Archive for the ‘Information Technology’ Category
The first step in the process, is to merge multiple CSV files into one. This also need to remove possible duplicate waypoints, and symbols that could cause problems with processing, such as a single double quote. The following unix command will combine all .csv files in a directory into a single file called merged.csv.
$ cat *.csv | sort -r | uniq | sed s/\"//g > merged.csv
The second step is really simple with GPSBabel.
$ gpsbabel -i unicsv -f merged.csv -o KML -F waypoints.kml -o GPX -F waypoints.gpx
And you’ll end up with two shinys – a KML file for use in Google Maps and Google Earth and GPX file for use in GPS units.
Disclaimer: This is a draft section of my Masters Thesis. I am publishing it here primarily to share with interested people and to receive feedback. It is very likely this will change in the final version. It is also not fully referenced or formatted correctly. This section is specifically focused on reviewing Volume 7 of the Final Report by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission, and the context in which it is likely to be used is setting the need, and providing examples of required capabilities, of an information system for post-disaster building safety evaluation, and possibly a wider role of disaster impact assessment.
On the 14th of March, 2011, the Cabinet of the New Zealand Government established a Royal Commission to inquire specifically into the built environment in Christchurch, building codes and standards, and building management following the earthquakes.
The Final Report – Part Three contains a detailed review of the building safety evaluation process conducted by the Royal Commission.
This section of the thesis highlights and discusses those points of relevance to designing an information system for post-disaster building damage assessment. These are based upon the details and recommendations that were identified by the Royal Commission in the Final Report.
The Royal Commission, in section 2.5.5 on Information Sharing, clearly identifies that there were issues associated with a lack of sharing of information about the damage and status of a building.
People and organisations failed to share information about the damage to a building with others who needed to be involved in decisions about its use, repair or demolition.(p38)
At a broad level, the Royal Commission identifies the need for the building safety evaluation process to collect, manage and make available information for other users.
record information, produce maps, and transfer the information collected into the wider territorial authority information management systems; (p13)
There is also recognition here that any information system is not isolated and standalone, but will required machined-based interoperability to be able to support the transfer of information to other information systems, such as those of territorial authorities.
As the Royal Commission identifies, building assessment is inherently linked to emergency management and declarations of emergency.
We consider that if the impact of the event warrants carrying out a building safety evaluation operation, then it is likely to be significant enough to warrant a[n emergency] declaration. (p17)
As such, the design of an information system to support post-disaster building information could support other aspects of more general disaster impact assessment, and emergency management, as well.
In this context, one of an holistic approach to disaster impact assessment, there are consequences associated with creating an information system solely to capture and manage information associated with building impacts, especially when buildings are inherently connected to the welfare of their inhabitants (in the case of residences) and more broadly the lifeline utilities that all buildings are connected to.
Despite the emphasis on building safety evaluation being primarily an emergency management process, the use of both the information system, and the information it contains, will likely extend well beyond the declaration of emergency.
A large-scale rapid assessment operation may not be complete before a state of emergency ends. (p23)
Is the current building safety evaluation framework valid?
It is worthwhile considering whether the Canterbury experience of building management following earthquakes is in line with international best practice; do the observations, lessons and improvements have international applicability; and can these observations guide the design of an information system?
The Royal Commission has determined (p5) that at this point, no suitable alternative approaches to building management after earthquakes exists, and that the current approach is appropriate, and in-line with current international best practice. This suggests that the current framework provides a suitable basis from which to architect an information system, recognising that some level of flexibility will be required to accommodate future improvements and changes in the process, as well as supporting continual advances in technology.
The NZSEE (p8, actual ref to NZSEE report) notes that the scale of the rapid assessment operation was ‘large by international standards’. This indicates that an information system designed to handle at least the scale of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence should be able to suitably scale to handle future large international earthquake events.
The Royal Commission correctly identifies that whilst the NZSEE Guidelines are focused on assessing earthquake damage, the broader framework can in fact be applied to a wide range of hazards that cause building damage.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) supports the use of the building safety evaluation process for a variety of disasters, highlighting that the most likely event requiring building safety evaluation in the long-term in New Zealand, is going to be flooding. This is a clear indication that any information system developed must take an all-hazards approach.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment supports using the building safety evaluation process for other disasters. If it can be used after a range of disasters, particularly floods, it becomes more cost effective to develop and maintain this process; 70 per cent of emergency declarations since 1963 have been flood-related. (p14)
The NZSEE Guidelines indicate that the process is broadly applicable to any disaster that may cause large numbers of buildings to be severely damaged. (p14)
This all-hazard approach is identified in Recommendation 112 by the Royal Commission.
Recommendation 112 – The building safety evaluation process should be used following a range of disasters. (p15)
There was evidence given to the Commission to indicate that several duplicate building safety evaluation operations were formed after the September earthquake. This potentially can hinder local collaboration, especially as personnel may support multiple jurisdictions, and have to operate multiple information systems.
The reports received by the Royal Commission describe how the CCC and the Waimakariri and Selwyn District Councils each implemented their own building safety evaluation operation after the September earthquake. (p12)
It is heartening to consider that having internationally similar rapid assessment systems encourages…
…co-operation between trained persons from countries that experience earthquakes… New Zealand was supported by overseas specialists during the Canterbury earthquake sequence’ (p9)
This encouragingly supports an approach whereby an information system should be similar internationally, to enable international collaboration during times of disaster – not only for engineers and building assessors, but also the Urban Search and Rescue personnel that are ultimately the first stage of building assessment. Such an approach would also support many aspects of post-disaster academic collection of building information for structural, design, and earthquake engineering research.
