OGC Demonstrates Sensor Web Decision Support Services

January 26, 2007

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Cities and major facilities such as ports and airports are full of isolated sensors and security cameras. Many are accessible or can be made accessible via the Web. How can disaster managers make use of them in a crisis?

At a December 7 and 8, 2006 demonstration, OGC members showed how multiple interoperable technologies, including sensor webs, could be used together to respond to a major emergency event.

This demonstration concluded the OGC's fourth OGC Web Services testbed activity, "OWS-4," which ran from June through December. The demonstration was held, appropriately, at an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Most of those attending were high level disaster managers from state, federal and local agencies. OGC members participating in the demonstration used live, off-the-shelf, standards-based systems to show how decision makers can quickly find, access and integrate diverse geospatial resources on the Web.

Sensors in the OWS-4 Demo Scenario
In the demonstration's fictional scenario, as a container is being unloaded from a ship at a wharf in the New York City area, a "dirty bomb" in the container explodes, spreading highly toxic radioactive material. Workers are injured and a wind-borne plume of radioactivity begins to expand to the northeast across the metropolitan region. Teams of disaster managers and first responders work to confine radioactive material, organize an evacuation, and prepare to treat and decontaminate victims.

The response is facilitated by information flowing from many different data sources through Web services that implement the OGC's standard open interfaces and encodings. In addition to the OGC's adopted specifications that enable such functions as access to map images and raster and vector data, new specifications for Sensor Web Enablement (SWE), building information models (BIM), geospatial digital rights management (GeoDRM), and service chaining play a role. OGC's Sensor Web Enablement specifications make it possible to find and control online sensors as diverse as radiation counters, anemometers, security cameras and NASA imaging satellites.

Figure 1. OWS-4 showed how diverse kinds of sensors can be found on the Web, evaluated, and controlled, sometimes in a thoroughly automated fashion. (Click for larger image)

Sensor Web Enablement (SWE)

Scene 1 in the demo began with a radiation event. A radiation sensor whose Web interface implements the OGC's SWE specifications triggered an alert that automatically set several processes in motion. Other sensors in the vicinity were immediately and automatically polled. A server managed by the EOC alerted the EOC operator and automatically prepared a report, including a map display of sensors reporting high radioactivity. This automated process involved "service chaining" of multiple online services that publish, find, access or process sensor locations and other geospatial data. The EOC crisis manager immediately notified local fire and police departments and the appropriate federal and state authorities.

Figure 2. All necessary surveillance camera parameters, including direction of view, are accommodated in the SWE specifications. (Photo by Luke Hennig.)
One or more online catalogs of sensors, each conforming to the OpenGIS Catalog Services Implementation Specification, provided the means for the EOC operator to determine the location and other features of a wide variety of online sensors. The sensor data and metadata could be immediately found, accessed and displayed on a map because the owners of the sensors had registered the metadata in the catalogs and provided interfaces that implement the open SWE specifications.

Video cameras (whose Web interfaces implement SWE specifications) near the scene of the explosion were immediately accessible, and the operator could control those that provided remote control, because the SWE standards address video camera control parameters.

Figure 3: Online sensors near the event site.

Anticipating the need for real-time weather information, the operator accessed NASA's Earth Observation-1 (EO-1) satellite ground system, instructing the satellite through an open interface to provide images of the New York/New Jersey area over the next several days. The acquisition requested on December 8th during the OWS-4 demonstration was accepted by the EO-1 planning systems and the image was acquired.

Commercial weather data sources and weather forecasts were also accessed. Using information from these and from wind sensors, a radioactivity dispersion plume was calculated. The current and predicted direction of the radiation plume was used to determine the site for a temporary hospital to treat the radiation victims. Web-based integration of live sensor data in computer simulation and modeling, supported by open standards, was a high priority for several of the OWS-4 sponsors.

