Ecoinformatics Conference Service, Environmental Information Management 2008

Architectural and Functional Requirements for an Environmental Sensor Network Computing Platform for Terrestrial Biological Research Stations and Ecological Observatories

Ankit Agarwal, James Beach, Julio Ibarra

Last modified: 2008-08-21


The primary objective of this research is to analyze and derive the requirements for wireless sensor network software platform for biological research stations. The scope of the analysis includes data management and end-user usability issues such as those associated with data acquisition, validation, reduction, error detection, preprocessing, filtering, formats, caching, alerts, web service and publishing functions. Front-end user interface design requirements are being assessed by using user-centered analysis techniques with existing sensor project leaders and with prospective users, primarily at the Organization for Tropical Studies' La Selva Research Station in north central Costa Rica. We are analyzing researcher needs from a perspective of data processing models and interactions with workflow integration and modeling environments. This work is being accomplished by holding interviews with researchers from both the U.S. and Costa Rica. Also, through workshops and conferences related to sensor networks for environmental monitoring we have gathered science requirements from biologists, researchers, and educators regarding what would aide their research or their educational objectives.

Our preliminary findings have shown that researchers, site systems administrators, and educators require a platform-independent wireless sensor network software platform which would be easy to install and maintain and which would be modular and extensible to local needs. It should be able to accommodate various data types and proprietary protocols emanating from a range of commercially available environmental sensors. The security system should be able to compartmentalize data and set granular permissions for project access and other data streams available. There should be a standards-based schema with robust database query and retrieval mechanism. The database should be able to handle metadata along with environmental data. The architecture should be able to provide data in real-time. There should be web-based visualization and post-processing tools. The web pages should be designed to explain the significance of the data and the relevance of the research to important environmental research issues for technical and non-technical audiences.