Today there are billions of sensors collecting and transmitting data in the consumer and industrial world, enabled by location-specific sensors that transmit geo-tagged information. These sensors and sensor networks have been created by a variety of factors and are used in a variety of ways, from enabling GPS functionality to tracking location of specific items like packages, to enabling surveillance and defense.
There are an unlimited number of use cases where location-based data plays a critical role in the lives of individuals, industries and governments. Looking to the future, geo-locational data will prove to be critical to the performance of many smart technologies, from smart homes that adjust temperature based on the location and preferences of a user, and adjust security preferences accordingly, to smart devices that sense our location and that “adapt” to adjust settings and deliver more contextually relevant information to us based on our personal preferences.
Up until the recent past, most sensor networks were built using proprietary code that restricted and limited the sharing of collected information. This restricted the capture and use of geo-locational information. To share data with others, the sensor resources and applications had to be adapted manually, and the associated APIs that were developed had to be constantly managed and updated to ensure ongoing functionality.
To pave the way for the future use of this data, an open infrastructure was required: one that would will open up data sharing, enable proper controls, accommodate different models of data use and help manage the increased volume of data that will be transmitted as a result.
The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) is a non-profit standards organization dedicated to building a Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) standards framework. A Sensor Web is a complex network of web-enabled sensors that collect data that can be discovered and accessed using standardized protocols and service interfaces. Through its efforts, the OGC hopes to standardize sensor communication in a manner that fuels the open communication and interoperability of data – and it’s already on its way.
According to the OGC, they “took on the task of standardizing sensor communication because every sensor, whether in situ (such as a rain gauge) or remote (such as an Earth imaging device), has a location, and the location of a sensor is highly significant for many applications. The resulting suite of SWE standards – now being widely implemented around the world – enable developers to make all types of networked sensors, transducers and sensor data repositories discoverable, accessible and useable via the Web or other networks.”
Denise McKenzie, Executive Director, Communications and Outreach for OGC wrote, “SWE is the only open, international standards suite that provides a comprehensive platform for publishing, discovering, assessing, accessing and using sensors and sensor systems of all kinds. The SWE standards are open, with the standards documents freely available on the OGC website. Also, the consensus process in which SWE standards are created and maintained is open to all who want to participate, and the process guards against future intellectual property claims that would compromise the standards’ openness.”
SWE standards are important because they enable broad access to sensor-driven data for use by anyone. According to McKenzie, “SWE provides a coherent standards infrastructure to treat sensors in an interoperable, platform-independent and uniform way.” OGC standards are downloadable at no charge, for anyone.
SWE has been received with great enthusiasm by a broad array of organizations and are in use in hundreds of applications, from mobile to enterprise. Some of the notable organizations which have already adopted and implemented SWE include:
- Unites States Government Department of Defense/Intelligence Community
- NASA SensorWeb
- US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Integrated Oceans Observing System (IOOSIOOS)
- European Space Agency (ESA) SPS satellite tasking
- European Sensor Web Infrastructure Management (SWIMA) – monitoring water quality in river catchments
By enabling the open sharing of sensor data, SWE standards reduce development overhead, speed innovation, fuel communication and interoperability. These standards not only model the values that OpenStand represents, they help put the promise of the Internet of Things within reach.
What do you think about SWE? What standards would you like to see the SWE community develop, if they haven’t been created already?