As the world of smartphone applications continues to grow, a Binghamton University professor and a recent graduate have carved out their own path in the field.
They have successfully developed a smartphone application that allows users to record observations on weather, climate and wildlife around Lake Sunapee in Sunapee, N.H.
The application is essentially complete and will be heavily used around the lake this spring and summer, according to Kenneth Chiu, assistant professor of computer science.
The app, called the LSPA (Lake Sunapee Protective Association) Recorder, has been tested on 10 Android smartphones that were purchased with a grant provided by the National Science Foundation.
Brett Taylor, who graduated from BU in December with a master’s degree in computer science, developed the program for his master’s termination project along with Chiu.
The app allows a “citizen scientist to enter interesting events related to weather, climate and wildlife,” Chiu said.
The main interface allows users to select from categories such as temperature or precipitation, followed by drop-down menus that allow entering of specifics, such as an animal sighting or the amount and severity of precipitation.
“GPS is used to pinpoint the location of the sighting,” Chiu said. “The user can refine or adjust the location given by the GPS using a Google Maps interface.”
Once it is entered, the data is uploaded to a centralized database in the computer science department, where it may be viewed later. This, according to Chiu, allows for a more efficient form of data recording, rather than paper and pen.
Without the app, users would have to enter data on paper forms, that would be collated later on. Chiu believes that this would cause interest to be low and that it would be unlikely for people to bring the forms with them when they needed them. Someone would also have to manually go through the forms to enter the data. According to Chiu, this app saves weeks and even months of tabulating results by hand.
“I enjoyed working on the LSPA Recorder project because even though the project is not necessarily breaking boundaries from a computer science perspective, it is still perceived as cool and somewhat cutting edge since the project was developed for Android smartphones,” Taylor said. “A project like this is great for students to gain experience in interfacing with customers and developing software that is used by real people.”
Taylor said the project is already live, and members of the LSPA and others are already using it to record measurements and observations about the environment.
Chiu and Taylor took part in teleconferences with Lake Sunapee members and scientists Kathleen Weathers of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and David Richardson, a biology professor at SUNY New Paltz. Chiu and Taylor then made a visit to Lake Sunapee to do some “preliminary designs,” Chiu said.
Taylor then worked on the code for the application, periodically sending out a new version for feedback from scientists and members of the LSPA.
The application was jointly conceived by members of the LSPA in New Hampshire and Weathers and Richardson. According to Chiu, June Fichter, executive director of the LSPA, was instrumental in the creation of the app, but other members of the LSPA have greatly contributed as well.
Joel Brandhorst, an undergrad at BU, will be working on the project this semester for his undergrad internship as well.