Monday, 5 November 2012


High level Architecture diagram
High level architecture diagram showing interactions between components.
The crux of this project is the integration of data from AEKOS and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA).

The Soils to Satellite portal is the integration point. This portal is written using the Grails platform version 2.1 and makes use of:

  • OpenLayers version 2.12  javascript mapping library
  • JQuery version 1.7 javascript library
  • Bootstrap version 2.2.1 front end development framework
This portal relies on web services from AEKOS and ALA. These services are predominantly JSON services and are stateless. Environmental layers are served from ALA using WMS via Geoserver.

The development of the portal is being achieved using the Intellij IDE.

One of the most important parts of the technology being used are the stateless of the web services and the fact we are favouring JSON as core output. This should hopefully promote re-use by external tools in addition to making consumption of the data from AEKOS and ALA straightforward for the Soils to Satellite portal. The choice of Grails as the core platform for the Soils to Satellite portal has the following benefits:

  • Grails runs on the industry proven Java Virtual Machine platform
  • It supports rapid application development
  • Has a convention over configuration style
  • Gives an out of the box recongisable structure to software projects with clear separation of Model, View and Controller.

Development of a user-friendly interface which handles the complexity of ecological data. Presenting this data in a way that is navigable and simple for users to follow will also lead to user satisfaction.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Post 4. "KEY FACTORS CUSTOMERS WILL USE TO JUDGE THE VALUE OF OUR PRODUCT", i.e. how do you independently measure success?

The Soils to Satellites Project has a number of engaged stakeholders (customers), in particular through the TREND SA project and the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, who are actively conducting research into ecological questions around the topics of;

  • Predicting the impact of climate change on species distribution (Conservation)
  • Identifying Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation / Agriculture)
  • Understanding Soil and Vegetation Communities (Agriculture)
  • Understanding the Conditions of Ecosystems (Conservation)

It is understood that for these researchers to embrace the S2S tool as a significant addition to their research activities, it will need to become an integral part of their workflows and processes.

It is expected that S2S will improve researcher’s access to the extremely broad range of ecological data that is available from the ALA, TREND SA and TERN AEKOS, by allowing users to quickly and easily visualise relationships between disparate data in S2S.

To do this, S2S provides functionality that allows for the exploration and display of previously undiscovered relationships between disconnected and previously unrelated data sets, through sophisticated spatial and data presentation tools developed in the ALA spatial portal and via the AEKOS Indexing and Search services, which are being re-used in S2S. The system then allows the user downloading this data for further offline analysis and examination in tools such as MATLAB and ‘R’. 

It is anticipated that re-use of these data discovered through S2S will contribute to continental scale ecological research and facilitate collaboration between various groups, which in turn can support science based policy and NRM decision making across State and Commonwealth governments. 

The project itself has adopted an Agile development approach, whereby development and delivery of the S2S product is undertaken in a number of cycles, known as ‘sprints’. At the end of each sprint, new functionality developed in S2S are demonstrated to stakeholders and feedback sought to be considered for inclusion in the S2S ‘Product Backlog’ and subsequent future iterations of work. This approach enables issues and additional requirements to be incorporated right throughout the development phase of the project rather than at the end, which typically has severe negative impacts on the three core measures of project success - time, quality and costs. 

In order to independently measure the success of the project and the S2S product, we will design and conduct a customer survey at the end of the project.  This survey will be constructed around the following questions which will enable the project team - ALA, TERN AEKOS and ANDS to judge the value of the product:

  • Can I easily find the data I need for my research?
  • Do the data visualization tools developed make the data discoverable?
  • Can I reuse these data in offline tools once they have been found in S2S?
  • Are the environmental layers useful for my research?
  • When reviewed against other data discovery portals, is the product generally of high quality in terms of usability and performance?
  • How does Soils to Satellites compare to other similar tools you have used in the past?
  • On a scale of 1-5 can you estimate the overall value that the system provides in supporting your research activities?
  • Please identify the areas of the system functionality that provides you the most value.
  • Has the system been of value in addressing the following research topics: 
    • Climate change prediction of species distribution (Conservation)
    • Identifying Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation / Agriculture)
    • Understanding Soil and Vegetation Communities (Agriculture)
    • Understanding the Conditions of Ecosystems (Conservation)

Ideally, this survey will merely be a formality, as the project is structured in such a way that stakeholders are continuously ask questions about what improvements are required with the actual S2S product in front of them.