This Saturday February 22nd will be the 2014 edition of Open Data Day, "a gathering of citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data". Open Data Day is a great opportunity to let more people know about open data, to show them how open data can have a positive impact on their lives (including in areas that they might not immediately associate with data, like food!), and to demonstrate how they can take an active part in it!
Open Yogurt Day?
On this day, the open, free and citizen-built database of food products Open Food Facts will launch the What's in my yogurt? project. The project is an open invitation to everyone to open their fridge, scan the barcode of their favorite yogurts with the Open Food Facts iPhone, Android or Windows Phone app, and take pictures of the ingredients list and nutrition facts table so that the corresponding data can be opened and added to the Open Food Facts database.
Why open yogurts?
Well, it's common sense that all yogurts should be opened before being eaten! Once the data of the ingredients list is opened, it can be decrypted so that you can really know what you are eating. What are all those E-numbers like E951 for instance? You might know E951 stands for the sweetener Aspartame, but who knows the codes for all 1500 food additives?
Yogurts are eaten all over the world, but their content varies greatly from country to country. It will be very interesting to analyze those differences, to try to understand which ones can be explained by differences of tastes, and which ones are a consequence of local laws, local taxes, local lobbying etc. (such as the predominance of high-frucose corn syrup as a sweetener in the US compared to sugar cane or beet sugar in other parts of the world). If we have enough data, we might even be able to find interesting correlations with differences in yogurts and the prevalence of some diseases and affections. Did you know that yogurts became popular in Western Europe and America in the early 1900s because a Nobel Prize in biology hypothesized that Bulgarian peasants had unusually long lifespans beacause they ate a lot of yogurt? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yogurt#History One could wonder for instance if there is a correlation between the size of individual portions of yogurts and obesity. The average yogurt pot size on a world map will make an interesting visualization in any case.
Open a yogurt to have a good start for your Open Data Day!
Sounds interesting? Let's see how many yogurts we can open together on Open Data Day! As of today we have opened data for 260 yogurts from 12 countries. Let's try to open at least one yogurt from each of the 250 countries and dependent territories!
You can get on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus and ask a few friends and family to join the project. http://whatsinmyyogurt.com/ Oh and don't forget to open a yogurt today! Thank you!
Creating a database of food products from all around the world was the goal of Open Food Facts right from the start, and thanks to the work of many contributors and to a new architecture to support internationalization, this global database is becoming a reality! Open Food Facts now exists in 12 languages and contains data for 15778 products sold in 83 countries. But it's just the beginning!
When Open Food Facts was being designed 2 years ago, organizing products by language did not seem to be a bad idea. So we created sub-sites in English for products in English, in French for products in French, and then we had sub-sites in 11 languages thanks to the help of many contributors who translated the site.
But that model soon showed its limits:
Each product was listed on only one sub-site, but many products are labeled in multiple languages.
Many countries share the same language and their products were mixed together. Having a single site in Spanish for products sold in Spain and products sold in Latin America made little sense.
Some countries use multiple languages, and products from Belgium, Switzerland, Algeria etc. were divided on multiple sites. South Africa has 11 official languages, and some countries have even more languages in use!
Dividing the products in separate sub-sites for each language also made comparing products between countries quite difficult. We believe there is a lot to discover by analysing and comparing data for food products.
New focus on countries and territories instead of languages
In order to overcome those limits, we designed and deployed a new architecture to support internationalization. It is centered around countries and territories instead of languages. We still have sub-sites (one per country instead of one per language), but food products are not divided between them. Instead the sub-sites provide different "views" : you can choose to see the products sold in a specific country, or the products from the entire world. You can also choose to compare products with other products of the same category from the entire world, or with only products available in the same country.
For each product we now track in which countries it is sold. The countries can be entered and editer like any other field, and by default we assign the country from which the product was first entered (using the GeoIP IP address to country database). In the future we can use other sources of data to have more complete lists of countries where a product is sold (e.g. using data provided by distributors and supermarkets, or using the geolocation of people who scan the barcode with a mobile application that uses Open Food Facts).