Overall, these indicate that there are potential benefits for both local and international collaboration and coordination in the development and use of an information system to manage rapid damage assessments, and that many of the findings from the Royal Commission are likely to have international relevance.
Despite the continued references to official organisations in building safety management post-disaster, it is important to clarify that “building owners are responsible for confirming that their building is safe after a disaster.” (p50)
Design considerations identified from the Final Report
In this section, the aim is to identify design considerations based upon issues identified in the Royal Commission’s report.
In terms of ownership, the Royal Commission has indicated that one central government agency would be the core maintainer of the process and tools.
The central government agency would also guide the preparation of territorial authority plans, and develop and maintain core elements of the building safety evaluation process, together with common tools such as training materials. (p15)
This means the building safety evaluation system would be designed at a national level, with territorial authorities planning its execution. (p16)
It is worth noting that there are elements of execution that are better driven by a central government agency, rather than by territorial authorities. Any disaster impact assessment and/or building safety evaluation information system, is likely to be included in this. This will ensure that the information system presents a common national system, rather than a myriad of local information systems, each customised only to needs of the territorial authority.
As long as the lead central government agency ensures that territorial authorities use the same plans and process for delivering building safety evaluation, an information system is not likely to require additional customisation to support the needs of individual territorial authorities. Most needs should be able to be supported via programmatic Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and standards for data interoperability.
Identified stages of building assessment
The Commission has broadly identified four different stages of building assessment following an earthquake. These start with the broadest and fastest assessment of the impacted area, and progressively over the following days, weeks, and months, drill down deeper to very specific and detailed analysis of single buildings and structures.
Overall Damage Survey
The first step is the Overall Damage Survey which is undertaken by first responders, rescue teams, emergency services, council workers, and emergency management personnel within the first hours or a significant earthquake occurring.
The Overall Damage Survey is the first step in the building safety evaluation process. This survey is carried out by civil defence workers within hours of the disaster occurring. It is a quick stocktake of the extent of the damage caused by the disaster. Decision makers are likely to use the Overall Damage Survey when deciding whether or not to declare a state of emergency. It is also used to indicate what locations the rapid assessment teams should focus on. (p13)
Whilst the Commission identifies this stage as something specific to building management, arguably the nature of the Overall Damage Survey is far broader than just buildings, and also incorporates aspects of assessing impacts to utilities and critical infrastructure. It is a significant component of a broader stage of Disaster Impact Assessment where the initial impact assessment occurs, to identify the scale of impacts, the likely level of response required, the level of outside resource required to respond, and whether an emergency declaration is needed.
This stage is likely to differ depending on whether there are significant search and rescue operations being undertaken, as following the 22 February earthquake, or if it is limited mainly to damage to property damage – as were the 4 September 2010, and 2007 Gisborne earthquakes.
The building safety evaluation operation carried out in Christchurch after the February earthquake differed from that used after the September earthquake because of the search and rescue operation. The immediate response to the February earthquake focused on locating and rescuing trapped people. (p13)
Rapid assessments are likely to represent the largest number of assessments, that are undertaken in a short timeframe. The Royal Commission offers a good summary from the NZSEE Guidelines.
Both Level 1 and Level 2 Rapid Assessments are intended to give a short-term indication of the condition of a building. Rapid assessments give an early indication of whether the building is an immediate danger to the people using it, or to the public in the vicinity. In this phase of the building safety evaluation process, evaluators place red, yellow or green placards on buildings to indicate their status following assessment. They may limit entry to buildings and recommend the erection of cordons to restrict access to the area around the building. (p12)
Interim Use Evaluation and Plans Based Assessment
The Royal Commission identified that Plans Based Assessments (PBA) had two roles.
Firstly, as a ‘bridge’ between rapid assessments and a Detailed Engineering Evaluation (DEE).
CERA developed a process to determine whether a building can be occupied before a full engineering evaluation is carried out on it; this process is called the Interim Use Evaluation (IUE). (p42)
Assessments after the rapid assessments would include a PBA or, at the most thorough level, a DEE. The concept of a PBA is similar (p45)
Secondly, as pre-event risk reduction, and readiness planning tools. This certainly fits within the “Four R’s” approach to Comprehensive Emergency Management in the New Zealand environment – Risk Reduction, Readiness, Response and Recovery.
We observe here that the PBA concept could also be adapted for use in the assessment of buildings prior to an earthquake.(p45)
Detailed Engineering Evaluations
There are many sources of information that are relevant to the building safety evaluation process. There are likely to be reports obtained by the building owner from their engineer, that will contain information relevant to the building and future decisions about the state of the building, and the risk it may present to neighbouring property.
Building owners and their engineers are not legally required to share the information in these evaluations with their local authority and there was no system in place to integrate them into the building’s record. However, these reports sometimes contained information that would have triggered a change in a building’s status. (p32)
They should also be required to give a copy of this evaluation to the relevant authority. This would eliminate much of the confusion that arose after the Canterbury earthquakes and ensure that authorities have access to all of the information that could affect the status of a building.(p32)
It will be necessary to be able to capture and associate these reports to the building safety evaluation information to provide a more complete picture to decision makers.
