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The Virtual Alabama Safe Hospitals System

The Virtual Alabama online mapping system for safety and security utilizes Google Maps technology to provide first-responders such as police and fire personnel with a detailed layout of public buildings in emergencies. The system is already used by 1,500 public schools in the state. In 2012, when the University of Montevallo became the first college to implement Virtual Alabama, April Weaver, the director of business development for Shelby Baptist Medical Center (SBMC), recognized the tremendous potential the system holds for hospitals. David Wilson, President of SBMC, credited Weaver with the idea of bringing the hospital into Virtual Alabama. Weaver noted, “We’re very proud to be . . . the hospital pilot facility for Virtual Alabama.” The Shelby County Community Health Foundation provided the necessary funding for a team of experts to develop the hospital’s mapping system over a span of approximately 14 to 15 months. After much hard work, Shelby Baptist Medical Center is now, as Governor Robert Bentley stated, a “model for the rest of the state and the rest of the country.”


The system provides a secure visualization platform that uses a detailed three-dimensional online map to show the location of rooms within a particular facility according to name, color code, and number. Using Google Street View technology, static 360 degree views of hallways and larger rooms allow virtual navigation of the facility by medical center staff and first-responders. Additionally, information is provided about fire protection and utilities such as electrical wiring, gas lines, and water lines. The Virtual Alabama system utilizes video surveillance and photos of key areas and components to allow emergency officials to plan their responses to a wide array of crisis situations. The unique benefits that this system brings to hospitals are manifold. As the accompanying video demonstrates, hospitals that utilize Virtual Alabama will be able to offer first-responders a distinct advantage whether they are preparing for natural disasters or responding to criminal activity. Now, with the addition of other critical infrastructure such as courthouses, hospitals, and government owned buildings, we are beginning to see, to an even greater degree, the immense value of Virtual Alabama as well as the far-reaching impact this system can have on emergency planning, response, and recovery as its application spreads. 


Weekend Projects: Aerial StreetView

Last week we looked at testing stabilized video from an initial flight on a new remote control UAV platform. Today we put together a quick test of imagery from the same platform, displayed with the Google Custom StreetView API.

Custom StreetView from above the SICS offices in Florence Alabama's Industrial Park.


Custom StreetView from near the Tennessee River in Florence, Alabama.

Safe Schools: Indoor Google StreetView

With the Virtual Alabama School Safety Systems (VAS3), there are multiple projects going simultaneously.  One of these projects is the "Indoor Google StreetView" project.  This project includes the creation of "walk throughs" of rooms and hallways through the building.

The process begins with the collection of photos using a very specific device.  This camera system allows for the remote triggering via wifi and download of captured photographs to a user's cell phone or tablet.  The transferred files are automatically stitched together to produce a high quality panoramic image.  Here is a sample of the raw output from our camera system.


Source Image Post Stitching

The next step include the mapping of the positions of where each set of images were captured.  This is done using a mapping interface designed and developed by my team we call the Floor Plan Annotation Tool (FPAT).


Floor Plan Annotation Tool (FPAT)

In the FPAT we are able to actually generate the tiles needed for ingestion into Google StreetView using the "360 View Manager" module by selecting the panoramic image and queue it for tiling.  The tiled Google StreetView dataset is then associated to each point on the map, therefore completing the process.

The following is an example of a final product from the process.