Research vessels are complex data acquisition systems, consisting of a large number of instruments and sensors producing complex observations for many different disciplines. The data and general metadata produced, is commonly disseminated using well established standards by the data centers; however, the onboard instruments and systems are not always well described, important information can be missed, for example the date when a new instrument was bring on board. The data flux from the vessels to the data centers is still a “road with interruptions”. Important information like instrument calibration or operational data often does not reach the data centers. The OGC Sensor Web Enablement standards provide solutions to serve complex data along with detailed description of the process used to obtain them. This paper presents an innovative approach, based on standards and rich semantics, on the use of Sensor Web Enablement standards to describe and serve information related to the research vessels, the data acquisition systems used onboard, and the data sets resulting from the onboard work. This approach is designed to be used at sea but also at the Data Centers in order to avoid the loss of information in between. For this reason the proposed solution (I) must deal with the inherent difficulty to describe a multidisciplinary and complex mobile sensor system, (II) be easily integrated with the onboard data acquisition systems, (III) use the complex but incomplete most used vocabularies in marine disciplines, (IV) provide points of contact with the data and metadata services at the Data Centers, and (V) manage the changes in instrument set-up over the time. This work also covers the implementation of an OGC Sensor Observation Service designed specifically for research vessels. The SOS was developed due to the difficulty to adapt other implementations that do not support the complexity of the research vessel as a dynamic system and the easiness to integrate with existing onboard systems.
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