The data platform and its governance: an important issue

The development of the sensors and the expansion of a reliable and intricate measurement network will ultimately result in a large data platform with relevant measurement data and manageable information about the water quality in Flanders. Obviously, the project partners will use this data on a daily basis for their operations, but third parties could also develop numerous useful new applications using the data and information from Internet of Water Flanders. To this end, the partners need to develop a whole series of agreements and procedures for the sharing and provision of data and information, known as governance.

Koen Triangle (imec City of Things): “With the Internet of Water Flanders data platform, we’re creating a system in which everyone retains their own data platform. The data is transferred to an environment where it can be consulted and used by the other partners or, if desired, by external partners. This exchange will ensure that each partner has more data, which will increase the models and prediction power for each individual partner and make them more accurate, thereby adding to the overall usefulness of IoW.”

Bert De Winter (De Watergroep): “It is indeed important to develop a governance that clearly states what is publicly available and what is not. But the open data idea is important. I believe in the power of that model too. If you make the data available, then companies can do new things with it and that will probably strengthen innovation. That way, the work we’re doing now can add even more value. This openness, by the way, is supported by the Flemish government.”

“If you make data available, then companies can do new things with it and that will strengthen innovation.”

Piet Seuntjens (VITO): “We must indeed look for a kind of platform to which other parties can connect, but also where the data can be enriched with other details in order to arrive at new insights. This, of course, raises further questions: how do we develop this in practice? That’s a question for a kind of business model that we’ll have to work with in the coming years. What information is truly open to all users, what information should be attract a fee because it creates extra value? This will be a new exercise in governance. How do we deal with this and what business models could be developed using the data from IoW?

The academic world also needs to be involved in the longer term. Universities and their students should have access to that data for conducting additional scientific research. But at the moment, that’s not an issue. In time, this platform should be opened up to other agencies that see value in IoW’s data.”

“Universities and their students should have access to that data later on for conducting additional scientific research.”

Koen Triangle (imec City of Things): “There’s also a stratification of information that IoW creates. You have the pure data that the sensors provide and you have the enriched and modelled information. That means you can also make choices around what you make available and under what conditions. There are new business models in that too, but there also need to be guarantees that this won’t come at the expense of the data’s initial goals.”

“In terms of governance, there are two phases: by May, we want to make a first start that defines the principles. By the end of the project, this should be made concrete and operational.

But for this, we also need to have an insight into the costs and benefits of opening up the data and supplying it. What do the sensors cost? What is the price tag for the installation and maintenance of the measurement network? This should then be compared to concrete business cases so that, for example, the value of the data for the users can be examined. We could also wonder: how do you monetise the savings you make thanks to the new information that IoW provides?”

Bernard De Potter (VMM): “At VMM, we’re in the process of reorganising. There will also be a service centre with the aim of interacting with stakeholders and setting up new collaboration agreements with external parties, for example on bathing water quality, air quality, etc.

In the coming years, many wet landscapes will be created (as part of the battle against drought), but this also means that support will need to be provided for level management of water bodies. We can develop applications for this that will help local authorities to make decisions. The local authorities have to draw up rainwater plans, climate adaptation plans, spatial development plans, etc. This offers opportunities for linking up. The local authorities can thereby open up their approach to sewerage and arrive at an integrated water policy. Good advice and support with lots of information is necessary. Internet of Water Flanders can help with that. By bringing all the information together, we could also give them integrated advice. We expect them to think in an integrated manner, but then we also have to supply them with integrated information.”

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