Data Flows and Visualization Subteam wiki


Data flows in Biomodd could involve harvesting data about various aspects of the installation (e.g., water temperature, air temperature, humidity, light levels) and then turning into something interesting and/or useful, such as:
  • Assessing the health of the installation and broadcasting it online (through a set of dynamic, interactive images, or textually like the plant that blogs about itself, etc.) This would be an example of data visualization, which is a way of visually telling a story based on numerical data.
  • Using the data to control the actions of a robot arm that could be installed in the installation (e.g., if there's not enough water in the system, the robot arm dumps some from a container)
  • Using the data to change properties in the game, like colours and textures.
Data could also flow in other directions. For example, values harvested in the game could determine the light levels in the installation.

You can design and build the data visualization/data utilization components of Biomodd. 
  1. You can actually help build the data visualization tools with Processing (a programming language) and a hardware sensing system based on Arduino boards. 
  2. Contribute to the section on data visualization on the Biomodd Do-It-Yourself manual
Even if we don't have Biomodd data to work with right now, we can use real-time plant data shared with us by FoAM from Belgium. This data is in the form of an RSS feed: Learn more about it from

The Data Flow Diagram

It's important that you see this blog entry and the diagram in it in order to understand the primary goal of this subteam, which is to manage, manipulate, image, and enable user interaction with the data presented in the diagram.

How to get started with this subteam

Read the data flow diagram

See the previous section

Figure out the questions

In Ben Fry's book, he points out that the first thing that needs to happen in a data visualization activity is to figure out a question (or the questions) that the data viz is supposed to answer. What is it that we want to know? (I can lend you Ben Fry's book.)

Request for edit access to the Biomodd site

So that you can edit this page. We can create subpages if needed. Log in here.

Start learning about visualization

  1. View this Powerpoint-style presentation to get an overview of data visualization. You can skip the section on visualizing Noli Me Tangere.
  2. Learn about Processing programming language:
  3. Download the Processing programming environment:
  4. Learn how to use Processing:
    (Diego  has two very good and thorough books that he can lend you: one on Processing, and one on visualizing data using Processing. Email Diego for details.)
  5. Learn about Arduino boards:
  6. Various resources on data visualization:
  7. Pachube: the RSS site for environmental data:
  8. When sending out an email to the Biomodd team list that is specifically about data flows and visualization, start your subject with [DATAVIZ]. This helps us keep track of all data flows/viz email threads.

See the master todo list for Biomodd

And see the section labelled [DATAVIZ]. Ask Diego for the login details to do this.

Data details

Data we could collect from the installation

  • NUMERICAL DATA: Using a combination of sensors and Arduino boards (see the photo above!), we could collect time-based data on the following aspects of the sculpture:
    • Temperature
      • Water temperature (we have a digital sensor, but not yet sure how to waterproof it)
      • Air temperature (using a digital sensor)
    • Humidity
      • Air humidity (using a digital sensor)
      • Soil humidity (we have a digital humidity sensor, but not yet sure how to waterproof it)
    • Physical data
      • Water level in aquarium (not yet sure how, but using some kindof mechanical sensor)
      • Algae growth (using a light sensor that can detect how dense the algae is)
      • Plant growth (using a distance sensor that measures how far the sensor is from another surface)
  • VIDEO: We stream a live webcam feed of the general interior of the sculpture as well as a Robot Arm Zen Garden

The data server and data formats

The following shows the data that should be in the data stream harvested from the sculpture. Datatypes in red have not yet been implemented (i.e., we want to get this data but we haven't rigged any sensors that can actually do it yet.) We should probably implement this in a standards-compliant format like EEML.


    <reserved-3> xxx<reserved-3>


     seconds: 44,
     minutes: 28,
     hour: 19,
     day: 2,
     month: 7,
     year: 2009,
     air-temperature: 24.0,
     air-humidity: 16,
     algae-growth: 86,
     algae-temperature: 86,
     water-temperature: 54,
     water-level: 74,
     light-A: 51,    
     light-B: 14,    
     plant-growth: 74, 
     soil-moisture: 35,
     reserved-1:  xxx,
     reserved-2:  xxx,
     reserved-3:  xxx,


Subpages (1): About this team