Integration of Web-resident sensors with Geospatial Decision Support Services (GeoDSS) was also a key objective of OWS-4. Disaster managers wanted a decision maker at a single workstation to be able to find and identify sensors - and other geospatial resources - located anywhere. They wanted decision makers to be able to access the resources, bring them into an operational context, and integrate them with other resources to support the decision process. Live sensor data was a key requirement for giving decision makers heightened situational awareness, which they could share with responders on the ground. Access and integration of data from multiple sources - regardless of the technology or developer of the sensors or servers - is critical to decision making in a distributed services environment.

Bringing these resources into an operational context means more than simply getting the data. The EOC operator's operational context is different from the first responder's operational context. Data displayed in police and firefighters' handheld devices and on-board computers need to be displayed using symbols with which they are familiar, symbols that may be different in different jurisdictions. OGC standards such as the OpenGIS Style Layer Descriptor Implementation Specification (SLD) used in the OWS-4 demo show how software and services running on different devices can tailor data "portrayal" for the user of the device. An open source Geography Markup Language (GML) Viewer Client implementing these specifications was one of the software components demonstrated.

Geospatial Digital Rights Management (GeoDRM): Most of the data needed for disaster response, including data about sensors and from sensors, are not free and openly available. The OWS-4 GeoDRM thread focused on identity-based access control and licensing. The use cases involved people and software components acting in end-user, broker, manager and deliveryman roles. Use cases demonstrated a click through license triggered automatically, "cascaded" data layers under different distributor licenses and user licenses, an authenticated end user license, and a license to update features.

"CGB" - CAD/GIS/BIM integration: In the demo, a temporary hospital and decontamination site had to be found close to the site where people were injured and exposed to radioactivity. CAD data and BIM were available for a number of buildings in the area, and the BIM models included geospatial information. A quick online spatial search revealed that several unused candidate buildings were available at the nearby Newark Liberty International Airport. Rapid review of the online BIM data showed that one in particular could be quickly adapted to meet the special emergency hospital requirements.

Location Based Services:
The OGC's OpenGIS Location Service (OpenLS) Implementation Specification includes a Tracking Service that queries the position of wireless devices from an OpenLS tracking server, over the Web, using the OpenLS XML protocol. This was applied to patient tracking in OWS-4.

Conformance and Interoperability Test:
Participants focused on the OGC's Conformance and Interoperability Test and Evaluation (CITE) program evaluated the new Open Source OGC Web Services Compliance Engine and developed new tests and reference implementations.

Natural and human-caused disasters are becoming more expensive. Regardless of the cause, we can reduce the costs and human impact of disasters through the use of information technology, which continues to become more capable and less expensive.

The OWS-4 demo showed that many things that were only possible on a limited scale before, using "tightly coupled" components, are now possible and practical with distributed, heterogenous, "loosely coupled" components. The new "Service Oriented Architecture" (SOA) is much cheaper to implement and requires less project management and less coordination among the users of the distributed resources. The main requirement for all is that they put their resources on the Internet and make them discoverable and accessible through catalogs, open schemas and interfaces.

Disaster management is, of course, only one domain in which this makes sense. Open sensor webs will contribute to increased communication among researchers, environmental managers and educators. Weather event warning, monitoring of driving habits, property tagging and tracking, plant operation and security, equipment monitors, motion detectors and energy efficiency devices can all be made more effective through use of the SWE standards.

OWS-4 DVD Available
The OGC is producing an OWS-4 video and is making it available to the public in early 2007. In addition to a video describing the demo above the OWS-4 multimedia product will include complete demonstrations of each the clients in the scenario. This product will be similar to the OWS-3 demonstration available here:

