May 14, 2014 / by Josh

Hello Commons Cloud

Viable Industries and the Chesapeake Commons have just released version two of the Commons Cloud API. We’re excited about this work because it will offer all of our stakeholders the ability to easily manage their data in open formats so that it can be used to power custom web content, mobile applications, and real time visualizations. This API release represents another significant step toward our goal of empowering citizen scientists, nonprofit groups, and local governments with technologies that use their data to fuel smarter restoration decision making.

What’s an API?

An ­­ Application Programming Interface ­­ at its most basic level, are carefully thought out pieces of code that enable your data and applications to talk to other data and applications. They facilitate communication between systems and ultimately help expose select data and functionality to third parties. API Evangelist has some great comprehensive information that outlines the power of APIs, check it out here.

Open and use case agnostic

The Commons Cloud API will give many small watershed organizations, foundations, and local government the infrastructure they need to build cost effective apps and workflows around their data. Whether a non profit is trying to create a mobile solution to crowd-source observations on flooding in Hampton Roads or a foundation wants to build a website to share the impact of grant making, the API enables data to be made available in an extensible format such as JSON (see gist below), which can be swallowed by nearly any web based application. Commons Cloud is open source which keeps our users from being “locked-in” to proprietary software and allows them to scale their apps to a level that matches internal goals, budget, and capacity.

Bringing local data to the forefront of policy issues

Often overlooked, data related to the implementation of voluntary best management practices and citizen driven water quality monitoring efforts are critical in documenting localized changes as a result of restoration. These data are vital to crafting better policy around Bay restoration efforts because they are a direct line to citizen input. Underuse of these data are attributable to format, condition, and siloed workflows. The Commons Cloud API provides an avenue to open up and liberate these data from spreadsheets for use in restoration decision making. We can now provide incentive based data contribution through our services (building helpful environmental applications for our stakeholders) while serving as a living ecosystem of data/workflows that can be used in citizen driven restoration. Using the latest open source technologies we will continue to make it easy for environmental organizations to display, share, and maintain their data in a way that is conducive to their own unique workflow. Our API is a significant step toward meeting these goals and we can’t wait to show you what is coming next.

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