The Facebook of Sensors

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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 Kilpisjärvi, 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 ( and Paraimpu ( 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.



This entry was posted in Computer Science, Instrumentation, Measurement, Sensors and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Facebook of Sensors

  1. Jim Hannon says:

    Recently I bought a RN-XV module by Roving Networks to connect a magnetometer sensor to my WiFi network. The sensor will be buired outside to keep it away from local disturbances. In reading the users guide for the RN-XV module it appears that it can be configured to send data to Pachube without having to have any other controller. The module has 4 A/D inputs with 14 bit resolution so it would be suitable for a wide variety of sensors. In my case I will need a separate microcontroller as the output from the magnetometer needs to be processed first.

  2. Alan Scrivner says:

    I have a couple of XBee shields that I have playing with for a while now but this sounds like something else I should look into. It is a straight TCP/IP solution and includes WEP/WPA encryption as well as DHCP and an FTP client – Nice!

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