Following the 4 September 2010 earthquake, the concept of Indicator Buildings was created, and further expanded and formalised following the 22 February 2011 earthquake.
The Indicator Building system is designed to assess the effects of aftershocks on buildings. The relevant authority identifies examples of different types of buildings whose structural elements were damaged in the main shock, but are not close to collapse: these are the Indicator Buildings. It then monitors the new damage that an aftershock causes to see if it falls within expected limits. If the Indicator Buildings are sufficiently damaged, or the damage observed in them is greater than expected, the authority may decide to carry out a building safety evaluation operation in respect of the class of building that the indicator building represents.(p31)
The Royal Commission found that Indicator Buildings are “particularly useful when an area is experiencing an earthquake swarm or a prolonged aftershock sequence” (p31). This approach has since been adopted by California.
The implications of this approach to an information system require identifying similar types of building, by attributes such as construction type, number of stories, and underlying geology; and after an earthquake that meets a certain trigger threshold, ensuring that Indicator Buildings are prioritised for assessment.
Process Guidance and Decision Making
Perhaps the greatest benefit that an information system for building safety evaluation can provide, is not just as a repository for the assessment information, but once that information is stored, being able to automate, or at least make it easier to report on data that helps guide the process, and to aid decision making.
there is also a need to consider all buildings that may have been damaged, even if the damage appears minor. Even if a building has a green placard, it may be appropriate to assess it further.(p41)
Because the process is designed to prioritise which damaged buildings to focus on, buildings fall out of the system as soon as a green placard is applied. Green placard buildings were not considered further during the rapid assessment phase unless their Level 1 Rapid Assessment form noted the need for a Level 2 Rapid Assessment.(p42)
We have heard evidence that many building owners did not act on the green placard’s recommendation to obtain “a detailed structural engineering assessment” of their building.(p42)
A common problem appears to have been the lack of followup to buildings placarded green. An information system would better be able to track followups, even if it is as simple as producing reports on green placarded buildings that have not had any update or followup assessments registered within a certain timeframe.
The Royal Commission (p46) identifies a 4-group taxonomy of building types based on perceived risk, and the likely assessment approach required following an earthquake. Note that these are likely specific to the New Zealand earthquake hazard context AND construction techniques used in New Zealand. It is likely that alternative taxonomies would need to be developed for other countries using a similar system, or for different hazards.
The extent of post-earthquake assessment of a building in each group should depend on the extent of the damage it has sustained (p46)
The Royal Commission spends some time considering the personnel management issues associated with the deployment of a significant building safety evaluation process.
The ability to carry out an effective building safety evaluation operation depends on the number of skilled evaluators available. For this reason, effective plans for the mobilisation of trained professionals at national and local levels, and for events of different magnitudes, are important. (p20)
The varied composition of team members ensures that the personnel involved in building safety evaluation come from a wide range of different organisations.
These rapid assessment teams were typically made up of a minimum of three people: a council building control officer or civil defence response team member; a structural engineer; and an Urban Search and Rescue technician. Level 2 Rapid Assessment teams had one more building control officer and/or engineer join these teams. These teams were expected to include at least one engineer. (p12)
IPENZ led the mobilisation of volunteer engineers from the rest of the country after the September and February earthquakes; some engineers also volunteered of their own accord. Local Government New Zealand mobilised workers from other territorial authorities to support local council staff. (p20)
… volunteer building control officials, architects and members of the construction industry can be valued members of a rapid assessment team. (p28)
In addition to the wide range of engineer and council staff, Urban Search and Rescue personnel are also heavily integrated in the process, either as part of the early reconnaissance (during the Overall Damage Survey), or contributing as Safety Advisors to support the assessors in the field.
Urban Search and Rescue engineers were able to join the rapid assessment teams and carry out other tasks to support the local civil defence response because there were no casualties and they did not need to carry out a rescue operation. (p20)
This role of rescue personnel as safety advisors is strongly supported by Recommendation 111.
Recommendation 111 – Life safety should be the overarching objective of building management after earthquakes as communities both respond to and recover from the disaster. (p14)
The Royal Commission also identified other expertise that is required in the building evaluation process, particularly geotechnical analysis. It is likely in future post-disaster building assessments that an expanded team will be utilised to provide the different types of expertise required.
The Royal Commission has received evidence that the rapid assessments after the February earthquake did not adequately cover geotechnical matters. Structural engineers did not understand why the geotechnical team had assessed the building as dangerous, and the placard did not say it was assessed for geotechnical reasons. This meant that evaluators had to revisit and replace placards at some dangerous sites. (p14)
An information system could be used as both a pre-event database of skilled personnel, and well as a planning and communication tool to support the timely mobilization of personnel immediately after a significant disaster.
The ability to carry out an effective building safety evaluation operation depends on the number of skilled evaluators available. For this reason, effective plans for the mobilisation of trained professionals at national and local levels, and for events of different magnitudes, are important. (p20)
Because the training for the core team that forms a national resource capable of leading a building safety evaluation operation and the building safety evaluators who actively maintain their preparedness would be compulsory, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would be able to keep a list of people who have attended the training. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment should make this list available to territorial authorities’ civil defence and emergency management planners. (p28)
Clearly there will be a need to support importing any database of suitable personnel into an operational information system. Consideration will need to be given to the format to enable development of a tool to import and populate the local personnel database with the relevant information.
