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RFID Enables Korean Meteorological Administration to Keep an Eye on Weather

The agency is deploying a vast 300-node wireless sensor network on a remote island so it can get a heads-up regarding approaching storms.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 16, 2008Jeju (Cheju), a 706-square-mile island located approximately 60 miles off the southwestern tip of Korea, has long been a place known for tourism and for extreme weather. Because of the storms from the south that that stream onto the mainland, Jeju is the primary source of data that the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA) uses to make many of its predictions regarding weather changes.

For typhoons and monsoons, as well as wind and rain storms, the agency tracks conditions on Jeju closely. In the past, it has done so using wired temperature and wind sensors, in combination with modems and cellular radios. This method has had several shortcomings, however, due to the difficulty of running wires to some of the more remote areas of the island—where wind speeds and temperatures are measured—and the limited bandwidth for transmitting data.

Wireless sensor nodes are being installed on towers or poles up to 13 meters tall.
Now, KT Corp., serving as systems integrator, is in the process of installing approximately 300 Firetide wireless sensor nodes throughout the entire island, including its coastal and mountainous regions, to transmit sensor data and video onto a network that can be accessed in real time by the KMA, in order to create what it calls the Automatic Weather System (AWS).

With the Jeju deployment, says Ksenia Coffman, Firetide's marketing communications manager, the wireless nodes include weather sensors that can detect air temperature, pressure, humidity, wind direction and speed, precipitation, snowfall, visibility, cloud cover, ground temperature and underground temperature. By tracking the weather system on Jeju, South Korea hopes to improve its severe weather predictions and reduce property damage and loss of life through better preparation.

Firetide's sensor nodes comply with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for low-power wireless personal area networks (WPAN), forming a mesh network that transmits data for use by the Surface Weather Observation operations of the Jeju Regional Meteorological Administration (JRMA), a branch of the KMA.

The Korean Meteorological Administration had previously installed a network of 600 wired sensors nodes around the island for the AWS that fed information to the KMA. The network has geographic challenges, however, because the sensors must be installed where communication cables can not be utilized. This has led to high installation and maintenance costs and network reliability problems, as well as the expense of using modem connections to transmit data. In addition, the communication line transfers data at only 2400 bits per second. Such a very slow data rate would not permit the transmission of video, or support the ability to share observation data with other agencies and researchers online in real time—two features the KMA wanted to add to the system.

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