By Alan Scrivner
Distributed wireless sensors are increasingly being used to monitor all sorts of things – from the water quality in a river to the temperature in your house. Now, companies like one called Pachube provide a way for anyone to share and access all sorts of this sensor data across the internet and in real time.
After the Japanese earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear disaster, developers used feeds from automated radiation sensors to create tools for remotely monitoring radiation levels. Some hobbyists have even built robots that can talk to each other over the Pachube network. A simple search of the site reveals things like an optical dust sensor connected using an Arduino and Ethernet shield to measure air quality in Visher Ferry, New York, or live weather data from the KilpisjÃ¤rvi, Finland Biological Station. The potential uses of data streams like these for amateur scientists seem endless.
Pachube is not the only sensor network company. For example, OpenSense (open.sen.se) and Paraimpu (paraimpu.crs4.it) are two others that provide a similar model for online feeds with a different set of applications, some services for free, others for a cost. However, from my experience, Pachube is easy to use and provides open-source libraries that have been ported to devices like the Arduino with the hobbyist or experimentalist in mind.