Software review

Bonanza Creek LTER – University of Alaska Fairbanks

by: Jason Downing
Access Bonanza Creek live VDV site Live VDV site for Bonanza Creek

map

Picture 1 – Location of Bonanza Creek LTER

Like many research programs, our LTER site is continually struggling to manage numerous remote sensor stations and their data . We are constantly looking to improve the quality and availability of the data they are collecting while using technician time and resources effectively. One option on the market to manage sensor network data is Vista Data Vision (VDV) and after some initial testing, we decided to take the plunge and have not yet been disappointed.

“we decided to take the plunge and have not yet been disappointed”

You must be thinking, “What can this program do for me?”. The answer is everything; well just about. It comes prepackaged with everything you need to take data from a field datalogger, deposit it in a MySQL database, and make it fully viewable and downloadable on the internet. And all of this can be done without any custom coding or database configuration; in fact you could practically do it without ever having created a web page or even knowing anything about MySQL.

“all of this can be done without any custom coding or database configuration”


DATA IMPORT

The Vista Data Vision program monitors .DAT data files, collected with CS’s Loggernet or Canary System’s Multilogger; and as they are updated with new data, it is imported into a MySQL database (installed and configured by VDV) where it is immediately available to view or download on the web. Historical data files as well can be simply imported and there are file converters available if your data is in .CSV files.


ACCESS CONTROL

There are also numerous access control options so you can have a host of users that would eachhave customized access to specific stations or sensors. The controls can also moderate which features are available to each user so you can control who can edit, download, or simply view them data.


Picture 4: Historical plots showing wind measurements at different height

Picture 2: Historical plots showing wind measurements at different height

Picture 3 - Temperature readings along with humidity

Picture 3 – Temperature readings along with humidity


ADDITIONAL FEATURES

Additional features include an alarm monitoring function to send messages via email or text message when stations or sensors are either reporting data outside of acceptablelimits or if the stations are failing to report altogether. There is also a toolkit to produce automatic reports in Word or text format on variable time scales (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually or simply on demand) and then email these to desired contacts. There is alsoa notation feature so a maintenance logs can be easily maintained along side the actual data. The validation provides the functionality for automatic removal of out of range data as well as unexpected noise or data spikes. Users can also create virtual variables, which are calculated values based on mathematical functions using data from the datalogger, to produce rescaled values or calculated results that were not performed by the datalogger. And lastly, in has a module to easily include web camera images along side the data so these images are available on the web and connected to the data if that is what you desire.

“worth the investment when we factored in the ease of installation, quality of support,and time saved developing these tools ourselves”


THE BENEFIT

The cost for this program ranges, based on the chosen version, from $2400 to $11300. This is a significant investment for sites operating with increasingly tight budgets but our analysis determined that for our needs, the PRO version would be worth the investment when we factored in the ease of installation, quality of support and time saved developing these tools ourselves. The PRO version will allow us to quickly implement systematic data quality procedures, easily get our current streaming data available and viewable through a web interface, give us room to grow over time as we add stations, and make this service available to some of our affiliated research groups that are also running telemetry stations located in our research areas. We initially deployed a 30-day Trial Version and initiated a dialog with an application specialist at Vista Data Vision. Even though they are based in Iceland and multiple time zones from Alaska they were quick and helpful in addressing our questions.

“the simplicity to use and quickness to get the system deployed has saved enormous amounts of development time and technician training”


CONCLUSION

The end result is a powerful and user friendly ‘out of the box’ solution to effectively mange almost any sensor network. The initial cost may be on the steep side but the simplicity to use and quickness to get the system deployed has saved enormous amounts of development time and technician training.

Live VDV site for Bonanza Creek

Picture 3: Multiple webcams are used to give visualzation of monitoring locations

Picture 4: Multiple webcams are used to give visualzation of monitoring locations