sodankylä's satellite service centre infrastructure has been developed in the last few years so that large volumes of satellite data are available via a machine-readable interface. In principle, a lot of the data is completely free of charge. "We want to offer a range of open interfaces which can be used to create new applications. The satellite data interface is not currently shared with the rest of the FMI open data, but in practice, both are based on the same form of the INSPIRE data model," says Takala. In addition to open data, Sodankylä also offers cloud services that clients can use to run calculations themselves using the FMI's servers and obtain the final products directly from the service.

"Big breakthrough products have not been created yet, although in principle, this could also have happened. Success requires discovering new uses for the data and combining data sets in unprecedented ways. But the very best ideas can be very simple," says Matias Takala.