Data Canvas: Sensor Kits, Oil Lamps, Magic

Text by Kassandra Bucher

Under the light of antique oil lamps, with a backdrop of green velvet stage curtains hanging from the high ceiling of a run-down theater, 15 DIY tinkerers sat around a long wooden table puzzling over their personalized sensor kits as part of the Data Canvas build workshop this week.

The sensors are now complete and most are collecting environmental data from seven cities—every city in the swissnex network plus Geneva—and streaming their results for all to see. These data sets will be the focus of a visualization competition (part of Data Canvas) that kicks off at the Lift Conference in Switzerland, Feb 4-5 2015.

The sensor build workshop took place at Gray Area Foundation of the Arts, located in the old Grand cinema, now re-purposed as a flexible event space in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Data Canvas Build your sensor

Taurin Barrera, the mastermind behind the DIY sensors sponsored by SEEED studios, guided the 15 participants at Gray Area through the assembly process. The atmosphere was truly magical and at the end of the evening all went home pleased with their personal sensor ready to let the data flow.

“This project is wonderful, because it brings complex data out to the public and to people who don’t necessarily deal with explicit data in their everyday lives,” says Prashant Singh from LocalData, who received and built up one of the sensor kits.

In a very active Facebook group, the Data Canvas participants from around the world are sharing their photos and experiences with the sensors and helping each other out if problems arise.

In this way, Data Canvas—a swissnex San Francisco initiative with many partners—is not only enabling an open access data network but also creating a community of like-minded DIY enthusiasts getting to know each from San Francisco to Rio de Janeiro to Bangalore and many points in between.

Stay tuned for further information about Data Canvas.