Any information system will require tracking hundreds, and possibly thousands of personnel.
Approximately 250 volunteers carried out rapid assessments in Christchurch during the state of emergency declared after the September earthquake… After the February earthquake, civil defence planners identified the need for up to 100 engineers and a further 50 building control officials to make up the rapid assessment teams going into Christchurch’s CBD. Approximately 350 engineers were involved in the rapid assessments carried out during the national state of emergency. (p20)
At its peak, Operation Suburb deployed up to 1,000 building control officials, welfare representatives and Earthquake Commission staff each day. (p21)
Again, note the inclusion of more non-building personnel, the welfare representatives, in the overall assessment process.
The Commission recognised that systems and tools to better manage personnel, allowed them to conduct more operations, in parallel, but also to ensure that personnel weren’t overworked.
The reports received by the Royal Commission note that the building safety evaluation management team was better resourced than its September equivalent. They suggest that this, along with a formal roster to keep staff alert, allowed the building safety evaluation management team to support a wider range of activities conducted in parallel. (p21)
Additionally, the Commission recognises that there will be an element of tracking skills, experience and/or capabilities of personnel in the information system, to ensure that individuals are assigned to roles cognisant of their experience, and that teams when formed have the appropriate mix of individuals.
Several submitters favour developing a way to indicate that building safety evaluators have the right skills and experience. They contend that when building safety evaluation managers know what skills and experience their volunteers have, they are better able to decide where to send them. (p27)
As a result of the large number of compliance officers that were assigned to existing operations, it even became necessary to temporarily warrant additional personnel.
The CCC therefore decided to give temporary warrants to the building safety evaluation team leaders (p21)
These warrants would need to be tracked and maintained by an information system.
Various different operations were set up to target particular locations or types of buildings, to assess those that were safe to open sooner and start serving the affected public again.
Between 22 and 25 February, the CCC carried out rapid assessments on suburban commercial buildings and other premises suitable for welfare centres; this rapid assessment operation was known as Operation Shop. The CCC then began Operation Suburb, which assessed residential buildings. (p13)
Similar approaches were applied following the September earthquake, whereby the Christchurch CBD was the target of the initial assessment, following by buildings on the key arterial roads out of the centre of the city.
specialist evaluators assessed shopping malls (so that the public could access food and other necessities), critical buildings (including those six or more storeys high), the CBD … ATC suggests that this approach may have some advantages over the block-by-block method usually used internationally: civil defence and emergency management in Christchurch were able to move more rapidly to open up entire segments of the community.(p29)
An information system needs to enable separation of management tools, such as personnel, actions, and reporting, into various targeted operations.
Process knowledge management
Another useful application for an information system would be to capture knowledge gained during operations, and make it available as knowledge is created and shared during the building safety evaluation process. It might be possible to create a dynamic field manual for smartphones that is able to synchronise against the information system to provide updated field process instructions and guidance.
The Royal Commission has heard evidence that building safety evaluators would hold informal debriefs with each other at the end of the day. Participants commented on how valuable these conversations were, because more experienced evaluators shared their knowledge about how and why they assessed damaged buildings the way they did. (p25)
New Zealand has yet to develop a field manual for building safety evaluators to take out with them.(p25)
A significant component of assessing buildings post-disaster is to determine the threats they pose to life safety, not only to occupants in the buildings, but also around the building. If a building is unsafe, it will generally be cordoned off to prevent people going into hazardous areas.
As the Royal Commission identified, the business-as-usual practice is for building owners to arrange and manage a barrier around their property.
normal building practice is for building owners to organise safety fencing around their properties if they are carrying out works on them (p50)
However, as a result of Civil Defence Emergency Management establishing extensive cordons around the whole central business district, it was no longer possible for building owners to manage their buildings cordons or undertake work on them, and the responsibility was de facto adopted by CDEM, Police, and the building safety evaluation team under the mandate of the National Controller.
During the state of emergency in September 2010, civil defence workers set up a cordon around Christchurch’s CBD. Civil defence workers then set up cordons around particular buildings or areas as they slowly reopened access to the wider CBD. (p50)
One significant concern that was raised was the lack of size of the cordons.
We have also heard evidence that indicates that cordons were not wide enough to ensure public safety in the February earthquake. We consider that public pressure to keep access to streets and businesses open may have contributed to this. There is clearly a need to balance such considerations with public safety, which nevertheless should be the main consideration. (p50)
Cordons are very ‘spatial’ in nature, and generally require Geographical Information Systems to suitably manage information about cordons. There were significant delays following both the September and February earthquakes as a result of disruption to the information systems, and GIS capability of both the Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury. Once a combined GIS capability had been set up in the Christchurch Art Gallery CDEM Headquarters, cordons received better management.
Perhaps one of the key tools that an information system could support is analysis to ensure that there are no gaps in the cordons that have been created.
