December 28, 2016

Make Your Own Community Weather Station

The green movement and its associated high fibre diet of dreadlocks and second hand corduroy continues to be the domain of  those with either too time on their hands or enough folding matter to support their renewable habits. Now I’ve managed to wedge enough cliches into that last sentence to skin the proverbial but I seriously do love me a greenie. They mean well and their attitudes to sharing, if shared, would go a long way to solving a lot of life’s problems. This is why I’d love to have a chat with you all about sharing. The free way. With the newly free Pachube service. God that sounded like an ad – would you like fries with that?

Although we’ve had a natter about Pachube before, the nutshell version is that your data is sent to the Pachube servers and is displayed on the web in real-time. This information could be coming from a person’s spreadsheet detailing his frequency of bowel habits or it could be an automatically updated sensor output from your neighbours fridge letting you know how cold the beer is. The beauty of the system is that the “feed” is available for anyone to get their hands on and to do with it what they will. It utterly blows my mind when I think about the possibilities for collaboration – especially in a field as important as sustainability.

So what can you do with this little free piece of techno amazingness?

Data sharing and collaboration peoples. Just like the Japanese geiger maps gave the world an idea of what was happening after the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plants, so too can communities anywhere in the world share their own little slivers of information. Because each data-stream can be geotagged, groups of diffuse information can be brought together as a complete overview of an area. Not making sense yet?

As an example we have Barry at number 32 tracking the rainfall over his vegetable patch. He plots the rainfall daily into a spreadsheet and uploads it to Pachube for storage. Luckily Sarah at number 15 loves a sun-bake so has been uploading UV radiation information onto the Pachube servers by using an Arduino board and a bit of nous. A couple of streets over from Barry and Sarah lives Ruby who runs her own wind generator. She sends the wind speeds and direction to Pachube using an old PC connected to the net. Little do Barry, Sarah, and Ruby know but  by using a Pachube widget they could each, automatically, combine the streams into a real-time weather station.

This all sounds great but what’s the point?

Aside from collaboration making for an amazing community it also shares the cost of projects. Barry knows when to cover up his vegetables so they don’t get burnt by the UV rays, Sarah knows when it’s going to get too windy to sun-bake and Ruby could begin to work out if solar panels are going to be a worthwhile investment or will it be too wet and dull for them to work well. If we expand this out across a larger community, like those who love a bit of community gardening, we could add extra streams like crop yields, humidity, revenue, and anything vaguely measurable – like well-being.

So why is data sharing the new green?

Although at risk of repeating myself, sharing data that you’ve gathered gives your community grass roots information that wasn’t freely available before. With any form of sharing you cement your place as part of the community and then in flows the feeling of belonging. Because there are so many things of worth to be measured you could potentially benefit the world with your findings – just think about the possibilities people. Get interacting. Get sharing.

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