Sensible observation services, part 2
Another good question from the OGC REST discussion:
In essence, within REST, how do I ask for a collection of measurements between any time1 and time2? This is simple with SOA, but seems to require predefined granularization by the service in ROA or perhaps uses an adaptation of SOA-like specifications as Pat has suggested in the past.
SOA didn't say how to spatially or temporally slice data. SOA said "have services". Services with well-defined interfaces. It's up to communities to define those interfaces. It's the same for RESTful architectures. REST just says use universal identifiers for entities, use uniform methods, and use hypertext as the engine of application state. The entities and the hypertext formats are up to the community.
How would you ask a sensible observation service for measurements between two times? This device is blogging away, adding observations to the head of a feed every N microseconds. If you're interested in historical data – and everything becomes historical quickly if it's sampling very frequently – the service should allow you to slice temporally, returning feeds that begin and end at or near specified times. The Atom format spec doesn't specify how to do this. It was developed in the tradition of layering specifications and recommendations. Search is to be layered on top of Atom like feed paging (RFC 5005) is layered on top of Atom. One possible way to do this is with XHTML forms.
Consider a sensible observation service identified by the URI http://example.com/sosa. Dereferencing that gets you an Atom feed of N entries, ideally containing links to the next "page" and a link to a search form:
<feed xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"> <link rel="search" type="application/xhtml+xml" href="http://example.com/sosa/search" /> ... </feed>
The "search" relation isn't standardized yet, but something like it will be. The exact URI of the search form isn't important at all, only that it can be found via a link. Its representation would be something like this:
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xmlns:sos-search="http://example.com/namespaces/sos-search" > <body> <form id="sos-search:form" method="GET" action="http://example.com/sosa/search" > <input id="sos-search:start" type="text" name="start"/> <label for="sos-search:start">Minimum bounding timestamp, RFC 3339</label> <input id="sos-search:stop" type="text" name="stop"/> <label for="sos-search:stop">Maximum bounding timestamp, RFC 3339</label> <input type="submit" name="search"/> </form> </body> </html>
The "start" and "stop" inputs are borrowed from Python's sequence slicing syntax. A community that standardized on form element ids could have a self-describing search interface, one that was also helpful to human users (at least) outside that community. Any "sos-search" aware client could recognize from this form, by parsing elements with "sos-search" ids, that URIs like http://example.com/sosa/search?start=2003-12-13T18:30:02Z&stop=2003-12-13T19:30:02Z identify Atom feeds of temporally sliced data.
I'm not sure XHTML forms are the best solution, but it's illustrative of one way to do RESTful search interfaces.