Best-practice indicates that cordons should be set to allow for a fall zone of one and a half times the height of the building. The Royal Commission saw examples of cordons having been set up around an individual building that failed causing death with a fall zone considerably less than this. (p50)
Building Height is one of the key attributes that should be recorded about a building in the information system. If it is also possible to store a building polygon – effectively the outline of a building’s footprint on a map – then it requires fairly simple GIS techniques to automatically determine the minimum extent of cordons required utilizing the building footprints, building heights, and calculating the 1.5x height distance required from the edge of each building.
The cordons modeled in this manner could then be programmatically compared by the information system, to indicate where cordons actually like well inside the modeled fall zone of a building, and hence present a significant safety risk.
Public information and communications
The Royal Commission identified challenges associated with the display of placards, access to read the placards, and indeed understanding what the current safety status of the building was, given the often multiple placards affixed to a building.
It became particularly difficult to tell the difference between a green and yellow placard as both faded to a pale yellow colour… Placing several different placards on a building made it difficult for building owners, tenants and the general public to know what the status of the building was. (p34)
There were multiple issues associated with the use of the placards as a public information and communications tool. For example:
A failure to understand the wording and meaning of the placards is an issue because the placard is often the main way that tenants or the wider public know whether a building can be entered and used. (p33)
A public-facing component of the information could make approved information available to building stakeholders and the general public to be able to inquire and check the current official status of a building.
There is an opportunity to use an system, suitably firewalled from an operational emergency management information system, as a public communications tool to make building status available to the public without the requirement to ‘see’ the placard for real, which was the only means most building occupants and the public were able to obtain building states.
As an indication, close to 8000 rapid assessments were completed in the first week of the building safety evaluation process following the September 2010 earthquake.
most of the rapid assessments of 1236 commercial buildings and 6686 residential buildings were completed during the first week (p31)
(TODO find figures of February 2011 earthquake)
Any information system is likely to support recording tens, and even hundreds of thousands of rapid assessments over the potential lifetime of an event, or multiple events.
Concerns were raised about addressing, particularly about the multiple means of identifying and addressing a building.
If a building has several entry points and/or multiple tenancies, then the territorial authority may have alternative addresses for the same structure. (p39)
The Royal Commission considers that a clear system for identifying individual buildings should be developed and included in the plans for a building safety evaluation process. (p39)
From personal experience running a small office, the author has first hand knowledge of multiple addresses. A single office had three recognised addresses, all of which were different:
- a common, vanity address
- a council-assigned rating address
- an electrical utility assigned address
There have been failed attempts by successive Governments to create a National Address Register to resolve some of these addressing issues, but were never implemented as a result of the expected cost. This will be discussed elsewhere.
Treating multiple buildings as one
For the purposes of building safety evaluation assessments, the Royal Commission has recommended that as a result of adjoining buildings, some buildings need to be grouped together and assessed as effectively one building.
The Royal Commission has heard evidence that problems can arise when buildings are divided into separate properties with different addresses separated by party walls, but nevertheless act as a single structure in an earthquake. (p52)
Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission Summary
The Royal Commission clearly identifies and recommends that information systems should be developed that incorporate the building safety evaluation process.
Recommendation 147 – Information management systems should be developed as part of planning for New Zealand’s building safety evaluation process.(p39)
As has been indicated above, there are many issues and recommendations that could be better managed and supported through the use of an information system designed to properly manage post-disaster building information.
Perhaps the most significant question, and one best left open at this point, is whether an information system should only support building safety evaluations, or, because buildings are such a fundamental component of the conceptual models of our communities, that it should be the foundation for a more comprehensive disaster impact assessment information system?
Cooper, H. J. M., Carter, S. R., & Fenwick, A. A. P. R. (2012). Final Report – Part 3. Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission. Retrieved from http://canterbury.royalcommission.govt.nz/Final-Report—Part-Three
On Wednesday last week, I had a day out in Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand. My main motive was to do a couple of one hour walks to pick up some geocaches for a challenge geocache I am very close to completing. I needed a couple of North Island hikes, and Wellington presented the easiest and cheapest opportunity for me.
As you may be aware, I’ve recently caught the Ingress bug and it is loads of fun. However, my home town of Christchurch, until this Wednesday, only had a single portal. Compared to Wellington where there must have been at least fifty. Hence, my plan was hatched to have primarily a day of playing Ingress for real, and fit in my geocaching around that.
I arrived in Wellington by plane around 730 in the morning, grabbed the rental car and headed off out of the misty windy drizzle, over the Rimutaka hills and over to the Wairarapa where I headed to the first goal of the day – to knock off three caches on a one hour hike into the hills. On the other side of the hills, in the Wairarapa, it was a lovely sunny day – very nice weather for a walk. I got my three caches, with a little tweak of my ankle, but nothing too sinister.
Upon returning to the car, I headed out for the serious fun. I had spied 10 unfound Ingress portals between Featherston and Masterton, and a check late Tuesday night revealed that none of them had been claimed yet. This was great for me, as I’d only managed to collect around 14k AP so far in a road trip down to Dunedin and back. So 10 unfound portals meant I’d see close to 20000 AP gained just for claiming them, let alone the additional 7 portals I was able to connect into control fields in Masterton. So the second goal of the day was a raging success, and something I’d been unable to do yet in the South Island.
And I have to tell you, it was fun to be able to do something at last. I’ve made close to 50 portal submission for Ingress now, and Christchurch is going to be a load of fun once these portals start coming online and we have to battle for them in the real world.
