When the Public Safety Research Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology asked first responders what new technology had the potential to be the most useful to them, location-based services registered a high priority. Tools to improve navigation and situational awareness while inside unfamiliar buildings can be of use to law enforcement and firefighters alike, preventing injury and loss of life. As commercial applications for indoor mapping, location, and related technology advance, the NIST wants to ensure that its potential for public safety purposes is explored as well. The The NIST Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP): Point Cloud City is an opportunity for government entities to play an active role in advancing location-based services that will eventually lead to enhanced safety for emergency services.
The PSIAP Point Cloud City Program
The purpose of this program is to support the creation of model three dimensional or "Point Cloud Cities." It involves the use of a particular type of technology know as LiDAR or 3D modern light detection and ranging technology to build indoor maps. Applicants will survey diverse buildings and structures in their area to contribute to a catalog of indoor point cloud models that can be used in the research and development of indoor mapping, localization, and navigation technologies. There are numerous ways applicants can participate, including purchasing their own 3D LiDAR equipment and surveying the buildings themselves or contracting with vendors specializing in the use of 3D LiDAR. Grant funds may be used for:
- Personnel costs and fringe benefits
- Equipment and supplies
- Contractual costs and subawards
- Other direct costs
- Limited indirect costs
Potential real-world applications that may come from this project include:
- Being able to tell what a room or building's is used for such as an office, mechanical room, lab, etc.
- Identifying hazards and other objects related to public safety such as power panels, standing water pipes, etc.
- Integrating with virtual reality technologies used in first responder operations, testing, and training.
- Using LiDAR as a high precision tool for testing and measuring operational systems.
The Global City Team Challenge
The Global Cities Team Challenge (GCTC) is an international platform sponsored by the NIST and other partners to advance the development of "smart" communities. Tech savy professionals from local governments, nonprofits, academic institutions, and industry brainstorm on municipal applications for the latest scientific advances to make life better for everyone. Since a chief goal of the Point Cloud City project is to share data, applicants must participate and lead a project team known as an "action cluster," and attend the 2018 GCTC Expo to demonstrate their project.
Applying for the Point Cloud City Program
What Exactly Is a Point Cloud?
While first responders who stay current with the latest technology will know exactly what a point cloud is, many lay people may be unfamiliar with the term. The definition is not particularly clarifying either: A point cloud is a set of data points in a three-dimensional coordinate system, these points are usually defined by X, Y, and Z coordinates, and often are intended to represent the external surface of an object. Speaking for myself, it wasn't until I saw a picture that I began to connect the dots (make that data points) to get a better sense of what it is. The point of a point cloud is a three-dimensional image whose extra detail makes it more valuable for certain purposes than conventional photographs or maps. For those of us who need visuals for the concept to click, the UK Department of the Environment has a 3D LiDAR rendering of the Olympic site in East London, as well as a easy to understand explanation of how it works, with examples of real-world applications: Learn more.