Other OWS-4 Technology "Threads"
  • OpenGIS Catalogue Service Implementation Specification (CSW): Defines interfaces to register metadata and to discover, browse, and query those metadata about data, services, and other geospatial resources they describe.
  • OpenGIS Web Map Service (WMS) Implementation Specification: Provides operations in support of the creation and display of registered and superimposed map-like views of information that come simultaneously from multiple sources.
  • OpenGIS Web Feature Service (WFS) Implementation Specification: Enables a client to retrieve and update geospatial data encoded in Geography Markup Language (GML) from multiple Web Feature Services.
  • OpenGIS Web Coverage Service (WCS) Implementation Specification: Allows access to geospatial "coverages" that represent values or properties over a geographic extent.
  • OpenGIS Web Map Context (WMC) Implementation Specification: Specifies how links to WMS servers can be described in a portable, platform-independent format for storage or transmission.
  • OpenGIS Geography Markup Language (GML): OGC's XML-based language for describing and encoding geospatial information.
Sensors Integrated in the SWE Demo Network
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) -- Rad Sensor
  • ORNL - Sensor Alert Service (SAS), Sensor Observation Service (SOS)
  • 3eTI - SOS
  • IRIS Corporation and Institut für Geoinformatik (IFGI) Video Sensors/Actuators
  • IFGI - Sensor Planning Service (SPS)
  • Smart Sensor Systems Light Sensor (TinyTIM™ 1451 Bluetooth)
  • NASA Earth Observing 1 (EO1) Hyperion Imagery Sensor
  • Vightel - SOS, SAS, SPS
  • Environment Sensors (Moisture, AmbTemp, SoilTemp, Solar Voltage/Current)
  • Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Information & Communications Technologies Centre -- SAS and SOS
  • US National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Sensors
  • Doppler Radar Sensors
  • University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) - SOS, Web Coverage Service (WCS)
  • Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) metrological sensor
The SWE Standards Framework
Two of the new OpenGIS Specifications for SWE are information models and schemas:
  • Sensor Model Language (SensorML) is an XML encoding that provides an information model and encodings that enable discovery and tasking of Web-resident sensors, and exploitation of sensor observations.
  • TransducerML (TML) is a method and message format for describing information about transducers and transducer systems and capturing, exchanging, and archiving live, historical and future data received and produced by them.
And two are interface specifications for Web Services:
  • Sensor Observation Service (SOS) provides access to observations and associated metadata for a sensor or sensor constellation.
  • Sensor Planning Service (SPS) enables clients to request collection feasibility and task a sensor system for desired observations.
SWE participants are working on additional candidate specifications:
  • Observations and Measurements (O&M) specifies core models and schema for observations.
  • Sensor Alert Service (SAS) enables clients to subscribe to alerts based upon sensor observations.
  • Web Notification Service (WNS) enables management of dialogue between clients and Web services for long duration (asynchronous) processes.
  • Sensor Registries specifies a universal system for publishing and discovering sensors and sensor observations.
OWS-4 Sponsors
  • BAE Systems (US)
  • GeoConnections (Canada)
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation (US)
  • National Technology Alliance (NTA) (US)
  • NATO C3
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (US)
  • Ordnance Survey (UK)
  • TeleAtlas (US)
  • US General Services Administration (GSA)
  • US National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA)
  • US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)
OWS-4 Participants
  • 3eTi
  • ADI/Thales
  • AEC3
  • Autodesk
  • BAE Systems
  • Bentley
  • Compusult
  • con terra
  • Cubewerx
  • deCarta
  • Eco-Systems
  • ESRI
  • FAO (GeoNetwork)
  • Fraunhofer
  • Galdos
  • George Mason University (GMU)
  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • GeoConnections
  • GeoTexel
  • Harvard University
  • Image Matters
  • IndoorLBS
  • Interactive Instruments
  • Intergraph
  • Ionic Software
  • Iris (Argon ST)
  • ITC
  • ITT
  • IU Bremen
  • Laser-Scan/1Spatial
  • Lat/lon
  • Lizardtech/Celartem
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • MAGIC Services Forum
  • MapXperts
  • NASA
  • NATO C3 Agency
  • Navteq
  • NGA
  • National Technology Alliance (NTA)
  • Northrop Grumman-TASC
  • Onuma
  • Oracle
  • Ordnance Survey
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
  • PCI Geomatics
  • Port Authority New York/New Jersey
  • Smart Sensors
  • Snowflake
  • Spacebel
  • Spot Image
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Tele Atlas
  • Thirteen/WNET
  • TOPP
  • Traverse Technologies
  • University Alabama Huntsville (UAH)
  • UniBW - AGIS
  • University of Bonn
  • University of Muenster - IFGI
  • University of Potsdam - HPI
  • Vightel
  • Washington University, StL


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