This day was only going to get better however. Today was ‘moar portals day’ – meaning that Niantic Labs had published a pile more portals. I managed to get another three portal discoveries in Petone, on my way up to the Brooklyn wind turbine for my second geocaching hike for the day.
I’ve known that the Hawkin’s Radome geocache has been one I’ve wanted to do for some time in Wellington. It seemed a great option for the hike, and the paved road made for a quick walk out and back – all up about 1h20m and two or three caches plus a DNF. Stunning views from up here on a fantastic day!
Once that mission had been completed, it was off down to the Wellington waterfront to practice some Ingress offense on the extremely portal rich waterfront. Had a great 1.5-2 hours walking about 5km, hacking portals, letting off loads of XMPs and generally getting familiar with attacking Enlightened portals. Great fun! Just can’t wait now for Christchurch to end up with more portals!
I also ended up get far more AP than I thought, and closed the day only 9k shy of level 3. Not bad for someone with only two portals in their hometown.
So, at the weekend I was very generously given an Ingress invite thanks to Australian geocacher CraigRat! Double props to CraigRat as he is ‘Enlightened’ and I was going to be playing ‘Resistance’. Anyway, I thought I would share a little bit about my early strategy given Christchurch is a veritable black hole of portals and activity.
Ingress portals are based around interesting spots such as sculptures, monuments, historical buildings and the like. As many of you will know, Christchurch has had a few earthquakes, we lost a lot of buildings and monuments. We’ve only got four portals in town currently, where as Wellington has at least 20. I’ve already submitted about 25-30 more, but it will probably take a few weeks more for those to show up in game. As it turns out, three of the four Christchurch portals are in Cathedral Square and are not accessible – although you can get within 40m of one of them so you can at least hack it. So, this has resulted in very little activity.
What to do? What to do.
When there isn’t much going on, I think the main things to do are:
- Level up – the greater your level, the more powerful portals and bursters you can use.
- Stock up – farm as many portals as you can to build up and inventory.
I’ll start with the easy one first. Which one you do depends on which faction currently claims portals. Ideally, you’ll have a mixture of friendly and enemy portals so you can do both.
Now, these strategies don’t apply globally, this is very much based on a limited number of portals and players.
This one is pretty easy, can be good for your health, and you can do with both friendly and enemy portals. Hack, hack, and hack again. Every time you hack a portal, there is a good chance you’ll get more items such as resonators, bursters and shields that you can add to your inventory. It is like playing a science fiction Farmville in the the real world
I’ve got two friendly portals about 500m walk apart. I’ll head into town, and start at one, and walk backwards and forwards between the portals until each portal has been hacked four times – the most you can do in a four hour period. So in an hour I walk 4km or so, and collect a few handfuls of bursters and resonators, and the odd portal shield.
Hacking enemy portals has an added benefit, as your hacks will also gain you Action Points (AP) – 100AP for hacking a Level 1 enemy portal, for example. So, hacking enemy portals is a fairly quite way to gain both items and AP, especially if there are a few enemy portals close together.
This is quite a bit harder for us, as we, the Resistance, hold both accessible portals in Christchurch, so until the Enlightened come along and take a portal over, there is no way for us to gain any AP. The first thing to do with leveling up, is to get two players in a faction up to L2, so that you can create a Level 2 portal that will provide higher level items than a Level 1 portal.
What not to do
Unless your faction controls a strategically significant portal, it makes little sense to recharge a portal – particularly a low level portal such as Level 1 or Level 2. You get no AP for it. It is better to let the resonators discharge naturally in 10 days, and, because of the relative abundance of low-level resonators, you can afford to do this.
Don’t keep hogging portals. There are sometimes strategic benefits to be gained from having a portal’s resonators discharge, let it become neutral or weak enough to be taken out with a few bursters, and let the opposition hold it. Then you get a chance to hack repeatedly (+100AP each), destroy the eight resonators (+600AP), and eventually install a friendly portal with eight resonators (+1500AP).
With limited players and portals, the best thing for everyone is constant churn – farm your portals, let them discharge, let the opposition take them over for a bit. Rinse and repeat. It’s the only way that either side will level up, and collect items for battling.
Until there are moar portals of course
Since we can’t play Ingress yet, we have to sit back and ponder what it means. Since a lot of us are not yet able to play Ingress, all we can do is sit back, and dissect it, and ruminate. Some of my initial wondering included…
Wouldn’t it be cunning if Google was using the placement of #Ingress game elements in the real world to undertake distributed #crowdsourced #mapping eg track logging pathways, roads, POIs etc? All speculative as I have an iPhone and I don’t believe Ingress has been opened to #NewZealand yet
As I noted in my earlier article, Ingress has a partner ‘real world’ application called Field Trip that highlights interesting points-of-interest. These historical POIs appear to have been used by Google/Niantic to pre-populate the Ingress portal database. And Ingress portal submissions are like to result in more than just new Ingress portals, but I’d suggest we will also see them in Field Trip. But I’m sure that is only the start.
The trip data collected by Google whilst playing the game is likely to be used to improve their mapping data, well, as much as smartphone GPS accuracy will allow This means that public walkways and tracks will eventually be mapped as we walk and cycle them collecting ‘XM’. The accuracy of a single smartphone is unlikely to be useful, but if multiple Ingress players trek over the same paths, then over time, probability says that they will likely create a fairly accurate breadcrumb trail of the path.
