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This page covers basic sensor web terminology and provides links to more specific terminology pages. It currently also has a short acronym glossary that ought to move to its own page.

From jargon to useful lexicon

Jargon--technical terms mystifying to the uninitiated--can be useful or counterproductive. We'd like to keep the jargon in this project (a) minimal and (b) useful. Or better still let's deprecate jargon in favor of building a useful lexicon inspired by NASA's thoughts on smart sensor webs.

SEAMONSTER often refers to Wireless Sensor Networks, Wireless Sensor Webs, and Smart Sensor Webs. What do these mean?

  • Sensors: Electronic devices (possibly combined with interpretive models) that sense some physical parameter or state in the local environment and create a corresponding electronic signal.
  • Sensor network: Associations of sensors.
  • Wireless: Radio communication
    • Wireless Sensor Network: A (somewhat deprecated) expression for many sensors interconnected by radio, intended to collect information.
  • Sensor web: An association of sensors and control software capable of dynamic reconfiguration
    • Wireless sensor web: A sensor web that intercommunicates by radio
    • Smart sensor web: A sensor web that auto-configures in response to sensor data.

Sorry this is a bit abstract but we do get down to nuts and bolts elsewhere in this wiki.

There is an implicit idea here as well: Eventually the signals or data must be represented digitally and associated with context for use. We roughly make the semantic distinction using the term 'information' to indicate something that can be processed by humans.

In the next section we provide some next steps in the lexicon. These were generated in the course of writing a paper for a workshop at the 2007 IPSN meeting. They are not presented here as definitive; but we hope they are helpful. That workshop paper can be found here.

Some Working Definitions

  • Instrument A mechanical device (not a human) that creates an electronic signal in response to environmental stimulus or state.
  • Model An operation on instrument signals, data or information that is intended to recover a digital representation of the causal environmental state.
  • Sensor While a sensor could be considered synonymous with Instrument (above), a recent discussion (February 2007) at the NASA Advanced Information Systems Technology “smart sensor web” workshop expanded the definition of a sensor to include a synthesis of instrument and model.
  • Local In the vicinity of a sensor.
  • Non-local Satisfying an important data-recovery objective: Data or information that is accessible far from its point of origin.
  • Data { Raw, Level 0, 1, 2, etc } One or more values representing a local environmental parameter as generated by a sensor, bound to associated contextual information describing how it was produced, and subject to standardization (typically in some form of XML payload.) To an extent this definition of data gives it context, albeit standalone, in contrast to the implication for Information where the notion of context is extended.
  • Information Contextualized data, that is, data that can be understood by a person in a broader context of meaning, particularly with regard to other data, geographical location, and related physical processes. We also use ‘information’ in the typical broader sense, as in the title of the paper, to include data, architecture, design, implementation details and so on.
  • Standard A carefully defined set of rules or format for representing data and information, a concept largely derived from the necessity of communicating across disparate information systems.
  • Standardization In the sense of an operation, transorming data/information from a local representation to a standard representation.
  • Sensor network The structure and means of acquiring data.
  • Sensor web A superposition of purpose onto a sensor network that enables it to provide information.
  • Retrograde design The process of determining design based on working backwards from end objectives.
  • Nested network A primary network may host one or more sub-networks, and each of these may in turn host sub-sub-networks and so on. The nested network concept is provided as a means of supporting modular architecture.
  • Tier A term to describe the degree (primary / sub / sub-sub…) of a nested network.
  • Server The anchor point for the primary network, connecting it with the Internet in order to make sensor web information content non-local.
  • Microserver In SEAMONSTER a Tier-1 (primary network) component.
  • Mote In SEAMONSTER a Tier-2 (sub-net) network component.
  • Enclosure Environmental hardening and physical interface including interface specification documentation. Where this documentation is online the enclosure may be said to have a virtual (or non-local!) component.
  • Duty-cycle driven power management (DDPM) In remote installations DDPM refers to a combination of solid-state switching, voltage/current monitoring, and low-power microcontroller logic used to distribute data sampling across a performance interval, typically months or years. It is used here primarily as an example of low-level implementation detail.


Argot is slang. I mention it here because in times past the microservers we use here were called bricks and this may creep in now and again. This is some space for more slang if we need it.

Brick: A Vexcel-developed microserver.

Chicken: The Alaska state bird, also known as a ptarmigan if one is an ambitious speller.

Acronym and Terminology Glossary

Atom The name Atom applies to a pair of related standards. The Atom Syndication Format is an XML language used for web feeds, while the Atom Publishing Protocol (APP for short) is a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and updating Web resources.

AWC Aviation Weather Center

DNS Domain Name System (DNS) associates various sorts of information with so-called domain names; most importantly, it serves as the "phone book" for the Internet: it translates human-readable computer hostnames, e.g. en.wikipedia.org, into the IP addresses that networking equipment needs for delivering information. More here.

DOM Document Object Model

eGY electronic Geophysical Year

EMC Environmental Modeling Center

FP Functional Programming.

GDI+ Graphic Device Interface can be used with C# to create plots and other visualizations

GHCC Global Hydrology and Climate Center

GEMPAK the GEneral Meteorology PAcKage, is an analysis, display, and product generation package for meteorological data.

GML Geographic Markup Language

GOES Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites

HPC Hydrologic Prediction Center

IGY International Geophysical Year

IPY International Polar Year (2007--2008)

KML Keyhole Markup Language

MCS Microsoft Consultant Services

MPC Marine Prediction Center

MS Microsoft Corporation

MSR Microsoft Research, a division of Microsoft

NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NCAR National Center for Atmospheric Research

NCEP National Centers for Environmental Prediction

NetCDF (network Common Data Form) is an interface for array-oriented data access and a library that provides an implementation of the interface. The netCDF library also defines a machine-independent format for representing scientific data. Together, the interface, library, and format support the creation, access, and sharing of scientific data.

NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

OASIS Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Systems

PHP Personal Home Page, a web publication construct with set elements that accommodate higher level applications (like Wikis, polls, and so on).

RSS is a family of (XML) Web Feed Formats. It stands variously for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary or other things.

SDK Software Development Kit

SEAMONSTER South East Alaska MONitoring Network for Science, Telecommunications, and Education Research

SOA/SOE Service Oriented Architecture / Environment. SOA is a worldwide mesh of collaborating services that are published and available for invocation on a Service Bus.

SPC Storm Prediction Center

TPC Tropical Prediction Center

UAS University of Alaska Southeast

UNIDATA "...is one of eight programs in the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Office of Programs (UOP). ... For 20 years Unidata has been providing data, tools, and support to enhance Earth-system education and research." (UCAR website)

VxO Virtual <x> Observatory, distributed online where x = a scientific discipline.

WPF Windows Presentation Foundation, the graphical subsystem feature of Microsoft Windows.

XML Extensible Markup Language

XPC X Prediction Center