Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


SWITCH-ON Report Summary

Project ID: 603587
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Sweden

Periodic Report Summary 2 - SWITCH-ON (Sharing Water-related Information to Tackle Changes in the Hydrosphere - for Operational Needs)

Project Context and Objectives:
SWITCH-ON is a project that works towards sustainable use of water resources, a safe society and advancement of hydrological sciences. The idea is that Open Data can be used as a vehicle for new innovations in water management. The project will create web based tools and new information of high value and insight. All project assets will be provided through a web service, the SWITCH-ON Water Information Portal, which is where you can find open data, refined water information and decision-support tools in one place.
The project addresses water concerns by thoroughly exploring and exploiting the significant and currently untapped potential of open data. Water information is highly sought after by many kinds of end-users; within government, business and also within civil society. Water touches virtually all societal and environmental domains and the knowledge domain is largely multidisciplinary. New water information and knowledge can thus lead to more efficient use of environmental services and better handling of environmental problems, including those induced by climate and environmental change. SWITCH-ON will show the benefits achieved through the whole process chain by re-purposing (re-using under different context) open data products into more dedicated and refined water products, which are high value and have a broad impact on society. User uptake is monitored in the project through workshops, dialogues with targets groups and the number of unique visitors to the website.
The vision is to improve public services, and to foster business opportunities and growth, by establishing new forms of water research and facilitating the development of new products and services based on principles of sharing. The SWITCH-ON objectives are to use open data for implementing:
1. An innovative spatial information platform with open data tailored for direct water assessments.
2. An entirely new form of collaborative research for water-related sciences.
3. Fourteen new operational products and services dedicated to appointed end-users.
4. New business and knowledge to inform individual and collective decisions in line with the Europe’s smart growth and environmental objectives.
While focusing on water, the project is expected to inspire a much broader environmental and societal knowledge domain and many different end-users. The SWITCH-ON project will be one trigger in a contemporary global movement to better address environmental and societal challenges through openness and collaboration. The SWITCH-ON Water Information Portal has different tiles for different target groups of users, ranging from the public to experts for open data search, water scientists, water managers, policy-makers and tool developers. The Portal has a virtual Water-Science Laboratory for collaboration on computational experiments. It also has an open Virtual Product Market with products and services for water managers. The ambition is to attract and build bridges between policy makers, water managers, product developers and researchers with this SWITCH-ON one-stop shop.

Project Results:
The SWITCH-ON project has applied an agile management approach with iterative development resulting in rapid and successful delivery of a first version of all major project outcomes already during the first period. This enables refinements and adjustments based on user feedback to be made throughout the project, to ensure user uptake at the project end. Traditional dissemination (brochures, flyers, posters, conference presentations) has been ongoing and a collaborative dissemination plan was successfully updated during the second period. All project assets are made accessible to users through the SWITCH-ON Water Information Portal, according to the project mantra “What isn’t on the Portal doesn’t exist”. The Portal is successfully designed for external users with tiles dedicated to different target groups for each cornerstone of SWITCH-ON: 1) project description; 2) tools to explore water-related open data; 3) the Virtual Water-Science Laboratory; 4) access to SWITCH-ON Products and Services; and 5) Knowledge brokerage and Marketing Library for water management products and outcomes from user-interactions.
To bridge the gap between data providers and users, a spatial information platform was applied with functionality to Find, Bind, Transform and Publish data. This platform has been equipped with two user interfaces; one for experts and one for the public. These interfaces are available through the SWITCH-ON portal and are accompanied by tutorial videos, demos and manuals. In addition, machine-to-machine communication has been introduced by API. So far, the technical platform has been filled with 789 quality-checked metadata entries for more than 7000 open datasets from some 30 different data providers. The metadata is standardised and categorised for easy search according to common international procedures. The spatial information platform runs on a server, which also stores new datasets that are produced within SWTCH-ON.
The Virtual Water-Science Laboratory was launched in a second version on the SWITCH-ON portal, using a workflow for collaborative scientific experiments with open data; Define – Participate - Review. The Water Laboratory contains guidance and tools developed within SWITCH-ON for use in computational experiments. For each step in the workflow tools for scientific analysis are provided. The main focus during the 1st Period was to design and test the workflow and, in particular, to elaborate protocols for controlled experiments. This work has already resulted in a collaborative peer-reviewed article in an international scientific journal (HESS). Seven further collaborative scientific experiments are in the final stages of completion. These were more targeted to scientific questions with relevance for water management, and in total some 70 open-data sources are integrated in the analysis. Three final experiments are currently underway that are targeted towards large-scale computational hydrology.
SWITCH-ON has developed 14 products and services in the form of web applications for PC, tablet and/or smartphone for operational water management or public awareness. In total, over one hundred open data sets are merged and re-purposed to increase and create new value in these information products. During the 1st Period, 13 of the 14 products were already accessible with running software, and during the 2nd Period, all 14 products are accessible with running, tested software from the SWITCH-ON portal. Four of the products have been successfully marketed and sold to customers, and negotiations are underway for a further two products. Existing markets and potential for new markets for the products were analysed through literature reviews, expert interviews, focus groups, case-study analysis, an indicator-based evaluation framework, ex-ante economic assessments, and stakeholder dialogues and user workshops. A Market Analysis Framework for judging market potential of information products has been developed in the 2nd Period, and was completed for all 14 products, providing the basis for business plans for the SWITCH-ON products. Finally, the knowledge brokerage at workshops involving product developers and end-users resulted in a number of key messages for improving the marketability of the products in the next phase of the project, and the production of pdf information which has been added to the Knowledge brokerage and Marketing Library.