I’m definitely not the first to come up with this, a few others have similarly suggested on Reddit and techgoondu that Ingress is being used as a vehicle to crowdsource things such as walking and cycling directions to improve Google Maps. As a geocacher, I’ve long known that the path between any two geocaches would create a route, that even in my home town, will include streets new to me. So, Ingress is likely to take advantage of this feature of location-based activity. Create various waypoints, encourage people to travel between them, and track them, and use the resulting data to improve the accuracy and data of maps.
But it goes further. Think about Google Glass for a minute. Here we have a project designed to be worn, and for augmented reality. Google’s main revenue source is advertising. What if where this is all heading towards advertising in an augmented reality world? Sure, games like Ingress would be brilliantly fun play in AR with a smartphone and Google Glass, but I’m guessing that Google really wants to get to the point where the likes of Google Glass can be used to display AR adverts whilst you’re walking to work, or going for a jog, or even out sightseeing. Google’s advertising revenue is limited to when we’re at home, or at work, and tied to a computer. Well, Google Glass would allow Google to present adverts overlaid on the real world.
Of course, it won’t just be advertising. Field Trip clearly indicates that Google Glass will be used to display interesting point-of-interest information, so it will be a great tool for traveling and sightseeing.
But Google needs a lot more data about the real world, and to maintain that data, to be able to augment it with advertising and useful information. And that is where Google Maps, Map Maker, Ingress, Field Trip, Places, Street View all come together to build up Google’s underlying data view of the world.
I still think it is pretty darn cool that they are using a game to crowdsource this geospatial information though!
The world around you is not what it seems. It’s happening all around you. They aren’t coming. They’re already here.
Such is the introduction for Ingress, what is turning out to be, a viral augmented reality (AR) hit by Google. Despite being an invite-only beta, it is already whipping up amazing interest on social media sites.
Disclaimer – Ingress is still in a semi-closed beta. You can download the app from the US Google Play store, and install it, but you won’t be able to play unless you secure an invite code. There is talk that the game may be opened up at the end of the month. To reinforce this, just read the #IngressInvite tag on G+!
If that isn’t cryptic enough, there is a whole mythos popping up and being stirred by the Niantic Project.
Ingress (on Google Play – you need an invite code to play) is shaping up to be a massively-multiplayer augmented reality game that takes place in the real world. Currently it is only available for some Android-based smartphones. A related application, Field Trip (see below for more) has already been released for Android, and the page states that it is coming soon for iOS. I expect that given time, we will also see Ingress for iOS, since both Ingress and Field Trip are from the same developer - but maybe not straight away. It goes without saying that a massively multiplayer game needs as many players as possible, so this is perhaps another point that suggests there will eventually be an iOS version released – but this is purely my speculation.
I first twigged to Ingress as it started popping up in my Google+ circles, and increasingly it, and related tags regularly turned up in trending topics on G+ (see #Ingress on G+).
As an augmented reality game, it requires you to get out into the world, and get active – much like geocaching. The level of interest I’ve seen online, including by geocachers in my Google+ circles, suggests that Ingress is going to be huge. I don’t think geocaching is ‘threatened’ by Ingress, indeed it makes a good parallel activity to play around your home town, where you have likely cleared out all the caches! You can even find people going through a similar process with Ingress, that many of us have been through with geocaching – particularly recognising the benefits of exercise and discovery that location-based activities provide.
It is worth noting that Niantic Labs, have also produced another Augmented Reality application recently called Field Trip. Ingress and Field Trip (on Google Play) are connected by more than just the same development lab within Google. I believe that they are both being used to build up a comprehensive database of interesting real-world locations – with Field Trip providing the ‘real world’ interpretation, and Ingress providing a fantasy gaming construct built around these points of interest. It is possible to submit your own ‘portal’ for Ingress, and I’d wager a bet that if the spot is interesting enough, you’ll see it turn up in Field Trip around the same time. If you look closely at the images for both apps on Google Play, you’ll notice that the same portal features in both.
So there is clearly a larger plan at play here by Google via their Niantic Labs project to build and deploy an increasing number of augmented reality applications, and at the same time, grow a large supporting dataset.
So, how is Ingress played? I’m not going to tell you. That’s half the fun, exploring the web, finding out the details, discovering strategy, and even choosing sides. Despite the lack of invites, and the lack of availability from the Google Play stores down under, it is still surprising to see Ingress play starting up in places like Launceston, Tasmania; and Wellington, New Zealand.
Me? I’m itching to play. As far back as the start of 2002, I was outlining a possible GPS Domination/Capture The Flag game and how it could be played. Scout from Geodashing, later created a game called MinuteWar that likely came out of these early discussions on the geodashing mailing list. Ingress definitely fits the same mould, but it is writ much, much larger, and likely to deliver on a global scale.
Heck, I’m even eyeing up Android devices just so I can play Ingress!
