Sensor webs & you

Jeremy Cothran at the University of South Carolina’s Advanced Solutions Group has been busy: Ever since he first came out with a KML visualization of a sensor web of weather stations and ocean buoys, he’s been working towards making it easier for others to do the same. He wrote a toolkit and web service to automate the conversion of sensor data to KML, he created the ObsRSS XML format (observations RSS) to standardize the sharing of such data, and now he’s put it all together and improved on his original sensor web visualization. Here is the KML file, updated every hour.

What’s new? First, he’s made it possible to filter observations by type. Each of these types obeys a different color code, so that the data is brought to the surface. For example, here is the view for water temperature observations:


Jeremy has also time-enabled all the content, so that you can now isolate the most recently updated stations with Google Earth’s timeline.

Behind the scenes, you (as in you, holder of raw sensor web data) can feed your own XML files to Jeremy’s PHP scripts via a URL and get filtered, styled KML back, or you can take the scripts, modify them, and host them on your own server. In both cases, you can create new observation types; if you had stations tracking something exotic like hydroxyl radicals in the atmosphere, using these scripts to would be a matter of writing a few lines of text. All is explained in the development notes.

(Some feedback: 1) Because it doesn’t make sense to show more than one color-coded data type at a time, it would be better to have the parent folder show its contents as radio buttons. 2) Color works for me for the display of magnitudes, but not for directions. Perhaps future development could incorporate the use of directional icons?)

In sum, what Jeremy is doing is removing — one by one — the excuses organizations might have for not sharing their live sensor web data with millions.

[Update 2006-10-18: Jeremy makes another update, adding radio buttons, among other things.]

2 thoughts on “Sensor webs & you”

  1. This is Jeremy, thanks for the post!

    Wanted to follow-up that I agree with the feedback points and will try to make those changes. I’ll also be posting some archival products which make better use of the timeline feature documented at Also wanted to note that there are two different color scales in the picture shown, a complex one for the satellite image of sea surface temperature and a simple one for the placemarks and simple color blue/green/red color scheme shown. Anyone interested in posting observations similarly, the main link to follow is the one to the development notes.

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