Notes from the San Francisco Datapalooza

October 22, 2013 2:00 pm PST | Data as a Service, Effective Governing

By Ian Kalin


When you think about rockstar performances in a big city, the image of technology entrepreneurs and microgrids may not come to mind. But those were exactly the types of things on-hand at San Francisco’s first-ever Datapalooza.  

Building on the Data Jam brainstorming session held roughly 100 days earlier, the Datapalooza hosted within the VERGE San Francisco conference last week accomplished its goals of demonstrating the latest open data-fueled inventions, celebrating the release of new government resources, and issuing new challenges for civic innovation.

The Datapalooza was co-hosted by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, GreenBiz Inc., and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.  Entrepreneurs in attendance included Julian Garcia, CEO of InstaGIS, whose geo-spatial technology helps customers more effectively target their marketing activities.  Ciaran Gilsenan, the founder of Building Eye, was also highlighted by the Datapalooza.  His platform makes city planning information easier to find, understand, and use.

“Startup Alley” at the San Francisco Datapalooza
“Startup Alley” at the San Francisco Datapalooza

New Open Data Resources

Between the Data Jam and the Datapalooza, new open data resources were made available, such as San Francisco’s laws in a machine-readable format. There was also the launch of a new data standard, House Facts, a uniform format for reporting government data on the health and safety of residential buildings. The House Facts standard, which is supported by a coalition of seven cities and nine businesses,  is intended to help spur the expansion of building-related apps and services from one city to another.

Inspired by Mayor Ed Lee, who focused his Administration’s attention on housing during his State of the City Address earlier this year, San Francisco has become a leading city in this movement.  “It’s hard for many start-up companies to acquire building data from a city,”  explains Jay Nath, San Francisco Chief Innovation Officer. “But when cities act on open government principles and release data in scalable formats, it accelerates businesses growth– while also helping city governments to accomplish their own goals.”  

San Francisco Uses Open Data to Revamp Public Spaces

San Francisco’s work with open data will continue.  One particular challenge issued from Shannon Spanhake, a Datapalooza keynote speaker and San Francisco’s Deputy Chief Innovation Officer, was to translate the digital innovation with government resources into the physical environment.  Through a program called Living Innovation Zones, residents can plan, design and build new additions to civic landscapes.  Attendees were encouraged to support, joining forces with the city and county government, as well as a number of local nonprofits.  The IndieGoGo campaign will be open until November 12th. All innovators are welcome.

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