A brief post, but definitely a feel good one on how Sahana Eden, and members of the Sahana Software Foundation are helping out providing meals for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
A couple of days ago, we decided to focus our Sahana Eden efforts around the coordination of meals for Occupy Sandy. They were consolidating their kitchen operations in a new facility at the St. Johns Episcopal Church on 99th St. in Bay Ridge It has a fabulously large kitchen, lots of space to set up prep, production of cold meals (usually sandwiches and snacks), and is at least 20 minutes closer to most of the sites receiving meals from Occupy Sandy. The chance to work with a new mission critical site provided the perfect opportunity to transition those taking and fulfilling orders for meals onto the Sahana Eden, and provided the perfect laboratory to oversee the stress testing of the Sahana Sandy Relief site. It would also give us the confidence to roll out the use of the Sahana site for the fulfillment of requests for other relief items.
Unauthorised data collected from New Zealand wi-fi networks by Google Street View cars have finally been destroyed, the Privacy Commissioner has confirmed. ”We’re pleased to see the certificate from an independent agency verifying the irretrievable destruction of the New Zealand data,” says Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff.
It is great to see that the data that has been collected by Google without Kiwi’s permission, has now been destroyed. However, I note this little tidbit down the bottom of the article.
Wireless router users wanting to opt out of having their wifi point mapped can add the tag “_nomap” to their SSIDs.
What? We have to change our SSID to something ugly to opt out of Google Wifi data and location collection by their StreetView cars?
The thing about this, is that many users would not easily be able to change the default settings of their wireless access point and be able to append ‘_nospam’ to their SSID. I can, it is easy for me, but the test I would use is whether or not my Mum can, and I don’t think she could
I’d suggest that a different approach should be taken, in that if a Wireless Access Point (WAP) has encryption enabled, that is a pretty good indicator that security and privacy is important, and that it shouldn’t be added to the collection. It is also pretty much a default setup these days. This means that you’re not going to be opted-in to the collection of your SSID location, unless you explicitly opt in.
I’ve done my little bit, and fired off an email to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to see what they think of Google’s weak opt-out approach.
Awesome to see the Sahana Software Foundation announcing 3 internships from December 2012 to March 2013. These can be done remotely, and are not limited to just US citizens
The Sahana Internship Program will run from December 2012 until March 2013. This is a virtual internship and is open to applicants from any country. Interns will be given a variety of tasks, working with a number of different mentors from the Sahana community. Interns will be expected to work an average of 4 hours each week throughout the internship. At the end of your internship you’ll receive a certificate of participation and US$ 500. There are 3 intern positions available:
- 2x Software Developer Interns
- 1x Communications Intern
If you’re interested, I’d encourage you to get started with learning Sahana Eden, so you’ve got good basic awareness of the system.
I’m posting here my Masters in Emergency Management thesis proposal that I’m undertaking based upon my experiences responding to multiple earthquakes in Christchurch and their impact on the built environment. I don’t have a building or engineering background, but rather rescue, emergency management and IT.
I’ve created a new category here when all my thesis posts will be assigned to, in addition to any relevant emergency management and information technology categories.
Here is my proposal, that was accepted unchanged.
Information Management for Post-disaster Building Damage Assessment
Following the 4 September 2010 m7.1 earthquake in Canterbury, a post-disaster building damage assessment programme was implemented based upon the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Guidelines1. It was approximately 4.5 days before the first map of assessed buildings was able to be made available to better understand the extent of building damage, and to assist decision-makers. The February 22, 2011 earthquake presented entirely new information management issues for the built environment due to the shear number of buildings impacted, and the thirst for information from building owners, tenants, and the general public.
Two significantly different approaches were utilised for these events:
- September 2010 used a manually collated spreadsheet to capture RAPID 1 & 2 assessments.
- In February 2011, the assessments were entered directly into Christchurch City Council’s building information system.
Of concern, is that the building information was primarily managed from a local authority perspective, and that the method used for the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence may not be easily redeployed elsewhere as it was specific to Christchurch City Council’s information system. Nor does this allow the development of a national engineering resource that can be deployed, following an earthquake in Wellington for instance, that can operate on a standalone system should the local council experience IT continuity issues.
There are a wide range of stakeholders that have an interest in building information. These stakeholders include building oners, tenants, insurers, engineers and the public. There are key processes that need to be reflected in the design, including setting/changing building status (e.g. green/yellow/red), making the structure and surrounding area safe, and demolition/deconstruction. There is a large amount of media to be managed, including digital photos, notes, assessment forms and reports. Finally, it is essential that all decisions/actions/status changes are clearly tracked.
The goal of this research is not so much to critique the way that post-disaster building damage assessment information was managed following major earthquakes in the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence, but rather to produce a general concept of how post-disaster building damage assessment information can be managed – not only in the New Zealand context, but also globally. Naturally this is to take an all-hazards approach and will not be limited solely to building damage from earthquakes, although the ongoing nature of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence provides a somewhat unique example of an ongoing need for post-disaster information management for many years.
Consideration will be given to client devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, and sources of geotagged images), server, Application Programming Interface (for connectivity between systems), and standards (for data interoperability).
- Literature review of Post-disaster Building Damage Assessment methodologies, including more general Disaster Impact Assessment.
- Review Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission2 reports and interviews to identify examples and problems that may be associated with poor post-disaster information management.
- Discussion of various deployment, platform, and ownership options and the impacts these may have on how the system is used, or able to be shared as a tool for disaster response globally.
- Develop a conceptual design of how an information system may be used to manage post-disaster building damage assessment information including clients, server, API and standards.
- Possibly prototype elements of this design using the free and open source Sahana Eden3 software – emphasis likely to be on the server component.