# Core Data Model

OpenSensorHub (OSH) internals are modeled on a few key concepts defined by the SensorML (opens new window), O&M/OMS (opens new window) and SWE Common (opens new window) standards. Below are detailed descriptions of these concepts and some facts regarding their implementation in OSH.

Below is a simplified diagram showing the main data model components and a discussion about each class. We feel that it's important to read through these definitions so you can better understand how data is organized by OSH, and find your way around the OSH admin console.

Data Model Diagram

A more detailed version of this diagram is available in the developer section.

# System

Systems are entities that can produce observation data and/or receive command data. A system can be a physical entity (e.g. sensors, actuators, devices, and even humans or other living things acting as sensors...) or a logical entity (e.g. processing components, forecast models...) but, in both cases, detailed information about it (the specsheet) can be provided in the SensorML language.

In OSH, systems can be further categorize using the following classes defined by W3C SSN (opens new window) standard ontology:

A system's SensorML specsheet provides a thorough description of its inputs, outputs and parameters, but also information regarding its identification, classification, contacts, physical and measurement characteristics, etc. Each description also has a certain validity period (valid time) which allows for full historization of the system metadata (e.g. allows to capture and historize information about maintenance events like software updates or recalibrations, physical device deployments and relocations, etc.).

Systems can also be parameterized, either statically (via configuration) or dynamically (via tasking). Both types of parameterizations can be self-described in the SensorML description.

A system can be a data producer, in which case it has one or more outputs that represent data feeds generated by the system. These data flows can include observation results, but also other things such as status information. Each output has a unique name (in the system scope) and is associated to a structure (a.k.a. schema) and encoding. Data records generated by an output are collected into a Datastream (see below). Since version 2.0, OSH also supports output schema changes over time.

A system can also be a command receiver, in which case it has one or more taskable parameters that represent commands or messages that can be received by the system. Similarly to outputs, each taskable parameter (or group of parameters) has a unique name (in the system scope) and is associated to a schema. Commands sent to the system and targeted at a specific taskable parameter must abide by its schema or the command is rejected. Commands sent to a system are collected into Command Streams (see below) and can be automatically persisted.

Systems can be nested by nature, meaning that a system can incorporate other subsystems. This can be used to model complex systems and all their components in great details, such as entire machines or robots or sensor networks/arrays.

# Datastream

Datastreams are time series of Observations of the same kind that are generated by a given system. By "same kind" we mean that the result of all Observations in a given datastream share the same structure (i.e. abide to the same schema) and encoding.

In OSH, datastreams are always associated to a system output. If the schema of an output changes, a new datastream is created, and in this case, there will be several datastreams associated to the same output, each one with a different validity period.

Datastreams can be seen as the real-time channel through which data flows, or as a collection of historical observations over time. In fact, in OSH, a datastream represents both and allows for both methods of data consumption: real-time streaming or retrieval of historical data. Depending on how the acquisition pipeline for a particular system is configured, data records collected by a datastream can be discarded as soon as dispatched by the Event Bus (real-time datastream) or they can be persisted in a Data Store (historical datastream), or both.

# Observation

Observations are a specific type of event, where a System observes, estimates or forecasts the value of one or more properties of a Feature of Interest. Each observation is associated to a Datastream, that in turn is associated to a specific output of the System that made the observation. Observations also have the following properties:

Phenomenon Time

Observations have a phenomenon time that indicates when the phenomenon being observed (or forecasted) took place. Note that the phenomenon time is not necessarily in the present: it can be in the past if the system observes something that happened long ago (e.g. a geological or astronomical event), or in the future when the system produces a forecast (e.g. forecast model).

Result Time

Observations also have a result time that indicates the time at which the system generated the observation result. It can be different from the phenomenon time (e.g. in the case of a forecast).


In OSH, observation results are always defined by a SWE Common data structure and encoding, both of which are self descriptive and can be retrieved by data consumers before they start consuming data from an OSH node.


For most types of automated/digital sensors, phenomenon time and result time can be considered identical because they are typically very close to each other. In this case, the only difference is due to the sensor latency, often of the order of a few milliseconds, sometimes a few seconds, and is neglected in most applications. Note that the latency can still be documented in the SensorML description of the system in case it is needed for more advanced processing.

# Feature of Interest

The Feature of Interest (often abbreviated as FOI) represents the object or phenomenon whose properties (or state) are observed, estimated or forecasted by a system. Capturing this information is essential to link the measured data to the real world.

Examples of features of interest:

  • A static geospatial feature such as a building, a river, a lake, an atmospheric layer
  • A mobile object such as a vehicle or a person
  • An artefact collected on the field and studied in a lab such as a rock sample
  • etc.

In some cases, the feature of interest is a Sampling Feature, that is called this way because it samples a larger feature, often called the domain feature or more generally the sampled feature. The Sampling Feature always references the domain feature so that one can query measurements associated to the larger feature, which is usually the one of ultimate interest.

Examples of sampling features:

  • A measurement station along a river (sampling feature = station location, sampled feature = the river)
  • A specific room or location inside a building
  • A specimen of a larger rock formation
  • etc.

A given system can have one or several features of interest, and these features of interest can be observed at the same time or at different times.

Examples of systems and their FOIs:

  • A stationary in-situ sensor typically observes a single feature of interest that doesn't change over time (or rarely changes).
  • A mobile remote sensor (i.e. whose location and/or orientation can change) usually targets a single feature of interest at a time, but may target different features of interest over time.
  • A sensor network targets multiple features of interest simultaneously
  • A fleet of mobile sensors can target multiple features of interest simultaneously, all of which can change over time.

OSH APIs and internal models are designed to implement and document all cases described above.

# Command Stream

Command Streams are the counterparts of datastreams that are used to model systems' command & control channels. They are thus used to augment Systems with tasking capabilities.

A command stream is essentially a time series of commands associated to a taskable parameter of a given system. Commands are often low-level instructions but they can be further combined into tasks, which provide higher level functionality, managed by OSH, such as scheduling, batching and priority handling.

If the schema of a taskable parameter changes, a new command stream is created, and in this case, there will be several command streams associated to the same taskable parameter, each one with a different validity period. Commands can only be posted to a command stream that is currently valid.

Like datastreams, command streams represent both the real-time channel through which commands are delivered and the collection of historical commands that a system has received over time.

As explained above, OSH has both concepts of Commands and Tasks. Commands are usually executed immediately (although asynchronously) by the receiver while Tasks can take longer to execute and can be scheduled for execution at a later time. A Task consists of a sequence of one or more Commands to be executed at a given priority level. A Task can also be used to reserve one or more command channels for exclusive access during a well defined time period. Tasks with a higher priority level can override an already executing or scheduled task.

Last Updated: 10/13/2021, 10:18:26 PM