A discussion group is forming to build community consensus on plug-and-work instruments for ocean observatories. First topics will be how to incorporate standards and what should be included in protocols. If you wish to join the discussion list serve, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Marine Plug-and-Work Consortium will develop as a legal entity independent of MBARI in 2005 based on the discussions. Members of the discussion group will have the opportunity to formally join the consortium or leave the discussion at that time.
The consortium of oceanographic instrument users and manufacturers will create and maintain plug-and-work protocol specifications for instruments. The mission of the consortium is to develop those protocols, standards and additional technology that enable straightforward, practical integration of oceanographic instruments with observing platforms and networks. The plug-and-work instrument provides information to the observing system when the instrument is plugged in, allowing the instrument to be sampled and its data processed automatically. Plug-and-work instruments can be added to or removed from an observing system with mimimal manual steps and will be simple and inexpensive to develop, manufacture, and use. Plug-and-work technology is to have broad applicability within the oceanographic community, fitting into multple observing system schemes, and not tied into a particular observatory structure, operating system, or programming language.
The configuration problem
When an instrument is connected to an observing system, software necessary to "drive" or operate the instrument must also be installed on the system. If the data retrieved from the instrument is to have scientific value, the data must be associated with metadata that puts the data into context; metadata includes the identity of the instrument, its calibration coefficients, and other information. Thus, the observing system must be configured before the instrument can be used; driver software, user interfaces, and instrument metadata must be installed. This configuration process can be tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone.
The MBARI programmable underwater connector with knowledge (PUCK) is one solution for serial instruments.