November 9, 2001

Interdisciplinary Team of Researchers Plan to Drive Real-Time Environmental Technology to New Levels

HPWREN Provides Wireless Networking Expertise for New Scripps Institution of Oceanography's ROADNet

Although the ability for scientists to collect and store remote environmental field data is becoming more commonplace in today's wired world, researchers still need interdisciplinary repositories from which they can easily share and infuse real-time information straight from the field. Along the shoreline of southern California, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) is leading efforts to create an environmental observing/monitoring testbed that will demonstrate the collection and streaming of real-time seismic, oceanographic, hydrological, ecological, geodetic, and physical data via wireless networking.

The HPWREN team will provide support for the wireless networking aspects of the Real-time Observatories, Applications, and Data management Network (ROADNet) project - while working with interdisciplinary scientists ranging from oceanographers to ecologists.



Building upon existing HPWREN infrastructure, ROADNet will allow researchers to collect, post, analyze, and retrieve data from seismic stations, lowland river watersheds, mountainous watersheds, observatories, ocean buoy research vessels, and GPS observatories. "This prototype repository will allow us to observe many aspects of the environment in near-real-time and provide the data in a very flexible manner to a wide variety of scientists and decision-makers," said PI John Orcutt, Director of the Cecil and Ida Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. "Historically, there have been many technological and institutional barriers to sharing environmental data. We are working to remove at least the technological barriers to accessing real-time environmental information."

"We are also excited about developing a Virtual Object Ring Buffer, or VORB, that will allow us to test new kinds of real-time sensor network implementations," said geophysicist Frank Vernon co-PI. "Specifically, the VORB will allow for dynamic reconfiguration based upon changing needs of the researcher and the expansion and modernization of the sensor networks."

Data Management
Using a GRID-type infrastructure design, the wireless testbed's data management efforts will focus on three primary components:
• data handling system
• information discovery system
• integrated execution system

The data handling system will support data repositories and fast data caches across a distributed network connecting heterogeneous storage systems, while the information discovery system based on a SDSC-developed Storage Resource Broker (SRB) will integrate multiple metadata repositories and enable users to discover data based upon characteristics rather than location. An integrated execution system will provide operations on data and data streams at multiple locations in the data management corridor, including near-sensor operations such as data validation; functions such as subsetting, metadata extraction and reformatting; and near-application operations such as data layouts, Quality of Service, and presentation. Extraction of metadata from real-time data flow, as well as metadata fusion across multiple sensor data, is an essential research goal. Co-PI Arcot Rajasekar noted, "The interested data user will be able to craft her own view of the available data using multi-platform, simple software, which can be easily configured on a variety of platforms."

Linking it All Together
Precisely how will all of this work?

Real-time data will be collected via field sensors connected to HPWREN; for example, the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve already has real-time video and audio capture systems in place for remote transmission. Each disciplinary researcher's real-time data will then be immediately posted to its rightful server; for instance, real-time ocean buoy data will be posted to an oceanographic server while real-time data from seismic and geodetic sensors will be posted to the IGPP Digital Library. These servers will then be joined together to form an overall network, which is immediately accessible by interdisciplinary scientists in near-real-time.

storage resource broker

The San Diego Supercomputer Center's Storage Resource Broker (SRB) will be used as the middleware to provide the uniform interface for the connection of these heterogeneous data resources via HPWREN as well as acquisition of replicated data sets. In conjunction with the Metadata Catalog (MCAT), the SRB will provide researchers an efficient way to access interdisciplinary data sets and resources based on their attributes rather than their names, disciplines, or physical locations.

ROADNet is funded by the National Science Foundation's Information Technology Research (ITR) Program, which focuses on innovative research that examines new scientific, engineering, and educational arenas in information technology. Earlier this fall, the NSF awarded 309 ITR grants - totaling more than $156 million. Selected from over 2,000 competitive proposals, the newly funded activities include eight large projects that will each total between $5.5 million and $13.75 million over five years. Another 113 mid-sized projects (including ROADNet) will each total $1 million to $5 million for three to five years, and 188 smaller projects will receive up to $500,000 each for up to three years.

Additional information regarding ROADNet is available at http://roadnet.ucsd.edu.


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