Camera Phones Add Value to the GIS Marketplace

Carol Snyder, Ph.D. Chief Operating Officer, Red Hen Systems, Inc.

The ability of camera phones to communicate digital data such as pictures, sound files, GPS coordinates, maps, and even video in real time opens up whole new areas of utility for geo-spatial media. Key among these is the management of an emergency response, where the improved situational awareness communicated through the real time delivery of images (and sound) from the field in a geo-spatial (mapped) context to a centralized command and control promotes better decision making. Geo-spatially aware camera phones can also be used to provide emergency response coordinators with a real time centralized display of the location of all emergency response personnel.

In addition to the real time capabilities of the camera phone, the ease of use with regard to the integration of GPS metadata with media and the wireless delivery of that media to a central depository makes the system usable with very little training. This convenience combined with the ubiquity of mobile phones promotes the "opportunistic" use of spatial media in applications where tasking a workforce for geo-spatial data collection is cost prohibitive. Key among these applications is cultural infrastructure management, particularly in municipalities. City workers that have cell phones can easily report problems such as potholes, fallen tree limbs, graffiti, damaged signage etc. by simply taking a picture with their phone. The picture is automatically spatially referenced and sent to a central dispatcher for consideration and prioritization.

There current use model for collecting data involves a Bluetooth enabled camera phone with a Bluetooth gps receiver. There is a software utility that we load on the phone to coordinate gps data collection with the taking of a picture. Camera phone models currently supported include Nokia 3650 and Nokia 7610.

There are two models for mapping and viewing the data that has been collected. One is downloading the georeferenced images from the phone and mapping those in either our MediaMapper or PixPoint for ArcGIS software solutions. The second is a server based solution where a camera phone set up with internet/email connectivity will automatically email the geo-referenced picture to a server for "instant" display and mapping. That would be ideal for emergency response conditions.