Fueling Innovation in the Netherlands
Imagine a future where we have the ability to identify the registration, gasoline usage, replacement parts, and environmental impact of our car — all through one seamless digital system. It seems the future has already arrived in the Netherlands as the Dutch Transit Authority, Dienst Wegverkeer (RDW), has launched a data-sharing portal that is powering some of the most interesting apps in Europe and driving government innovation in a cost-effective, secure way.
RDW launched their open data portal in 2014 as a way to provide information to citizens and support partners to deliver solutions and advances in the mobility chain. Some of the datasets on the portal include approximately 14.4 million registered vehicles with more than 100 descriptors, such as year, make, or model, as well as 96,600 approved “vehicle types,” with information on periodic safety checks and those results, recalls, detailed chassis, and engine information for EEC-approved manufacturing lots. The portal automatically updates from RDW to the Socrata cloud to ensure extreme accuracy. With tens of millions of concurrent users, the portal’s high-use datasets are available 24 hours a day. And, Socrata handles unpredictable spikes of usage without degradation.
Gert Jan Holland, manager of RDW registration & information, explains that while they didn’t anticipate the huge growth, the mission of the project was to engage citizens and businesses. “The idea was to bring the [data] back to our customers to bring transparency for our citizens and also to have some feedback of our data,” he said during a presentation at the Socrata Connect conference. “But there was also a strategic idea behind it ... to bring new, open, market standards to offer new people and new companies economic value. It’s been a success, and we are very happy.”
While the success of the portal is now clear, Martine Van Heijnsbergen, manager of RDW open data, notes that launching the project initially required overcoming pushback for using cloud-based open data. “Because we were one of the early adopters in the Netherlands, we had to break ground for other government bodies at very different administrative levels,” she said.
Industry Supply Innovation
While the data portal has boosted governmental transparency, it has also fueled an incredibly valuable movement of innovation. The data has empowered the mobility industry supply chain to unleash a new stream of innovative applications for car owners and drivers, parts suppliers, engaged community members, cities, and more.
For example, users can quickly find competitive insurance rates based on precise technical details of their vehicle (i.e., make, model, year, engine size). Users can also use the portal to compare tax amounts based on specific car types. Citizens can also track down the availability and price of replacement parts for their specific vehicle, according to make, model, year, and configuration.
Since these apps have been shared and developed by third-party industry organizations, the continued benefits of the data come at zero incremental cost to the RDW.
... there was also a strategic idea behind it ... to bring new, open, market standards to offer new people and new companies economic value. It’s been a success, and we are very happy.
Gert Jan Holland
Manager of RDW Registration & Information
The data is helping to make a huge impact on environmental sustainability throughout the Netherlands. The City of Rotterdam used it to develop an app to quickly check if a car can be driven in the newly established “green zone.” The app uses an automobile’s registration and vehicle specifics (i.e., make, model, year, fuel type) to determine if it meets the zone’s strict emission standards to prevent pollution.
An innovative app called AutoAlert has also been launched to prevent fuel theft and fraud. When a driver pulls up to the pump at a gas station, CCTV imagery captures the license plate number. The app quickly uses that information to retrieve current vehicle registration data and identify false number plates or known driveoff offenders before the pump is activated. In this way, cashiers are alerted of an issue and can prevent fuel theft on the scene.
Transparency & Citizen Engagement
The data has also empowered citizens to become more informed about their vehicle. The Automobile Look-a-Like Search uses registration and license plate data to allow users to find all cars with similar year, make, model, color, size, and age. From there, drivers can more accurately compare values of cars and even contest driving violations.
Future of Growth
Gert Jan Holland notes that partnering with Socrata to launch the open data portal was an easy decision and has come with many benefits. “The easy way to access things and give insights for customers and the API possibilities were some of the reasons that we decided to go with Socrata,” he said. “It’s an easy way to publish data to make it available for users and app builders.”
That ease of use has led to significant growth, including 10 times more data hosted since January 2016. What’s more, there were more than 76 million API calls noted in September 2017, up from 45 million in September 2016, a 70% increase. Socrata powered more than 150 million average monthly API calls in 2019. Those calls are growing as more than 18,000 registered sites and apps use the RDW data in Socrata every day. And, developers established Q&A sessions within their respective communities to support each other with new app development.
Looking ahead, Holland plans to continue supporting the data’s growth and hopes to establish more programs encouraging customer engagement. With the revision of the European Public Sector Information Directive, all European governments will publish even more data, including dynamic data, and fuel further innovation.