Nitobi Inc. is a developer of mobile and rich Internet applications for the enterprise. The developer wanted to create an application using open government data in a way that makes data more compelling and personable for citizens. Nitobi used Microsoft Open Government Data Initiative together with Vancouver’s open data and the Microsoft Azure platform – to enable citizens to access government data easily and quickly via the VanGuide mobile and web-based app. Situation
Nitobi Inc. is a developer of mobile and rich Internet Applications for the enterprise. The Vancouver-based company is well-known in the developer sphere and carries a stellar reputation when it comes to building sophisticated mobile and Web applications.
Nitobi Inc. has developed mobile and Web-based applications for top-tier clients such as Bell Canada, H&R Block Canada Inc. and AT&T for over a decade. Today the company, which is dedicated to creating valuable end-user experiences, is changing the way rich Internet applications are built. Nitobi has used software and cloud services operating systems such as Microsoft® Silverlight and Windows Azure™, but also uses Microsoft Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) to help enable rapid application development for publicly available government data.
Creating rich and more visually appealing applications is important to Nitobi, notes Jesse MacFadyen, senior software engineer, Nitobi Inc. To uphold its reputation as a leader in cutting edge, highly usable applications, Nitobi wanted to build an application that encouraged citizens to personalize their open data catalogue experience.
In early 2010, Nitobi began its relationship with Microsoft Canada and Vancouver open government experts, which helped them to create a mobile social mapping application to allow the data from the City of Vancouver’s Open Data catalogue to be more accessible.
“We want to socialize map data in the hope that this will start a citizen-type revolution,” says MacFadyen. “We were looking to develop an app that would ensure that the public could add information about their personal experiences at specific locations. This would allow open government data to be used in a unique, personal way.”Solution
Nitobi worked with Microsoft Canada to build VanGuide, an application based on the city’s open data that local citizens and tourists can use while visiting Vancouver. VanGuide overlays the data from the City’s Open Data catalogue with Bing™ maps of Vancouver and enables citizens to visually access information about various landmarks and services, including local parks, schools, libraries and community centres. Furthermore users can rate, tag and comment on these landmarks, or even add their own, thus adding unique value to the city’s open data catalogue and enable knowledge and information sharing a social level.
The City of Vancouver is one of the first municipalities in Canada to make its data available to developers. Nitobi realized the opportunity to further extend this data by leveraging a cloud-based Open Source framework for open data catalogues recently released by Microsoft: Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI).
“Microsoft’s OGDI’s main purpose is simple: to enable government data to be easily accessible and publicly available for citizens as well as developers,” says Nik Garkusha, Open Source Strategy Manager, Microsoft Canada. “The OGDI implementation using Vancouver data enabled rapid development of a number of web and mobile applications, including VanGuide. This helps cities in Canada and across the world to build vibrant application ecosystems around their Open Data catalogues.
ODGI leverages open standards and open applications programming interfaces to allow developers and governments to create new innovative online applications using data that is open to the public, and VanGuide fulfills this goal by bringing citizens government data in a unique and compelling way.
“VanGuide is unique in that both visitors and local citizens can use the application to locate the particular restaurant they are looking for or mark their favorite park in the city, and with Microsoft OGDI, users can now get information quicker because it’s hosted in the cloud,” says MacFadyen.Benefits
Nitobi is leveraging the City if Vancouver’s open data and Microsoft OGDI to help make data more personable and compelling for citizens.
Streamlined development process
Operating on one platform gives developers more uniformity, as they are in a better position to leverage data to build richer open data applications. The Windows Azure platform, Silverlight, .NET, BING Maps, Visual Studio 2010 and Microsoft open source-based technologies helped Nitobi quickly develop VanGuide to meet their goals, which has ultimately improved collaboration and increased productivity.
“Since some data is stored in different formats it can be difficult to have everything you need in one place, but OGDI imports all of their data in one place and renders uniformity,” says MacFadyen.
With the help of Visual Studio and Windows Azure, the creation of the application was seamless because all of the Microsoft products used are so tightly integrated.
“Working with several team members can create extra steps, but this technology works off of the same tool. Now, when we are working on the same project, we are able to see each other’s changes. In addition, we can now test the application in 10 minutes where it would have needed to be completed once or twice a week,” says MacFadyen.
Power of open data
Operating within the Windows Azure and OGDI platforms helps Nitobi get its applications to market faster, which will ultimately help it grow its revenue base. The openness of OGDI helps Nitobi boost productivity between its open source and Microsoft-based platforms – helping developers to speed development time.
“Microsoft hosted a subset of Vancouver open data, and being in the cloud helped us get data more quickly because it was hosted on ODGI and Windows Azure,” says MacFadyen.For More Information
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