Do not reinvent the wheel! A story from a non-smoker….

Thanks to a very kind invitation from Vasu Kilaru (EPA National Exposure Research Laboratory), I attended the recent Air Sensors 2013 workshop at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My presentation was about the use of OGC standards for Big Data in the context of Sensors. I participated in a breakout session led by Sherri Hunt (EPA Star Program) that focused on challenges for the next 5 years. One of them was the need for better descriptions of sensors and data integration. Also, unexpectedly, for the first time I measured the CO in my breath: 2 PPM, happily reassuring to the world that I’m a non smoker and healthy.

The presentations were fascinating! Topics included the need for data fusion of sensor satellites and models, the use of body energy to power sensors using nanotechnology, smarter cities, neighborhood networks for air quality and traffic, connecting personal health data and the surrounding environment, citizen observatories that use standards and contribute to GEOSS, and quality of sensor data as a continuum.

I couldn't help noticing the parallels between today's world of air quality sensors and the world of ocean observation that I lived in before joining the OGC staff.

Eight years ago, I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for the purpose of helping the marine community share data. We were asked to devise an implementation that showed that it was possible to create agreements among the many organizations that participate in the ocean observation community. In 2005 we developed a service to get metadata and data. We used XML and created a minimum set of metadata elements, which required us to create a content model in XML Schema.

Soon after, we got new requirements. We needed a better way to describe sensors and support other types of data. There was a sense of urgency because concurrently other projects were also developing their own encodings and sensor manufacturers had their own encoding and APIs. We needed to address not only maintenance of the code, but also maintenance of the schemas and APIs, and we had to show how these would be sustainable in the future.

We stepped back and thought about our goal: "Help the community”. Fortunately we found the OGC Sensor Observation Service (SOS) Interface Standard. I was familiar with the OGC but not with SOS. We found that the models –SensorML, Observations & Measurements and SWE Common – met our needs. More importantly, by using OGC standards we solved our maintenance and sustainability issue. We went one step further and not only used what was proposed in the OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) working group, but we injected our requirements, making sure that SWE met the needs of the marine community. SOS 2.0 contains some of those changes, such as changes in the HTTP GET encoding.

Are healthy IT/Sensors systems the ones that can be maintained in the future by a larger community in a standards organization? I say yes. The challenges for the air sensors community are much the same as the challenges from the marine sensor community. So, I call on developers of air sensor systems to look at OGC's Sensor Web Enablement and please do not reinvent the wheel!