"BeWare" is a new series of senseware. BeWare01: Satellite (below "01") is the first step towards realizing an idea sensorium staff referred to as "narumono" (object of being). Participation in the Ars Electronica Festival 97 and the opportunity to exhibit in real space led us think we should develop a sensorium experience that would be impossible to realize on a Web page or through a PC terminal.
The initial idea was to make a globe upon which the earth's temperature could be felt by touch linked directly to the Internet via TCP/IP.
n the development process, however, 01 took a slightly different direction. (We would still like to realize the globe idea at some point.)
I will now give a brief description of 01's structure and production process.
[Outline of BeWare01: Satellite]
Some sensorium members are "Weather Tracker" users, a small
Mac shareware utility that provides access to a weather server on the www,
and the latest temperature data for locales around the world.
This software taught us of various other potential applications of the
Internet other than the Web or e-mail. We were grateful for the ideas it
We began researching the state of air temperature and its relation
to the Internet, ie. to what extent this information was available on the
Net, in mid-June.
For instance, the Weather Underground site, gives the latest
temperature data from 5000 locales around the world, but the frequency with
which the data was updated was sporadic, and could hardly be called
"real-time." The Internet was not being used for weather information
universally--so it goes.
(During this survey we learned a tremedous amount from A. Sneider, Tomoaki
Sakurai and mailings from the Chikyu Ryutaidenno Club.)
For the time being we concluded that the weather observation network in all
countries was not directly linked to the Internet.
Understandably, the guaranteed delay and packet loss of the Internet would
be inexcuseable in data for serious uses like airline network control. We
learned that there was another network operating besides the Internet for
universal international weather information. (cf.1,cf.2)
There is a measuring tool that for TCP/IP Internet attachment already on
the market, but until it covers the entire world, the aforementioned
concept of the globe linked to real-time temperature data would not be
At that point, we began to check satellite data rather than ground
surprised by data from stationary satellites such as "Himawari" and "GOES" from the NASA site. Images take by a
variety of different cameras is are made public six hours later.
Satellite cameras, much like a peep-hole camera, are not directly linked to
the Internet. The labors of NASA staff fill the gap. It is perhaps
automated to an extent but the system requires tremendous work and
creativity to realize.
This process increased my respect for satellites as well as for the Internet.
Weather data obtainable through NASA's site comes from three sources, the
Japanese "Himawari," and the American "GOES-8" and "GOES-9." These do not
however cover the entire earth. METEOSAT hovers over
Europe, but its only Web data is graphical, which would be difficult to
apply so had to be abandoned. Data on the Web page of the Russian satellite centered over the Indian Ocean appears in
Russian so likewise had to be abandoned.
the data survey, our engineering team conducted experiments in creating an
interface upon which changing temperatures could be controlled and
physically experienced by touch using Peltier thermoelectric module
One problem was handling heat exhaust of the Peltier modules. A large
portion of the earth when seen from a satellite is covered in clouds.
Clouds are cool and the Peltier modules must express that, however
characteristic to the modules is that when one surface cools, the opposing
surface generates a proportiioal amount of heat. Thus without a sufficient
number of radiator plates temperature control would be inffective. Such
hardware limitations along with data receiving conditions influenced the
final form of the piece in late-July.
After exploring numerous ideas for using stationary satellite data, we
decided upon using data from the axial orbital satellite NOAA. NOAA orbits longitudinally making use the earth's
rotation to scan the earth's entire surface in approximately one day.
Unlike stationary satellites, these satellites orbit at a relatively low
altitude and have a fairly high rate of falls. The present NOAA is the
fourteenth to be lauched.
is obtainable upon written request on a Web page form and
waiting for e-mail notification that the data prep is ready.
The time lag for data sent FTP is irregular, anywhere from one to almost 24
hours. (Japan is painfully slow in releasing and universalizing this kind
of public data.)
The BeWare01: Satellite requests data from the NOAA site periodically via
the Internet and generates live data in connection with it. Visibile
imagery is animated and IR (infrared ray) imagery is changed into temperatur
e information and reflected on the top surface of rectangular plate.
The system stops if the Internet is down or if data from the NOAA end
stops. (Of course should the request command form change it would also
stop. We are praying this does not occur during the course of the
exhibition, and have contacted the NOAA site manager on the subject . . . )
Nonetheless, we think that the fact that NOAA continues tenaciously flying
and working is wonderful. We extend our gratitude to the system and all who