Fluxnet visualization using Silverlight

My group is interacting with scientists from all disciplines. We are trying to help them in their research endeavors through the use/application of technology. It is therefore necessary for us to keep informed about all technologies available; it is only then we can offer informed advise and talk about the potential benefits. That’s why I love my job… not only I get to interact with extremely clever people and think about the future of “Research in the Cloud” but I also get to experiment with new technologies (so that I know my stuff before I open my mouth :-)

Catharine van Ingen has been doing a lot of cool stuff with scientists. One of her many great engagements involves the Fluxnet. She is trying to help Environmental Scientists with their data management issues and also assist them in making sense of it. She was the one who put me in touch with Deb Agarwal, who is also working with the same scientists.

Deb wanted to play with PopFly as an investigation on how easy it can be for scientists to create a mashup of the Fluxnet towers over Virtual Earth using high-level abstractions, like the PopFly ‘blocks’. It wasn’t without problems but we have to remember that PopFly is only in beta. I think the result shows how trivial it can be to combine/process/analyze/visualize data, if we get the abstractions right. Very cool stuff.

I needed a use case as an excuse to teach myself how to build Silverlight 1.1 (alpha) applications. I took a copy of the data Deb was using for her PopFly mashup and started playing. My approach is nowhere near as easy for scientists since I had to write .NET code. However, one could convert my code to a PopFly block in order to get the smooth interface.

I wanted a Silverlight-based navigation control for Virtual Earth. I started from the one that comes as part of the samples on silverlight.net and I had something running. Then, through an internal distribution list, I found out about the excellent work that Peter Blois did in implementing a Silverlight-based interface to Virtual Earth. I contacted him and he pointed me to his blog entry, where he made the code available for everyone to download. Using his code as the basis, I added my own visualization code for the Fluxnet data based on suggestions by Deb.

You have to know the names of the towers in order to search for one. The transition animation is just beautiful (thank you Peter). Unfortunately, as of few minutes ago when I last checked, the Virtual Earth search functionality for locations (the top text box) is not working (it might be a temporary Virtual Earth problem… ah… the beauty of mashups on the Web). You can use the Control Panel from the left to change the way the data is visualized.



Feedback/problems/ideas more than welcome.