'For me, smart cities are about openness'


5 minutes with… Svitlana Surodina, ODI Individual Supporter and CEO of web technology and analytics company Skein. Svitlana reflects on inspiring open data innovations, what makes a city smart and why '1' is her favourite data value

Hi Svitlana, how are you doing?

I'm doing great, thank you! Just back from the Matinales Economique conference in Paris, where I presented case studies of building analytical tools and creating data-driven marketing strategies.

You run a web intelligence company called Skein Digital. Tell us a bit about that

At Skein we believe that data is the key to driving economic prosperity and social progress. We work with tech startups and established organisations to develop technology platforms and analytical solutions for them. That includes planning and implementing data systems, analytics and reporting, and creating software tools, web and mobile apps.

Some projects and clients we're working with at the moment include: toothscan.net, an app that helps you collaborate with your dentist to catch problem areas of your teeth at an early stage; tp-link, a networking product provider; justifymybuy.com, an app that helps consumers make purchasing decisions; rentbynumbers.com, an app to help landlords manage their properties; and travelweekly.co.uk, the top business magazine and online news provider for the UK travel industry.

What excites you most about open data?

Open data gives many diverse groups – like private and public sector organisations, governments and communities – the opportunity to join forces, achieve common goals and solve big challenges. At the micro-level, open data helps business to create better services, boost efficiency and operate in a future-focused, sustainable way.

What made you want to become an ODI Individual Supporter?

I wanted to take the opportunity to connect with like-minded data enthusiasts, keep up-to-date on data news and stories and come to ODI events.

We’re about to launch a study into open data in business. What are some of the best data innovations you’ve seen recently?

At Skein we recently ran some events that focused on how data can create innovative business models for startups. It is amazing how many new ventures use data technologies creatively, fusing various channels and sources. For example, justifymybuy.com is a shopping app that integrates geolocation information with social data to help consumers decide what to buy. For example, a person who buys a motorbike can engage their social graph contacts into decision making by taking images of the product and geo-tagging it, allowing people to find purchase locations of their friends.

We’re also focusing a lot on smart cities at the moment – what, in your view, makes a city smart?

For me, the key point in the 'smart city’ concept is the mindset of openness and interconnectivity; second comes implementation, technology and standards. Open platforms for discussing technology should involve everyone in a cross-sector dialogue, including citizens who create the ecosystem that fosters tech advancements. The other way round just wouldn’t work: no matter how many smart solutions are developed in the labs, without buy-in from audiences at all levels it will not be sustainable.

What’s your favourite data value? This could be the value of pi, your bank balance, a memorable date or the coordinates of your favourite holiday destination.

Great question! A meaningful value for me is 1 in the binary system: a symbol of action, initiative and result, as opposite to a zero, which is absence of activity.

Open data comes in many shapes and sizes. What are the biggest and smallest open datasets you’ve worked with?

I used various types of datasets in building applications for companies, from single-value sets to data that could be categorised as ‘big’. While size as a criteria of distinction is important, the extent to how clean and structured the data is can define it just as much.

What kind of open data would you like to see more of?

I’d like to see more open data from private sources, such as companies releasing data related to their activities, committing to transparency and continuous exchange with their own customers, the public and other businesses.

What do you hope to achieve most this year?

We work towards the next release of our sAnalytix platform – a tool that gathers intelligence about markets from open sources and helps companies to get insights into demand, competition and business opportunities. The beta release gave us a lot of useful feedback and now we aim to offer to our users an updated version in summer 2015.

Thanks so much!

Thank you for the great questions and invitation to respond to this!

Keep up-to-date with Skein by following @skeindigital on Twitter.

Would you like to join the growing open data movement? Check out our Membership page to see how you can join as an individual, business or nonprofit and get in touch if you'd like to know more. You can also connect with other members and keep updated with @ODIHQMembers on Twitter.