How open data can help you to choose a place to live

PlaceILive is a new site that uses freely available data to help consumers better determine the quality of life at a specific address

A house with a lot of “For Sale” signs in the front yard.
Credit: Lola Audu

Suppose you were going to move to a new city with which you weren’t very familiar. What factors would you consider when choosing a neighborhood, street or address as your new home? Obvious things like housing prices, crime rates, and proximity to schools and public transportation would play into your decision. But what about other things that could affect your quality of life, such as the location of day care, doctors, and supermarkets? A newly launched website called PlaceILive is making use of open data to provide a wealth of information on the livability of potential places to live, right down to the actual addresses you may be considering.

PlaceILive, which first launched about a year ago, came to be when one of its co-founders needed to find an apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania. “The usual real estate portals were providing a lot of information about the apartment itself (size, rooms, pictures, utilities, year built), but almost none information about the neighbourhood - how safe is the neighbourhood? Polluted? Loud? What type of neighbours live there? What are the plans for other developments in the area? Also, how is the neighbourhood changing and what tendency it has - is it getting better, safer, cleaner or is it not?” PlaceILive CEO and co-founder Šarūnas Legeckas told me in an email.

Legeckas and his friends realized that much of this kind of information was already freely available as open data from governments, private companies, and non-governmental organizations. However, the data were very dispersed and in a variety of formats. Using their tech skills, they decided to collect these data for a handful of cities and present them a visual format to make it more digestible. PlaceILive is still in beta and currently presents data for five cities: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London, and Berlin.

There’s quite a lot of information available through the site already. I took a spin through it and found some interesting maps representing the density and distribution of such things as:

One of the key offerings of PlaceILive, though, is what they call the Life Quality Index (LQI), which is a numerical score given to each address in these cities. The LQI is based on a variety of factors including, among other things, safety, affordability, demographics, and entertainment. Legeckas told me that they are also calculating the LQI at more aggregated levels, such as for zip codes, neighborhoods, and streets; those ratings are expected to be made available on the site in the next week.

Down the road, Legeckas said that they hope to monetize the site by making the data available to real estate or travel companies. Also, he suggested that the company might eventually offer detailed reports on an address to consumers for a fee.

For now, though, the team behind PlaceILive is simply looking for feedback from users, including which cities the site should next expand to include. The site already allows visitors to provide their own rankings and feedback on specific locations, which Legeckas feels are vital to help improve the LQI going forward. “The stats can show that particular neighbourhood has high crime rates but maybe people living there feel very safe so we want to give this voice to people to provide their own opinion about the places they know,” he wrote.

Based on early user response, Legeckas feels that PlaceILive is definitely on the right path to providing a needed service. “In general feedback has been great and people confirm that there is a need for this type of tool that objectively provides information in one place.”

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