AMdEX of the Netherlands wants to democratize the internet

The Amsterdam Data Exchange (AMdEX) is carrying out a project at the Amsterdam Marineterrein in which data from various sensors is made accessible to residents, companies, journalists and other interested parties.

This is the first live project on AMdEX, founded last year.

“This provides us with a good starting point to build on AMdEX’s further ambition,” said Willem Koeman, digital lead at the Amsterdam Economic Boardone of the initiators of AMdEX.

The Data Exchange aims to simplify data exchange through a standard infrastructure that allows data to be shared in a controlled, secure manner and under owner conditions.

People are used to data being sent from A to B over the Internet, but when it arrives at its destination, it is not always clear what happens to it, what it is used for and whether it is copied. AMdEX has developed a template to agree terms on how to deal with shared shared, and Koeman cited the example of the aviation industry, which relies heavily on data for innovation.

“Airplanes generate an enormous amount of data, for example about flight hours,” says Koeman. “After a certain number of flight hours, an aircraft has to come in for maintenance. But no airline itself has enough data to make an analysis about the optimal time window for maintenance. If they want that insight, they have to share data between different airlines.”

But the idea of ​​sharing data with competitors has not been warmly embraced, he added, even as it benefits the industry as a whole. “That is why it is important to make agreements about what data is shared, who owns it, how long it may be used and for what purpose.”

Koeman said there is a huge amount of data available, but as with airlines, many data owners are reluctant to share data. “Competitive interests often keep organizations from sharing data or believing they can,” he said.

Digital notary

But innovation, or just that extra step, so that a product or service better meets the wishes and needs of a target group, ultimately comes from sharing data. “That’s why AMdEX acts as a kind of digital notary,” says Koeman. “We are the independent third party that registers and enforces agreements about the use of each other’s data.”

For this, AMdEX has developed a generic template with which organizations in all industries can share data with each other in a secure and trusted way, without the intervention of an external or commercial party. “Now there is often already some data exchange within a sector, usually with a large tech company,” says Koeman. “We want to support the general public interest by facilitating and recording generic mutual agreements on property rights. These agreements can be used in any sector.”

The Marineterrein project shows the potential, he added, helping AMdEX explore and scale the future.

For example, the data from sensors at the Amsterdam Marineterrein belong to different owners. “Combining this data creates information that, for example, residents can use to influence developments at the location,” says Koeman. “Companies can use the data to develop their products and services. For example, journalists can use it to see what happens to the water quality when the weather is warm and there is a lot of swimming.”

This information was previously unavailable, but interested parties can now obtain it through AMdEX. “People can now request certain data from Marineterrein’s data infrastructure,” says Koeman. “AMdEX then checks whether the applicant meets all the requirements set by the data owners. Once confirmed, AMdEX will create a subpacket of the requested data and send it as a link to the requester.”

Currently, only subsets can be shared. In the future, AMdEX also wants to send algorithms in addition to the data. “In this way, interested parties can use the data, while they cannot access the actual data themselves,” says Koeman.

It’s nice for both data owners and users to have an independent digital notary in the background pulling the strings, he added. “This gives parties easier access to data, while there is much less manual work involved in sharing data. It has now been standardized by us as a trust provider, which saves a lot of time and effort.”

Now that the project at the Amsterdam Marineterrein has been completed, AMdEX wants to see whether it is possible to add more data to the infrastructure there, but also whether the data can be used, for example in the curriculum of Codam, the Amsterdam initiative that leads people free to become programmers. “Or that, for example, startups that are involved in the AMS Startup Booster Programme can use the data to set up and validate their business model,” says Koeman. “That is the future we envision.”

While the Marineterrein experiment is relatively small, AMdEX’s ambition is much greater, he added. “We want to democratize the Internet by giving the data back to the consumers, to the real owners, and taking it away from the big tech companies.”

The underlying idea of ​​AMdEX is that shared data can provide new information and insights, enabling faster detection of diseases or smarter use of energy, for example. “All the data needed for this insight is available, but it’s usually in different places and with different organizations that don’t want to share it,” Koeman said. “There is a fear of sharing data, often because people are afraid to give competitors an advantage.

“As a result, we see that scientific research, for example, does not always get off to a good start. Scientists tend to keep their findings to themselves. Often there is a common public interest that needs to be served. By making independent agreements about ownership and use of data, we at AMdEX want to contribute to the democratization of the internet.”

When the initiative started in 2021, the founders of AMdEX – the Amsterdam Economic Board, AMS-IX, DeXes, SURF and the University of Amsterdam – gave themselves two and a half years to fully flesh out the project. For this they received co-financing from the European Regional Development Fund.

Find a business model

The biggest challenge lies in finding a business model for AMdEX. The aim is to create an association that will take care of further development and ultimately, following the example of AMS-IX, will manage the infrastructure. “We consciously choose to be an association, because we believe that a party in the middle should not be a commercial party,” says Koeman.

Another challenge for the organization is to secure and enforce digital agreements on a large scale. “At the moment this works well in small, limited cases, but if we want to democratize the internet, it must be possible to do this automatically on a large scale,” says Koeman. “For the time being, that really remains a work in progress.”

So it is taking longer than initially anticipated. The aim is to have completed at least five cases in two and a half years, so that lessons can be learned and developments can be continued.

In about three years, Koeman hopes to have a functioning AMdEX that can record and enforce digital agreements. “Although we originally called ourselves the Amsterdam Data Exchange, AMdEX has no regional ties,” he said. “We are there for the whole of the Netherlands and Europe. For optimal functioning, AMdEX would benefit from cooperation with other exchanges in Europe. I would very much welcome the European Union setting up connected data exchanges in different countries in the near future, so that we can become one of the data hubs in Europe, comparable to AMS-IX.”

For the next three years, AMdEX’s focus will be on the large-scale implementation of a generic model in various environments, Koeman said. “I think that in the Netherlands we have the knowledge and expertise to serve as an example of how to handle data responsibly.”

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