Rapid advances and decreasing costs in sensor technology, wireless communication, data processing speed, and data storage capacity have enabled widespread deployment of environmental sensing systems. Basic environmental processes can be continuously monitored in habitats ranging from very remote to urban, providing information in unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution. Although research questions that may be answered based on these data are very diverse, the design process, establishment, and maintenance of most environmental sensor systems have many commonalities. Here we are introducing an openly editable, community supported best practices guide for managing environmental sensor networks and data. A working group of practitioners experienced in the entire life cycle of streaming sensor data (sensor network establishment, remote data acquisition, data storage, quality control and assurance, and data access) has started the ‘Wiki Process’ for assembling such a resource. The guide builds on the collective experience of working group members as well as earlier workshops where six topics had emerged. The working group has released initial documents on the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation wiki page (http://wiki.esipfed.org/index.php/EnviroSensing_Cluster).
In its current version, this document on best practices for sensor networks and sensor data management provides information for establishing and managing a fixed environmental sensor network for on- or near-surface point measurements with the purpose of long-term or “permanent” environmental data acquisition. It does not cover remotely sensed data (satellite imagery, aerial photography, etc.), although a few marginal cases where this distinction is not entirely clear are discussed, e.g., phenology and animal behavior webcams. The best practices covered in this document may not all apply to temporary or transitory sensing efforts such as distributed “citizen science” initiatives, which do not focus on building infrastructure. Furthermore, it is assumed that the scientific goals for establishing a sensor network are thought out and discussed with all members of the team responsible for establishing and maintaining the network, i.e., appropriateness of certain sensors or installations to answer specific questions are not discussed. Information is provided here for the various stages of establishing and maintaining an environmental sensor network: planning a completely new system, upgrading an existing system, improving streaming data management, and archiving data.
The chapters contained in this guide are structured to provide a general overview of the specific subject, an introduction to methods used, and a list of best practice recommendations based on the previous discussions. Case studies provide specific examples of implementations at certain sites.
● Sensor Site and Platform Selection considers environmental issues, site accessibility, system specifications, site layout, and common points of failure.
● Sensor Data Acquisition outlines considerations and methods for automating real-time acquisition of environmental sensor data from remote locations.
● Sensor Management Tracking and Documentation outlines the importance of communication between field and data management personnel as field events may alter the data streams and need to be documented.
● Sensor Data Management Middleware discusses software features for managing streaming sensor data.
● Sensor Data Quality discusses different preventative approaches to minimize data inaccuracies and quality control and data management practices to identify and properly document problematic data and data quality level.
● Sensor Data Archiving introduces different approaches and repositories for archiving and publishing data sets of sensor data.
As mentioned above, this is a living document implementing the Wiki Process and therefore, everyone is invited to contribute knowledge and experience, provide updates and corrections, or start a completely new chapter with currently missing information. Anyone can register an account with the ESIP wiki and upon approval, may edit existing content. The ‘Wiki Process’ for amassing knowledge in an organized fashion is well documented for the Wikipedia (see links below). Documentation and guidelines are provided there for reaching consensus through editing or through discussion. Each subject area may be discussed in the Wiki on the ‘discussion’ tab, or on the ESIP EnviroSensing Cluster mailing list. Overall, most of the ‘10 simple rules of Wiki editing’ apply here as well. We hope this will provide a forum for lively discussion of the latest developments in sensor technology and that you will find the information useful enough to share your knowledge.
At this point the main contributors have been: Renee F. Brown, Richard Cary, Corinna Gries, Don Henshaw, Christopher Jones, Adam Kennedy, Christine Laney, Mary Martin, Jennifer Morse, John Porter, Andrew Rettig, Scotty Strachan, Branko Zdravkovic and we are welcoming anyone who is interested in sharing their knowledge.
Wikipedia:Ten Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Ten_Simple_Rules_for_Editing_Wikipedia
Wikipedia:List of policies and guidelines, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_policies_and_guidelines