Environmental data on demand – enabling dynamic life data flows with Sensor Web Enablement

This wikipage describes the initiative within EEA on promoting Sensor Web Enablement (SWE), gaining experience and learning how to use Sensor Obserservation Services (SOS) in our production environment.

Since 2006, EEA has been operating 'Ozone web' based on ozone in-situ data delivered in near real time (NRT) by the EU member states. This system has shown the use of NRT and the interest has been growing since it was launched. However, this system is built upon properitary data formats and since we expect the need for collecting environmental data will increase in the future, we feel that it is time to start thinking about open standards on data exhange and the use of data; e.g. how can we use these data directly in existing GIS applications, both server and client side. Until now, our focus has been on airquality data, but the theme could also be waterquality, noise, meterological data etc.

It can be expected that the need for collecting environmental data will increase in the future. Data will be used in new contexts, which can not always be foreseen. This is already challenging for owners, custodians and consumers of today’s data supply. There are needs for new ways to manage the data supply chain, to ensure that new combinations can be supported without a reliance on, or demand for additional resources from existing institutions.

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) supports the development of Sensor Web Enablement (SWE), a protocol based on XML and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). The SWE protocol supports an infrastructure where any sensor collected environmental data can be shared on demand and in real-time. The concept consists of a suite of supporting standards, which describes how data flow can be aggregated on different levels; from data collection/observation sensors through aggregation nodes (threshold aggregators, models, reporting structures, etc.), through to intelligible information supply that supports understanding of events.

The SWE protocol suite supports data subscription, data aggregation, threshold alerts, and sensor tasking. The suite support other procedures regarding controlling sensors, data collection etc. In this concept a sensor can be a mechanical device or a human observer reporting data in a standardized way.

The XML and SOA technologies are well established and well proven through numerous implementation and uses. The SWE protocol suite is rather new with some of the standards still pending, there are also very few examples of implementations. So some questions are still unanswered, including: Can existing monitoring infrastructures be adapted / upgraded at near to cost neutral (affordable) basis? Will this framework require additional resources for maintenance? Will this technology make data flow more effective? What are all the benefits?

SWE development is a community effort supported by standardisation through OGC. Involved parties collaborate loosely in support for its development. Work on SWE development to date has been largely prototype in nature. A lot of progress has been made with these works; current pending SWE standards are expected to be re-issued as a result of these community inputs.
Where standards are yet pending and incomplete in some areas we will see players not participating until they can see an advantage in participation i.e. there will be little to no adoption to fit into a future adopted SWE standard, and thee are immediate tangible benefits in joining. We are now however at a stage where large adaptation (cross national and medium and sensor independent) that will support plug in adaptation and collaboration from interested parties as and when these emerge.

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Documents / Sourcesafe

All documents related to this project can be found in sourcesafe: