Practical Implementation Advice
The ultimate goal for AQS is for all Partners to submit air quality monitoring data in XML format through a node, node client, or the Exchange Network Services Center (ENSC). In support of this goal, Governance has been working actively with third-party software vendors (e.g., AirVision™, DR DAS) to facilitate the transition from “flat” files to XML files, reducing both the complexity, staff effort, and cost to implement this change. Governance understands, however, that air programs may have higher priorities and, at the same time, are facing significant resource constraints. For these Partners, transitioning to XML submissions is likely to take longer. With this recognition, Governance offers the following practical advice:
- Partners with sufficiently robust systems can automate AQS submissions through their nodes.
- Partners not planning to use their nodes to submit AQS data should transition to the ENSC.
- Partners using AirVision™ or DR DAS air quality monitoring software to manage air data and who are currently submitting flat files should use the software capabilities to transition to XML submissions at their earliest convenience.
- Partners using AirVision™ or DR DAS software will benefit from a plugin currently developed to automate flows from these systems to EPA through Node 2.1.
AQS Data Flow Options
The current options for flowing data are presented here. Exchange Network flow options are shown in green and non-EN options are shown in red.
Summary of Current Practice
Currently, most Partners submit AQS data via the ENSC, while others user their own nodes. In 2012, AQS completed the “submit automation” project that allows ENSC/node submissions to be processed automatically without requiring logging onto to the AQS web application.
AQS Flow Status and Milestones
EPA recognizes a number of actions are needed to make the EN more automated, accessible, and value-added for flowing AQS data, including:
- Automating the step for loading data into the National System,
- Improving automated messaging,
- Developing the ENSC for Partners that do not need a fully functional node (e.g., Tribes and local air agencies), and
- Establishing a national standard for data publishing.
EPA must take these actions before they stop supporting non-EN submissions through the commonly used non-EN CDX Web Application.
Institutional responsibilities and target completion dates for each activity are presented here. EPA’s general criteria for assessing the “readiness” of National System Flows follow.
Automate the (currently manual) step for loading data into the National System
Standardize web services that enable data flow between CDX node and the National system
Office of Air Quality, Planning and Standards (OAQPS)
OAQPS with EN staff technical support
|Solutions for all Partners||
Design, develop, and deploy EN Services Center
Develop tools to help Partners generate and submit data in XML
EN staff and Governance, with input from OAQPS
|Access to transaction status||Complete||Develop transaction messaging||EN staff||Complete|
|Accessible and stable flow documentation||Complete||Flow documentation for the the most current version is complete||OAQPS||Complete|
|Specifications for Data Access Services||Complete||Develop, document, and demonstrate standard specifications for data access services based on Air Quality Data Exchange access services||AQS IPT||Complete|
|Clear path to eliminate alternatives||Complete||Eliminate legacy CDX web application||EN staff with input from OAQPS||Complete|
Node: A Partner’s point of presence on the EN consisting of a server (hardware and software) enabled with web services that allow Partners to automatically provide and receive information via the Network and to publish data for use by other Partners.
Node Client: A stand-alone application (i.e., software code) that lets Partners share data, request data, and receive results from an EN request. Clients differ from nodes in that they cannot respond to queries from other nodes and so cannot publish data. Clients also need more manual (rather than automated) steps, for example, to extract data and generate and review reports before submission.
EN Services Center: A website that allows Partners to easily send, get, and download information from other Partners. The Services Center will serve as a replacement for manual submissions of information through CDX Web. It is an appropriate solution for those Partners who do not require or are not yet ready for the automation and data publishing capabilities of an EN Node. The EN Services Center is available at https://enservices.epa.gov.
CDX: EPA’s Central Data Exchange. It serves as EPA’s centralized electronic report receiving system. It receives data from Partners and directs the data to EPA’s program-specific National Systems (e.g., AQS, WQX, etc.).
CDX Node: CDX Node is EPA’s node on the Network, allowing EPA to receive, send, and provide information via the Network. CDX Node can also publish EPA data for use by other Partners.
CDX Web (non-EN) Application: A legacy CDX application that receives data (flat file or XML format) via standard web browsers. CDX Web applications are not consistent with EN protocols (e.g., they have a separate authentication and authorization service from the EN) and typically involve more manual steps than a node-to-node exchange of data.
Data Access Services: Using web services to make data available to Partners by querying nodes and returning environmental data in the form of XML documents. Published data can be accessed using a node or clients. Published data can be used in a number of ways, such as populating Web pages, synchronizing data between sites, viewing data in a Web service client, or building new sources of data into an integrated application.
Direct User: A Partner entering data directly into a National Data System through a system-specific interface (manual entry).
EPA National Data System: Program-specific data systems at EPA that can receive and publish data..
Local Data System: A Partner’s database or series of databases in which environmental data are stored, managed, and manipulated.
XML: eXtensible Markup Language is a flexible language for creating common information formats and sharing both the format and content of data over the Internet and elsewhere. The electronic language that expresses and transports data standards and transaction sets. XML uses an extensible set of tags to describe the meaning of data.
National System Flow “Ready-to-Use” Criteria
A focus of Governance has been developing the National System Flows to help Partners take advantage of the Network’s business value. Governance has identified six criteria for each flow to meet to make these flows “ready to use,” they are:
- Automation-ready flows. Support fully automated node-to-node flows.
- Solutions for all Partners. Provide appropriately scaled solutions for Partners of all sizes, needs, and capabilities. Some Partners such as Tribes and local clean air authorities may not need a fully functional node, therefore, other solutions should be available.
- Access to transaction status. Support a fully automated process for reporting transaction status, processing results, and QA results from receipt by CDX through final processing in the National System.
- Accessible and stable flow documentation. Develop and make accessible stable documentation that describes all flow requirements. This includes a complete Flow Configuration Document (FCD) that is in compliance with EN procedures for version management.
- Specifications for Data Access Services. Provide a national standard set of query/solicit services defined in the FCD whether or not data are currently published. Implement a publishing interface where published data are critical to partner business processes (such as NPDES permit information for NetDMR).
- Clear path to eliminate alternatives. Have a clear path to eliminate legacy system alternatives to data exchanges, including transition support for Partners.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
coats.robert [at] epa.gov