Open Food Facts still speaks 11 languages
12 in fact, we just added Hebrew thanks to Yaron who translated the site! For each country you can choose to display the interface in one of the official languages of the country, or in English. And in the future you will probably be able to see products from any country in any language.
Global taxonomies for categories, labels and ingredients
We already had hierarchies for categories (e.g. we know that if a product is in the Yogurts category, it should also be in the Dairy products category), but now those hierarchies are global. Spanish-speaking users can enter category names in Spanish, French-speaking users in French, but we can now map them to the names in English, which makes it very easy to compare a category of products from one country to another. Or to see products from all over the world for one category.
We also have taxonomies for labels (e.g. organic, fair trade etc.) and we will build others for the other fields (packaging, origins etc.).
In fact we also have a project to build a global taxonomy of all ingredients. It would be a fantastic tool to build very useful applications. For instance next time you travel to a country for which you don't know the language (and maybe not even the alphabet, Chinese is all Greek to me!), you could just scan the barcode, and it would be very easy to display the ingredients in your language. With a global taxonomy of food products, we could also analyze the list of ingredients to tell you whether it contains gluten, lactose or another substance you may be allergic to.
Would you like to help to develop those taxonomies? Visit the Global Taxonomies page on our wiki!
It is just getting started
15 778 products is still a drop in the ocean of food products that are created all over the world.
12000 of those are from France where Open Food Facts started. So for France we now have a reasonnably representative set of products that allow some very interesting applications.
"How do we broaden open data – not only geographically across countries and regions, but also across domains and institutions? For example, whilst open data is now firmly on the agenda for government, in business its potential is only just starting to be explored. [..]"
It is great that more and more governements are opening more and more public data, but companies around the world also have tons of data that may not be public but is of public interest. How do we open it?
For the food industry, this is something we started to do with crowdsourcing of food products data on Open Food Facts. A few producers also started to send us data about their food products, and hopefully more of them will open more and more data.
There is a call for proposals to give talks and to organize workshops at the OKCon 2013. The deadline is May 24th.
I'm planning to submit two proposals : one for a talk that introduces Open Food Facts and its applications. And one for a workshop on internationalizing Open Food Facts. Here are brief summaries for both:
Open Food Facts: Crowdsourced Open Data for Food Products (talk)
We eat food 3 times a day but we know very little about what we eat. Open Food Facts aims to bring more transparency to the food industry by building a collaborative and open database of food products from around the world. In one year, 500 contributors added 10000 products in 11 languages. The data is open and can be used to decrypt labels (e.g. E-numbers for additives), to compare products, to visualize differences, and for anything that anyone can think about, including maps like C'est fabriqué près de chez vous (made near you) and educational games like Combien de sucres? (How much sugar?).
Internationalizing Open Food Facts Workshop
We need your help to internationalize Open Food Facts! In this workshop you can learn how to translate the interface of the web site and mobile apps, we can brainstorm together and launch initiatives to collect more local products and to start or develop local communities. During the workshop we could even launch Open Food Facts in some new languages, maybe yours?
What do you think? It would be great to get your feedback and ideas, in particular on the internationalization workshop.
I'm thinking we could briefly present where we are in the different languages. Maybe with a table that shows for each language the % of completion of the translation, the number of products and contributors, the strentghs of the local community, the re-uses etc.
Then we could have a list of precise and concrete actions that can be taken. We could also create small teams who could start some of those actions, or brainstorm on how to bootstrap the local products database or community.
What would be very cool would be to see at the beginning of the workshop if we could build and launch Open Food Facts in a new language during the workshop. A few speakers of the language would be enough. Finnish, Swedish, Hungarian, Cezch, Dutch, Korean, Japanese? Or maybe your language? :-)
In any case, there will be members of Open Food Facts at the OKCon in Geneva, and we would be very happy to meet you there and exchange ideas. Are you planning to attend the conference too?
