Generate time series data from the command line

This tutorial will show you how to generate mock time series data about the International Space Station (ISS) using the The CrateDB Shell and a little bit of shell scripting.

Table of contents


CrateDB must be installed and running.

Crash is available as pip package. Install it like this:

sh$ pip install crash

We have designed the commands in this tutorial to be run directly from the command line so that you can experiment with them as you see fit.

You will need the curl and jq tools installed.


This tutorial should work in most POSIX-compatible environments (e.g., Linux, macOS, and Windows Cygwin). Please let us know if you run into issues.

Get the current position of the ISS

Open Notify is a third-party service that provides an API to consume data about the current position, or ground point, of the ISS.

The endpoint for this API is

You can query this endpoint using curl:

sh$ curl -s -w "\n"

{"message": "success", "iss_position": {"latitude": "23.1703", "longitude": "-105.4034"}, "timestamp": 1590394500}

As shown, the endpoint returns a JSON payload, which contains an iss_position object with latitude and longitude data.

Parse the ISS position

The jq command is a convenient tool to parse JSON payloads on the command line. You can use the | character to pipe the output from curl into jq for processing.

For example, to return the whole payload, do this:

sh$ curl -s | jq '.'

  "message": "success",
  "iss_position": {
    "latitude": "21.9711",
    "longitude": "-104.3298"
  "timestamp": 1590394525

The most useful information is the latitude and longitude coordinates. You can use jq with a filter to isolate those data points:

sh$ curl -s | \
        jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv'

-103.4015    20.9089

You can encapsulate this command with a shell function:

sh$ position () { \
        curl -s | \
            jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv'; \

Now, when you want the position, run position:

sh$ position

-102.3230    19.6460

To insert these values into an SQL query, you need to format them into a WKT string, like so:

sh$ echo "POINT ($(position | expand -t 1))"

POINT (-101.2633 18.3756)

Encapsulate this command with a function:

sh$ wkt_position () { \
        echo "POINT ($(position | expand -t 1))"; \

Which you can now call using wkt_position:

sh$ wkt_position

POINT (-96.4784 12.3053)

Set up CrateDB

Start an interactive Crash session:

sh$ crash --hosts localhost:4200


You can omit the --hosts argument if CrateDB is running on localhost:4200. We have included it here for the sake of clarity. Modify the argument if you wish to connect to a CrateDB node on a different host or port number.

Then, create a table suitable for writing load averages.

cr> CREATE TABLE iss (
...     position GEO_POINT
... );

CREATE OK, 1 row affected  (0.726 sec)

In the The CrateDB Admin UI, you should see the new table when you navigate to the Tables screen using the left-hand navigation menu:


Record the ISS position

With the table in place, you can start recording the position of the ISS.

Crash provides a non-interactive mode that you can use to execute SQL statements directly from the command line.

First, exit from the interactive Crash session (or open a new terminal). Then, use crash with the --command argument to execute an INSERT query.

sh$ crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
        --command "INSERT INTO iss (position) VALUES ('$(wkt_position)')"

INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.037 sec)


For any real-world application, you must always sanitize your data before interpolating it into an SQL query.

Press the up arrow on your keyboard and hit Enter to run the same command a few more times.

When you’re done, you can select that data back out of CrateDB.

sh$ crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
        --command 'SELECT * FROM iss ORDER BY timestamp DESC'

|     timestamp | position            |
| 1590395103748 | [-82.6328, -6.9134] |
| 1590395102176 | [-82.6876, -6.8376] |
| 1590395018584 | [-85.7139, -2.6095] |
SELECT 3 rows in set (0.105 sec)

Here you have recorded three sets of ISS position coordinates.

Automate the process

Now you have key components, you can automate the data collection.

Create a file named, like this:

# Exit immediately if a pipeline returns a non-zero status
set -e

position () {
    curl -s |
        jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv';

wkt_position () {
    echo "POINT ($(position | expand -t 1))";

while true; do
    crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
        --command "INSERT INTO iss (position) VALUES ('$(wkt_position)')"
    echo 'Sleeping for 10 seconds...'
    sleep 10

Here, the script sleeps for 10 seconds after each sample. Accordingly, the time series data will have a resolution of 10 seconds. You may want to configure your script differently.

Run it from the command line, like so:

$ sh

INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.029 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...
INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.033 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...
INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.038 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...

As this runs, you should see the table filling up in the CrateDB Admin UI:


Lots of freshly generated time series data, ready for use.

And, for bonus points, if you select the arrow next to the location data, it will open up a map view showing the current position of the ISS:



The ISS passes over large bodies of water. If the map looks empty, try zooming out.