A new augmented reality (AR) application called Pachube allows people to use their smart phones to ‘see’ invisible environmental data. The application can be used to feed data from any kind of sensor, from CCTV to air-quality monitors, to a smart phone.
Want to avoid areas with lots of particulate matter in the air? Now you can see those invisible particles by waving your phone around. Or do you want to rent office space in a building with a small carbon footprint? If the proper sensors are in place, Pachube can let you see the carbon footprint of the buildings you enter.
Its developers state that the key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Apart from enabling direct connections between any two environments, it can also be used to facilitate ‘many-to-many’ connections.
Just like a physical ‘patch bay’ or telephone switchboard, Pachube enables any participating project to plug-in to any other participating project in real-time so that buildings, interactive installations or even blogs, for example, can ‘talk’ and ‘respond’ to each other.
Pachube is a little like YouTube, but rather than sharing videos, it enables people to monitor and share real-time environmental data from sensors connected to the internet. It acts between environments, and is able to capture input data (from remote sensors) as well as serve output data (to remote actuators).
Connections can be made between any two environments, facilitating even spontaneous or previously unplanned connections. Apart from being used in physical environments, it also enables people to embed this data in Web pages – in effect to ‘blog’ sensor data.
Usman Haque, architect and director of Haque Design + Research, and founder of Pachube, comments that the application “is here to make it easier to participate in what I expect to be a vast ecosystem of conversant devices, buildings and environments.
Pachube will facilitate the development of a huge range of new products and services that will arise from extreme connectivity.” The slogan for the application is ‘connecting the environment, patching the planet’, but Haque stresses it “is not just a social networking project for sensor data.”
Pachube makes use of Extended Environments Markup Language (EEML). An EEML processing library is available to connect directly to Pachube without needing to know or understand EEML. A basic API makes it possible to both serve and request data in CSV and EEML format. In addition, for those operating behind a firewall, or with non-static URLs, or who wish to update less frequently than usual, the API enables manual update by an HTTP PUT request.