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GeoCam Tested in Disaster Response Exercises at Google

On May 14 and 28, the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) conducted two disaster response exercises at Google, Inc. During the exercises, which simulated volunteers responding to a large-scale natural disaster, more than 75 Google employees used G1 Android cell phones loaded with IRG’s “GeoCam Mobile” software to take photos of emergency exits and disaster targets around the GooglePlex. The photos were transmitted in real time to a simulated incident command center, which used the images to rapidly assess the state of the Google campus.

GeoCam is a geo-referenced photo system that helps disaster responders and decision-makers more rapidly understand disasters, so that search and rescue, damage assessment, and response can work better. GeoCam consists of a GPS-enabled digital camera (or cell phone) and a Web-based image workflow, which enables photos to be annotated and viewed in multiple ways (map, KML, etc). GeoCam is designed to synchronize between multiple users working on-line and off-line, so that images can be shared in the field and when network connections are poor.

BACKGROUND: Each year thousands of people die, millions of lives are disrupted, and billions of dollars are spent coping with earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Better geo-spatial information, rapidly delivered, can significantly reduce the impact of an extreme event as well as help in the preparation for future events.

One of the biggest problems after a disaster strikes is getting accurate, up-to-date information. This can be a challenge when there is significant damage to infrastructure due to flooding, fires, etc. Digital photos are particularly important to capture and share because they can be used to rapidly assess the situation and make decisions. GeoCam is designed to address this need by empowering a broad range of users to quickly capture and make use of geo-referenced imagery.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Google (Google-NASA Disaster Response Project)

Contact: Terry Fong


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