London Launches 'Datastore' Modeled After US Project

London is releasing large tracts of previously unavailable data about the capital city in conjunction with a broadcasting network's new funding for developers who use the data in innovative applications.

London Mayor Boris Johnson will announce the "London Datastore" Web site on Thursday afternoon at the Consumer Electronics Show in Last Vegas along with Aneesh Chopra , President Barack Obama's chief technology officer, and Linda Cureton, the chief Information officer for NASA.

The mayor's office compared the project to "Apps for Democracy," a contest held last year by Washington, D.C., for developers to build applications using the district's data catalog.

As part of the Datastore project, the public-service Channel 4 TV station will offer up to £100,000 (US$160,000) to either two companies or individuals who have good ideas for creating products or applications using the London data.

"We're after ideas that transform rows of numbers into accessible formats – maps that show crime in your area, a mobile app that tells you how many police patrols operate on your street or an image that can illustrate the recycling rates in your borough," according to the station's 4iP blog.

London has posted around 50 sets of data to the Datastore so far, with plans to increase that to 200. The data sets will be diverse, including: abortion rates, census data, winter deaths, obese children figures, influenza rates, ratio of house prices to earnings, train overcrowding and the number of vacant dwellings. The store will fully open on Jan. 29, the city said.

The data formats on the site so far vary. For example, for information on "Ambulance Call Outs to Animal Attack Incidents," the Datastore links to a comma separated values file, which could be loaded into Microsoft's Excel or OpenOffice.org's Calc spreadsheet programs. That data is also in an XML (Extensible Markup Language) format.

Other data, such as the expense report for the mayor's office, are available in PDF (Portable Document Format) and RTF (Rich Text Format).

In an earlier, less publicized incarnation of the Datastore, the data was presented in a Google Docs format, which the city said "enables developers to plug straight into the data" using an API (application programming interface).

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