By Steven Ramage
Marketing and Communications
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC)
At several conferences in the last year I have heard people talk about the widespread use of mobile phones. Some speakers mentioned an approximate 4 billion phones in use worldwide while others stated it was more like 5 billion. So what does an extra billion mean anyway?
One of the ways of looking at your mobile phone is as a sensor. Smartphones typically include gyroscope, accelerometers, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cell, sound, light, time, near-field communications (NFC), compass, and camera. This list will soon include thermometer and gravimeter. Applications using combinations of these sensors are already providing capabilities for navigation in general, and soon, indoor positioning. Tiny, inexpensive, geolocated, network-connected sensors like these are rapidly making their way into vehicles, buildings, pipes, ducts, bridges, stores, and factories.
Web-resident sensors (such as webcams) and ‘everyone-as-a-sensor’ are not new concepts, but the availability now of open sensor communication standards greatly multiplies the significance of such ideas. “Network effects” come into play, increasing the value of the sensors and the data they produce, opening up countless commercially feasible possibilities for new applications. Intuitively, it seems obvious that the network effects that helped create global telephony, the Internet and the Web can bring great benefits to environmental science and management.
Interoperability Vision for Meteorology
Chris Little, International Telecoms & Projects at the U.K. Meteorology Office, spoke about these issues in a recent interview in the OGC Newsletter. Chris is Chair of the OGC/WMO Meteorology and Oceanography Domain Working Group, along with Co-Chair Marie-Francoise Voidrot of Météo-France. “The 3D, urban modelling, and mass-market developments are relevant to our vision of where things are going. Until recently, we could have ignored all of this. Now this is all moving out of the realm of futuristic visions and into the realm of reality. Mobile phones, augmented reality, games, Xbox, Microsoft Kinect – all these technologies have a lot of money behind them and they are becoming pervasive. They are all geospatial, offering lots of new ways of interacting with spatial data, and all are driving the need for interoperability.”
He continued, “A few years ago I went into Second Life virtual reality and found that the U.S. National Weather Service had set up shop. But there was no interoperability with other virtual reality systems. We now see interoperability as a business driver. The GPS in your car is augmented reality and 3D. We won’t do meteorology on this scale but there will be requirements for weather feeds for those environments. It’s Moore’s Law. Ten to fifteen years ago, only the military could afford systems like this for fighter pilots, now it’s for foot soldiers in the infantry. There will be opportunities as these technologies continue to unfold. As processor speeds increase, we are able to provide finer grained, more local weather forecasts, though there are obviously some constraints.”
Sensor Web Enablement
Every sensor has a location, and sensor location is usually important. For this reason, the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), in cooperation with other standards organizations such as IEEE and the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), has undertaken the OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) initiative.
SWE adds a real-time sensor dimension to the Internet and the Web. It also enables efficient access to stores of sensor observations. This has extraordinary significance for science, environmental monitoring, transportation management, agriculture, public safety, facility security, building energy management, the smart electrical grid, smart pipes, predictive maintenance, and other activities that underpin sustainability. See Figure 1 for an illustration of how SWE standards are used to integrate live data streams from multiple sensors to provide real-time brush fire monitoring.
We have far more environmental sensors and far more data than ever before, but their value overall has, arguably, increased only arithmetically, not exponentially, because they are largely isolated and unpublished, not online in ways that make them effectively discoverable, assessable, accessible and usable by many.
The Sensor Standards Ecosystem
Because location is a crosscutting issue that many other software standards development organizations (SDOs) must confront at some point, the OGC actively pursues cooperative relationships with other SDOs. This approach has been helpful in dealing with pre-existing sensor standards and sensor standards that have been independently emerging, such as...
The complete article is available in the Fall 2011 Digital Edition of LBx Journal.