Researchers in Europe have worked out a new method to access and reuse environmental data from various sources. The SANY (‘Sensors Anywhere’) project, which received EUR 7 million under the ‘Information society technologies’ (IST) Thematic area of the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), targeted better interoperability of in situ sensors and sensor networks, and faster and cost-efficient reuse of data and services from currently incompatible sources.
Easy access and use of environmental data (e.g. on the atmosphere, oceans and land) from sensors found on Earth and in outer space are not readily available. Adding to this challenge is that policy is made from scientific information obtained from these observations. Enter the SANY project that developed the technical means to get this information, easily and freely.
‘We are investing lots of resources to make measurements for a particular reason, but the information obtained may never be used again,’ explained SANY’s coordinator Dr Denis Havlik of the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT). ‘Perhaps people don’t know that certain information exists or they cannot access it; sometimes they can access it but they don’t know how to use it, or it is too complicated to get in touch with the data owner.’
Thanks to the use of a ‘service-oriented’ architecture, SANY can build applications out of modular services retrieved over the Internet. For example, one service could collect data, while another service could process data.
‘The SANY Sensor Service Architecture (SensoSA) allows everybody who makes environmental observations to advertise them over a standardised service interface,’ Dr Havlik said. ‘Anybody who needs environmental data can go and search for it — or look in a catalogue — and retrieve it using standardised methods.’
Regardless of the source of data, its form or how it was retrieved, the SANY system can transform all data to a standard established by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Ltd, a SANY partner from the UK. Sensor data, whether raw or processed, can be handled by the SANY system, the researchers said.
From a market perspective, the SANY proposal can prove lucrative. ‘If you are a small company and you believe, for example, that you can predict episodes of air pollution much better than anybody else, then it’s easy for you to put your service on the market,’ Dr Havlik explained.
‘Today, many companies still try to do everything on their own. The new market paradigm envisaged by SANY will allow all involved parties to concentrate on their own strengths, and purchase the missing data and services on an open marketplace.’
The results obtained in SANY are significant for two extensive international initiatives: GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) and INSPIRE. A collaboration between the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA), GMES targets long-term interoperability, availability and reliability of earth observation data. INSIPIRE seeks establishment of a ‘spatial information infrastructure in Europe’.
The SANY partners are from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.