A sensor is an interface that we use to quantify something that we think is worth measuring in the "environment". They measure a multitude of things like position, temperature inside a fridge, per cent usage of a hard disk, contaminants in water, the flashing of a distant pulsar, or the speed of a car. There are many motivations for sensing. There are practical reasons (e.g., fuel gages), reasons of fun (a webcam in a zoo), and some because we need information for safety and security. The latter, particularly when it comes to the natural environment, is an increasingly pressing motivation for sensing anthropogenic effects on nature. This societal pull, coupled with advances in ICT and sensing technologies, are pushing us in an interesting direction. The Earth will soon be populated by a large, intricate, and heterogeneous sensor web. This will be built in pieces, with different smaller projects sensing different things in different regions, all for different reasons. That said the outcome should be much greater than the sum of the parts. Moreover, the pieces that contribute to the overall tapestry can take advantage of efficiencies derived from other efforts. It is in the spirit of a greater whole that we have developed the Real-Time Environment Monitoring Platform (RTEMP).
RTEMP is a web-based system supporting data collection from networks of large numbers of sensors. Developed to address the needs of the University of Calgary Auroral Imaging Group which operates dozens of instruments across the Arctic, RTEMP currently handles 30,000 parallel streams of real-time data. Key benefits of RTEMP are scalability, as it was designed to recover data from an extensive heterogeneous network, and the ability to meet a core need faced by all remote sensor operators who want real-time data. Building on more than $2M of investment, RTEMP has a demonstrated heritage of years of successful operation, and offers what is effectively an "enterprise" solution for data collection for even poorly resourced remote sensing applications.