3 Innovative Apps Created with Dutch Transit Authority Data

September 22, 2017 9:34 am PST | Data as a Service

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Transit Authority (RDW) is the highest volume user of the Socrata platform worldwide. “Our philosophy is give back to the customers what belongs to them,” says Gert Jan Holland, Manager of RDW Registration & Information, about RDW’s release of 200 datasets on automotives in the Netherlands. RDW’s goal is to collect and disseminate data around motor vehicles and the motor vehicle industry for the greater good. To that end, their portal hosts an ever-changing, frequently updated list of the ~13.5 million cars registered in the Netherlands, along with parking information, a list of cars approved for sale in the country, and much more.


“Our philosophy is give back to the customers what belongs to them.” —Gert Jan Holland, Manager of RDW Registration & Information


During a presentation at Socrata Connect, Holland and Martine van Heijnsbergen, Manager of RDW Open Data, as well as Socrata’s Doug McLeod and Chris Metcalf, discussed RDW’s goals for the data release, as well as some of the more impressive citizen-created apps built.


Citizens Engaged with the Portal from Week 1

RDW open data portal


The portal launched in 2014. “We were one of the early adopters of open data in the Netherlands,” says van Heijnsbergen. RDW’s goals were to increase transparency, get feedback on the data quality, and create new open market standards, to potentially draw in new people and companies to the industry.

“We had no idea what was going to happen,” recalls van Heijnsbergen of the weeks following the portal’s launch. RDW hosted a hackathon contest prior to launch, which meant by the time data was officially available, there were already 20 apps ready for download. That was just the beginning. “Usage exploded from there. We got tweets from all over the place — even Australia. People were really starting to use the data,” she adds.


“If people ask for more information and it’s non-sensitive, we add it to new releases.” —Martine van Heijnsbergen, Manager of RDW Open Data


Citizens can report data quality issues on a forum. “We wanted to have that feedback loop,” says van Heijnsbergen. Typos led to some comical errors — vehicles misidentified as being built in 1871, for instance — that were easily corrected. The forum is also used for announcements when new datasets are released. It’s a cooperative atmosphere — often, developers answer each other’s questions. The forum is also a good place to request new data. “If people ask for more information and it’s non-sensitive, we add it to new releases,” says van Heijnsbergen. This responsive attitude has paid off for RDW, in the form of innovative, useful, and unexpected apps.


3 Noteworthy Apps Powered by RDW Data

The remarkable applications created using this public data often serve the government’s interests, and also provide big benefits to businesses and drivers throughout the Netherlands. Together, these apps are the reason that RDW is the second most heavily trafficked website of all of Socrata’s customers, with more than 100 million API calls each month.

Here are three fascinating applications created with the data on RDW’s portal:


1. Calculate Your Insurance Premium

RDW insurance premium app

Need insurance? As any insured driver knows, what you drive makes a difference to your rate. With this simple application, entering in your license plate number exposes details about your car (its age, model, fuel type, etc.), which allows the insurance company to calculate your insurance premium.


2. Locate Replacement Parts for Your Vehicle

RDW find replacement parts for your car

Drivers can fill in this form with details on their car and the replacement parts needed, and 100+ suppliers will see the request and respond if they have the needed part. 


3. Prevent Fuel Theft

RDW Big Brother app

The Auto Alert app uses CCTV imagery at the pump to capture license plate numbers, and then runs the information against Socrata’s API to retrieve registration data. This allows cashiers to know about stolen license plates and known drive-off offenders before activating the pump. What’s most noteworthy about this particular application — beyond its impressive fraud-stopping ability — is that the company had the idea well before the portal launched. But, they were unable to make a business case for the product with RDW’s paid data; it was simply too expensive to make a profit. With open data, that barrier was removed, and within weeks of the data being publicly available, the app launched.


More on Holland’s Data-Driven Auto Industry Transformation

Watch the full presentation to find out more about data-led innovations in the Netherland’s auto industry, as well as unique challenges RDW faced as an early open data adopter in Europe.


Take a deep dive into RDW’s success story — read how transit data has helped fuel innovation and engagement in the Netherlands.  


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