A team of students from ISEN (a computer science and electronic engineering school in Toulon, France) submited a project for a Windows Phone application to the Imagine Cup 2013, a tech competition organized by Microsoft. The project was selected as one of the finalists for the Imagine Cup France, and if selected will be presented in Russia for the global Imagine Cup. The app is built with product data from Open Food Facts.
"MarketCare is an application made to help you with choosing your products according to your food preferences.
By filling in your profile with your tastes, your allergies, your food preferences (e.g. organic food) and any religious restriction, you can manage your criteria for good nutrition.
Whenever you want to test a product (detected by a simple barcode scan) using the app, you control what you eat.
In fact, if the product validates flawlessly the profile of the user, your device will tell you if it will suit you or not.
With maketcare, take the control of what you eat back!"
Congratulations to Marine Dabaré, Alexandre Guedeney, Florian Maunier and Timothé Nguyen and best of luck for the finals!
The competition is in English, so if you could add a few food products in English to en.openfoodfacts.org it would be a great way to support this project!
And if you know people living in English speaking countries, it would be great if you could let them know about Open Food Facts. Getting more products in English would certainly help a lot to internationalize the project and develop it in the rest of the world. Thanks in advance!
The G-8 is organizing an International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture in Washington D.C. on April 29th and 30th. The aim is to Open access to publicly funded agriculturally-relevant data that is critical to increasing global food security, especially in Africa.
There is an open call for ideas of proposals for presentations and exhibits. This may be a very good opportunity to let more people know about Open Food Facts. Food security has been mostly about improving food availability and food access in developing countries, but in many countries, including most developing countries, food use (or more precisely inadequate food use) quickly became a major concern.
Improving food use is certainly an area where a global and open database of food products information could be helpful.
So here is our open answer (meaning that you are more than welcome to comment or edit it, but be quick, the deadline to answer the call is on February 28th) to the open call for ideas.
If our application is selected, we may not be able to fly to Washington (most of the current contributors live in Europe), but maybe you live close to Washington D.C. or know someone who does and who may be interested enough in our project to present it at the conference ? Or maybe you know some channels / networks where we might find such a person? We will relay this call for help on the Open Knowledge Foundation's network, but there are certainly other networks, maybe local to the Washington D.C. area. Any idea or suggestion more than welcome!
It's been 9 months since we publicly launched Open Food Facts on May 19th 2012 to coincide with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day. And those 9 months have been very busy months! Here are a few highlights:
300 contributors have added more than 5000 products
Open Food Facts now exists in 10 languages (in various states of translation, help is still needed!)
We developed Android and iPhone apps to scan barcodes and upload product pictures
We added a RDF export of the data so that it can be more easily linked to other datasets
Users can easily plot products on a graph (e.g. showing the sugar level and number of additives for sodas) or on an OpenStreetMap map
A global project
The project was intended to be global right from the start, but most of the early contributors being French, we focused more on the French version. We were lucky to have a lot of positive response and enthusiasm for the project, and we now have 4500 products in French, which enables cool re-uses of the data like C'est fabriqué près de chez vous (French for "Made near you") which shows were food products are manufactured on an interactive map.
Our main challenge is now to develop Open Food Facts for other countries and in other languages. It will certainly enable many new re-uses and applications, like comparing the available food products in different regions of the world. Can we find correlations between the differences in food products and the prevalence of certain diseases or affections?
We need your help!
We will certainly need all the help we can find to make Open Food Facts truly global. Here are a first few ideas of how you can help, but there are countless ways to participate in the project:
Translation of the website, documentation, mobile apps etc.
Adding enough local products to enable the first useful re-uses or applications
Letting people know about the project so that we can find local users, contributors and re-users
And of course all your ideas of other possible contributions are very welcome as well!