Data Analytics & APIs
Situation & Outlook
- Applications Gallery
- School Districts
- Congressional District
- Block Groups
- Census Blocks
- ZIP Codes
- Urban Areas
GIS Thematic Mapping
Visual Analysis Tools
- Congressional District
- School Districts
- Census Tracts
Federal Geographic-Demographic-Economic Data Access Using APIs
... perspectives on current and future developments
Imagine a scenario where stakeholders are able to examine data on available healthcare-related resources and compare it with data on healthcare needs for a specific county or study area. This could help determine how healthcare resources supply match-up with the demand. Despite the wide-ranging Federal data related to this scenario, it is a very difficult task. This is just one example of the possibilities that could be enabled in the near future through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) designed to access Federal data resources.
Role and Scope of APIs. APIs are increasingly used to access Federal Webserver-sourced statistical and related data. APIs have the potential to provide solutions to the aforementioned healthcare analyses. Recent developments by the Census Bureau (see http://www.census.gov/developers/) could fundamentally change not only the way large datasets are accessed but also the ways in which the data are used and interfaced into analytical applications. Several Federal agencies are now developing API-based data access tools. Different agencies are using different API designs making it difficult or impossible to knit together data from different agency APIs. In other cases, data from many important Federal statistical programs are not currently accessible at all using APIs.
Without APIs. In absence of APIs to obtain a solution to "the scenario" (above), the steps to the solution are expensive, time consuming, require specialized dataset knowledge and typically provide specific answers rather than having more generalized capabilities. A user/analyst needs to download data from Health and Human Services, combine them with Census-sourced data, then assemble the right data for analysis. As it stands the costs of data access can be prohibitive to perform such tasks, using the "old way" of performing analyses. Consequently analyses may not happen; plans might be developed more based on speculation rather than data-driven, fact-based, knowledge. With APIs such as the Census Bureau has developed would change this situation.
Which Data from Which Programs? Access to and use of many Federal geographic and statistical data resources, located in different programs and agencies, could be markedly enhanced through use of APIs. These data could be more easily knitted together. Below an example is presented that compares "design issues" relating to use of existing APIs that might be responsive to "the scenario" solutions.
We might use other examples, say, in K-12 education, but the U.S. Department of Education has no known statistical data access APIs, though relevant data exists (Common Core of Data, ACS School District Special Tabulations, among others). Analysts might want to add data on employment, establishments and earnings in healthcare industries (NAICS/types of business) but the U.S. Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics have no known statistical data access APIs, though relevant data exists (Census of Employment and Wages, Current Employment Survey, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, among others).
An Example. To illustrate "where we are," with regard to reaching "the scenario" solution, we briefly compare the API design-related data access issues deployed by the Census Bureau with those being deployed by Health and Human Services (HHS) ... see http://www.healthdata.gov/data-api. The HHS "Data-API" is currently focused on accessing the Hospital Compare data.
Solutions to meeting needs like those in "the scenario" require access to raw data as opposed to cataloging data or metadata. The HHS Data-API program is just getting underway. Assessing healthcare resource supply and demand characteristics would require API data from many other HHS programs (Nursing Home Compare, Clinics, Bureau of Health Professions datasets, National Vital Statistics System, Health Resources Services Administration, among others).
The Census Bureau uses REST (REpresentational State Transfer) APIs; HHS HealthCare APIs uses RPC (Remote Procedure Call) APIs. These are two different types of APIs with different types of deployment and capabilities.
Section 1. Using the HHS HC API -- an Application (scroll section) ...
The following code illustrates use of a "post" API instruction to retrieve certain data passed back. In this example, the provider_id (a hospital id) is passed to the server to retrieve a fixed set of data that is returned. The set of data returned is shown in Section 2.
Section 2. HHS HC API -- Returned Results (scroll section) ...
The returned results of interest in the following text are basically the name and address of the facility. Other, prospectively important features about the hospital are not returned.
Section 3. Using the Census API -- an Application (scroll section) ...
The following code illustrates use of a "get" API instruction to retrieve certain data passed back. In this example, the state code (geography ... paralleling the HC provider_id) is passed to the server to retrieve a variable set of data items to be returned. In this example, the request is for two items: P0010001 (total population) and NAME (name of the area/state). The API also specifies the statistical program (Census 2010) and dataset (SF1). The set of data returned is shown in Section 4.
Section 4. Census API -- Returned Results (scroll section) ...
The returned results of interest in the following text are organized in a CSV-like structure. The Census 2010 population is provided for each state; the state name and code are also returned.
In the world of HTTP applications, REST APIs generally have a broader range of capabilities that RPC capabilities. We promote some degree of standardization in the design of Federal statistical data access APIs so that all agencies are using like procedures. The results could be more useful.
Support Using these Resources
Learn more about demographic economic data and related analytical tools. Join us in a Data Analytics session. There is no fee for these Web sessions. Each informal session is focused on a specific topic. The open structure also provides for Q&A and discussion of application issues of interest to participants.
ProximityOne User Group
Join the ProximityOne User Group to keep up-to-date with new developments relating to geographic-demographic-economic decision-making information resources. Receive updates and access to tools and resources available only to members. Use this form to join the User Group. There is no fee.
ProximityOne develops geographic-demographic-economic data and analytical tools and helps organizations knit together and use diverse data in a decision-making and analytical framework. We develop custom demographic/economic estimates and projections, develop geographic and geocoded address files, and assist with impact and geospatial analyses. Wide-ranging organizations use our software, data and methodologies to analyze their own data integrated with other data. Follow ProximityOne on Twitter at www.twitter.com/proximityone. Contact ProximityOne (888-364-7656) with questions about data covered in this section or to discuss custom estimates, projections or analyses for your areas of interest.