By Daniel Hunter

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that City Hall is to radically upgrade its data-sharing portal by adding reams of new city data and making it easier for it to be used to make the capital an even better place to live, work and visit.

The London Datastore 2 is a free and open resource where anyone can use vast amounts of data relating to the city.

Datastore 2 builds on the success of City Hall’s original Datastore, which was released online by the Mayor four years ago in a bid to improve the transparency of the Mayoralty and to give the public access to previously unavailable data on a range of issues, including health, crime figures, employment statistics and carbon emissions indicators.

Since it was launched, Datastore has led to the creation of more than 200 apps, such as the Citymapper travel app, which has now been exported to some of the biggest cities in the world, and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis’ Bike Share Map, which shows bike hire usage and docking station availability in London and a range of cities globally. The site attracts 30,000 ‘unique’ visitors a month.

Developed for the Mayor of London’s Office by Datapress, Datastore 2 has been vastly improved from a technical perspective and marks a significant step in London’s journey towards using data to improve city services and quality of life. It is aimed predominantly at private sector businesses, professional city data organisations, academics, the London boroughs and public services, and is designed to act as a ‘marketplace’ for ideas and collaborative efforts.

Initially containing more than 580 datasets, the portal responds to objectives set out in the Mayor’s Smart London Plan and provides a collaborative space where numerous datasets, ranging from population figures to interactive maps of start-up friendly office spaces can be shared and added to.

New datasets on the system include the latest information on broadband connectivity levels so that businesses can choose where to locate to and to influence the market to improve services to homes and businesses. It also contains a detailed overview of planning permissions granted across the entire city, with up-to-date information on completions and the development pipeline to help developers choose the best sites for new schemes. Users can also make requests for data releases and suggest analyses to solve the city’s most pressing problems.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “The superb and much improved Datastore 2 aims to make the best use possible of an encyclopaedic amount of information about our great city. I am sure that it will provide a wealth of material that the world's brightest minds will be able to use to develop new insight and apps that can be used to solve the big city problems that we face on a daily basis.”

Kit Malthouse, deputy Mayor for business and enterprise said: “The capacity of big data to deliver insight and value that can change the way London, its communities and services work is only now beginning to be properly realised. As with the city itself, the London data ecosystem bristles with energy and we look forward to expanding Datastore 2 over time so that decisions about the future of the city and informed with the very latest data.”

The Mayor also announced today that City Hall will host a series of City Data Challenges - events where sophisticated analytics will be used to help solve problems affecting city services in a bid to generate economic or practical social value. The first City Data Challenge will investigate pressures created by the rise of so-called 'Generation Y' - those born between 1980 and 2000.

In addition, the Mayor is also keen to hear from anyone who has ideas for how London’s data can be deployed in pursuit of a better city, with winning ideas progressed alongside City Data Challenge topics.

The capacity of shared city data to address urban problems and improve city life is becoming apparent as world leaders in urban analytics like New York University's Centre for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) look to expand into London, through a partnership with King’s College London and the University of Warwick. This will only add to the significant existing expertise in the city’s world-class academic institutions. In addition, the Future Cities Catapult is currently conducting an experiment called Whereabouts London that blends 235 sets of data to help cities and citizens exploit its potential by looking at their environment in a new light.

Organisations such as the Open Data Institute and Future Cities Catapult did not exist when the original Datastore was first launched. These organisations play a vital part in the mission to unlock the supply of statistics and ensure that it is used to maximum effect in the pursuit of economic, environmental and social value.

The Mayor’s Office has also committed to a series of practical measures. City Hall will publish all of the information under the Open Data Institute’s open data certification scheme, so that users have confidence in its origin, when it will appear next in what format. City Hall has also produced an Open Data Charter to set out deliberately straightforward ground rules to promote best practice in city data use.

Professor David Gann CBE, Vice President, Development and Innovation, Imperial College London and Chairman of the Smart London Board said: “Data is the fuel that powers modern cities. Making data available for citizens and businesses helps engagement, improves transparency and creates opportunities to develop new services. The new version of the London Datastore aims to encourage collaboration across London's rich data landscape. The Smart London Board, is delighted to support the Datastore as a mustering point for the ‘creative processing power’ of academia, the private and public sector so that we can fully capitalise on the potential of open city data.”

Dr Jeni Tennison, OBE, Technical Director of the Open Data Institute said: “I am delighted to see the Greater London Authority take another important step towards creating an open data city, through the launch of London Datastore Version II. It’s particularly good to see the GLA taking the next step beyond simply making data available, by making firm commitments in an Open Data Charter, opening up the use of the London Datastore to boroughs and other parties, and committing to increasing the quality of published data using the ODI's own Open Data Certificates as a measure. Taken together, these steps mark a more mature approach to using open data within the city to improve people’s lives, economic opportunities, and the city environment.”

Peter Madden, Chief Executive of the Future Cities Catapult and Smart London Board member said: “Data will increasingly drive how we run our cities and our businesses. London is a melting pot for urban innovation and the GLA is right to emphasise the importance of data itself and the role government can play in harnessing innovation. We look forward to working together to apply the London Datastore to solving real problems.”

Dr Rick Robinson, IBM Executive Architect for Smarter Cities and member of the Smart London Board said: “IBM believes that open data policies and big data from systems such as transport, water, health, wellbeing and the local economy are the new natural resource for cities in the 21st Century, Thanks to the leadership of the Mayor of London the new London Datastore will put the city in a great position to benefit from the power of technology by providing a vital tool to help citizens, communities and businesses make the best of the opportunities available in a modern global city like London.”

Brenna Berman, Commissioner and Chief Information Officer, Chicago City of Chicago, Department of Innovation and Technology said: “London and Chicago are passionate leaders in the field of open city data and we can learn much from collaborating. We both have a desire to ensure data is used to improve decision making, so that government is truly optimising the opportunities it has to improve residents’ lives. Partnerships are a vital piece of the jigsaw, so it is interesting to see what London is doing with regard to stimulating more data-led innovation.”

In July, the Mayor launched his 2050 London Infrastructure Plan - the first attempt to set out the full range of infrastructure requirements for the capital over the next half century, during which time the population of London is forecast to increase to more than 11 million people. The Plan recognises the vital role that data will play in supporting future infrastructure development and Datastore 2 will help to ensure that infrastructure investment is targeted towards exactly where it is needed.