FieldKit was inspired by a collaboration between National Geographic Explorers Shah Selbe, Steve Boyes, and Jer Thorp. While working in the field in Botswana, Angola and Namibia, the team realized that there were few good open source hardware and software tools that met the specific needs of field research. The current assortment of available scientific tools for environmental monitoring and field science are too expensive and unnecessarily proprietary. This makes it difficult to scale for better scientific understanding or more effective environmental protection.
Currently under development, FieldKit will increase common interdisciplinary scientific knowledge for the public by addressing the most common roadblocks to open data: lack of budget and technical difficulty. It will be free to use, leverage low cost sensors, and allow sharing through standard APIs and live data. The platform will allow anyone to collect and share research data, and tell stories to the public through interactive visualization.
FieldKit will include:
- FieldKit Hardware: These will be microcontroller based open source sensor kits, equipped with SD card slot, GPS, wifi, and sensor-to-sensor radios. Sensor kits are already being piloted for water quality, weather, and flood dynamics. Future modules will also include air quality, updated weather, camera traps, acoustics, agricultural runoff, geophones/accelerometers, and more. The hardware architecture and code is being designed to be open source so additional sensor modules can be adapted or developed by anyone anywhere. The FieldKit Team is also building an online comprehensive open sensor library, including all the physics, code, designs, tutorials, and examples of different sensors for environmental monitoring.
- FieldKit.org Website: FieldKit.org will be a modular database software platform for collection, storage, visualization, and sharing of research data. It will be similar to the Wordpress model, where users can download the files and host them on their own server or host on FieldKit.org. It will have a simplified installation process that provides users with a fully functioning system that includes a public (or private) API, a map-based front-end, and a configuration interface. A plug-in architecture will allow users to extend the core functionality to meet specific project needs.
- FieldKit App: Fieldkit will have both Android/ and OS apps that will connect to FieldKit.org and allow for sensor configuration, population of custom forms, sensor data download, and collection of photos, videos, and audio recordings from the field.
- FieldKit Naturalist: FieldKit Naturalist will be a handheld unit that gathers high fidelity environmental metadata (temp, humidity, light level, noise level, dew point, altitude, etc.) as the student/scientist/explorer is walking around so that discrete environmental readings can be tied to the observations.
FieldKit is led by Shah Selbe, who serves as project director for FieldKit's development and launch. Shah is an engineer, conservation technologist, and National Geographic Explorer that works with communities, NGOs, and developing countries to identify and deploy technologies that can help with their greatest conservation challenges. This includes low-cost observation platforms (conservation drones, acoustic sensors, open source sensors, satellite imagery, etc) and better methods to share and manage the data gathered (using mobile technologies, crowdsourcing, the internet). Shah has been honored as a 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Semi-Finalist, a 2011 Ocean Exchange Gulfstream Navigator Finalist, and 2011 Katerva Award Nominee.