April 05, 2010
Revealing the Interior – Indoor Mapping
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Revealing the Interior - Indoor Mapping

By Susan Smith

How far we have come from mapping the interior of countries to the micro level - mapping the indoors.

The urgency of tracking the the indoor environment for situational awareness purposes has alerted building owners and government and security entities alike to the need to be able to track a seen and unseen enemy, as well as have the ability to know what existed before a building was damaged or destroyed.

Above and below ground City models, credit to (courtesy of) PenBay Solutions for creating the model

Trimble's indoor mobile mapping solution (TIMMS) translates indoor environments directly into 2D & 3D models of structured interiors. The product is offers a way for building owners, facilities managers, engineers and construction professionals track and manage indoor assets and facilities.

Peter Canter, director Advanced Mapping and Imaging Systems for Applanix, a Trimble Company and wholly owned subsidiary of Trimble, said, “We recognize the general public is getting familiar with mapping and the opportunity that is wide open is learning to do indoors, so therefore we decided to concentrate on that.” Applanix' core competency is in inertial positioning, so it was a natural place to begin. GPS indoors is still relatively new.

The TIMMS unit has wheels, and some of Applanix's computers are inside the cart. Lidar and a spherical camera are also included on the cart, as well as positioning sensors. The unit is designed to be pushed with one hand through interior space and maneuvered in and out of cubicles and small spaces. “100,000 square feet a day is not difficult for us, it depends on the building," said Canter. "We walk at about 1 meter per second and the lidar sees 50 meters in each direction for 360 lidar, and the cameras are 360 degree as well, and everything is georeferenced.”

Applanix started out by mapping the first floor of their building in Richmond Hill, Ontario - completed in one hour. The first floor is about 15,000-20,000 square feet, completely georeferenced, so it can go right into a GIS database, and fits with the other data that is being gathered. “Getting a lot of indoor data quickly and getting it georeferenced was important,” noted Canter.

The Philly subway concourse in a 3D model, done in Trimble RealWorks

In a demo, Canter said that one of the requirements they set for themselves was to create a minimum level of detail so that people can make use of the data both from a visual perspective and from a data perspective. An example of the level of detail is being able to see the actual wall thickness in the building. There is a projection screen on the wall, and viewers can see pictures on the wall, and every bench, every cubicle.

All of the data TIMMS collects is also available in 3D. The mobile capability allows the user to go into spaces that would normally be difficult to get into. It's possible to use the TIMMS to go behind the desk, into all the cubicles, into closets. “It's important to be able to get into all spaces,” explained Canter. “You can do that with mobile scanning but setting up in every corner is too much work. But the other value proposition is more in how people use the data, if we can produce 2D and 3D datasets of buildings we're started to prove that you can optimize the management of building resources and all phases of the building lifecycle. If you consider the dollar
value of building assets -- if you're talking about billions of dollars, if you can optimize those resources just a bit, it's potentially a big money deal. And the other thing we've seen is for security and event planning, maps are very important and indoor maps are a new capability. The value there can be unlimited and you can potentially save some lives.”

Philadelphia main subway station, the photo is georeferenced

Not surprisingly, a lot of interest for this product is coming from security, law enforcement and rapid response professionals.

Old Method

Existing methods of mapping indoor environments involve setting up a tripod, laser and camera to capture measurements and images at various locations. The equipment is then moved and set up multiple times until all perspectives of a room are captured. With the TIMMS, a simple walk-through of an interior space offers 360-degree indoor coverage. Geo-referenced spatial data is captured accurately and quickly as the mobile system moves through the building at walking speed. The solution integrates active and passive sensors with an intuitive user workflow to enable true indoor GIS. Maps and models that cover thousands of square feet of indoor space can be created in minutes and entire
buildings can typically be completed in a day.

Plugging into Building Information Modeling (BIM)

TIMMS demonstrates some real value for BIM models, but Canter said there is a workflow involved in doing that. This involves taking the workflow at the Trimble level to georeferencing the data and then the other party vectorizes and attributes it and gets it into CAD models that work in BIM.

For situational awareness, a floor plan which can be clicked on to bring up associated camera data, all from the TIMMS

“The time of processing to get to georeferenced Lidar data and CAMA data is about 1 hour to 1 hour processing,” said Canter. “And then to attribute it and turn it into CAD models it's probably about another factor of 1 to another 1 hour of processing per hour of acquisition to attribute it and to get it ready for CAD. For some applications the additional processing is not necessary so it remains about a 1 to 1 ratio.”

Data Acquisition Examples

There are privacy and ownership issues with indoor data so not all the examples seen in the demo are shown here.

In a demo example, Canter showed a situational awareness scenario where the client was interested in seeing a floor plan very quickly, with georeferenced camera data. Trimble went into the building with the unit and created a floor plan. The user can see the dining room and furnishings, and tennis court. The camera, called the “Ladybug,” which is actually six cameras, goes to the spot the user picks and sees 3D spherical data. This type of tool wasn't previously available to reference the floor plan to camera data. It takes 1 hour to process for an hour of acquisition, and there is no data attribution required.

The TIMMS program is capable of displaying industry standard lidar format so the data goes directly into that format. The camera is built by a manufacturer who has industry standard formats as well. The imagery is like JPEG with latitude and longitude associated with each camera image. “Some applications have to be customized for this but basically it is designed to work with the same tools people are using for terrestrial based GIS,” said Canter.

The City of Philadelphia did not have a floor plan of their subway. They used TIMMS underground mostly on their heavy rail and subway system. Trimble was able to get data for their subway and their hard rail for some of the main floor. They also did the 15th floor of their building where they have their GIS department. The floor plan of their central subway station was created by TIMMS.

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