Potential Impact:
SWITCH-ON will provide scientists, industry, policy makers and the general public with improved access to much higher value water information than is currently available. SWITCH-ON impacts include:
• Acting as an engine for creating and sharing knowledge, new research and water-related data and products by the SWITCH-ON Water Information Portal;
• Fostering a new culture of collaborative, comparative water research in Europe through the implementation of a Virtual Water-Science laboratory;
• Creating new opportunities for spurring innovations and novel business through re-purposing open data, developing Products and Services and opening up new markets;
• Fostering participatory processes for the general public in political and administrative decision-making through new information channels;
• Contributing to more transparent, efficient and effective governance at all levels addressing resilience to hazards and environmental sustainability.
The shared Virtual Water-Science Laboratory has already shown great potential as a unique opportunity to conduct research in a collaborative and open way, overcoming the past fragmentation in the field of testing different models on different data sets or studying individual areas in isolation. The availability and the accessibility of data on a variety of environmental variables in user-friendly formats fosters research along hydro-climatic and geological gradients to better understand floods, droughts and water quality characteristics. These new forms of research will help recognise and understand the patterns of environmental system response to climate change and economic pressures in line with present societal needs.
SWITCH-ON has also successfully developed products and services for operational water management, sustainable policy decisions, and water awareness among citizens, while promoting the use of open data. The information products addresses a broad range of societal sectors with the aim of: more efficient protection against hazards; safe cities and infrastructure; optimised industry; sustainable agriculture; awareness of risks; effective use of water; and guidance in recreation potential. The new information will thus contribute to a safer and more sustainable society. The products dedicated to the public enhance transparency in governance by giving the users a visual sense of how their local environment responds to water hazards or pressures at any given time. Each product enhances insight in water-related issues by integrating many sources of data with complex prediction models into user-friendly, interactive and tutorial web-based applications.
Environmental information is currently in high demand for a broad range of societal sectors but not always available or easily accessible. This is due to a wide dispersion of potentially useful open data and a lack of know-how of how to integrate the information at an acceptable cost. By using open data, which is freely available without restrictions, SWITCH-ON produces high value innovative information products at a lower cost thus opening up new markets and increasing business opportunities for consultancies across Europe. While focused on water, it is hoped that the project will inspire the sharing of environmental and societal knowledge in other domains by demonstrating that openness and collaboration can lead to innovation. The latest information and presentation technologies, such as web-based visualisation tools and mobile phone apps, are used to disseminate the project’s findings to end-users in a quick and efficient manner. In addition, workshops and end-user dialogues in SWITCH-ON show positive uptake of results. SMEs and service providers are convinced of their ability to access new markets, increase their competences and networks and achieve more efficient production as a result of collaborating within SWITCH-ON.

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