Click on a room to get additional information.
A lot of people use Google Maps to find their way around in a car — not a lot of people use them to find their way around the insides of buildings. So why are we doing this?
We've been in the business of making spatial information accessible for over 20 years now, and we've found that there are a lot of people who can use floor plans — not just architects and builders — floor plans are for everybody! And using Google Maps as the rendering engine means that the floor plans can be viewed on any Web-enabled device, including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, without having to install any software. It also means that nobody needs any training in how to use it — everybody already knows how to use Google Maps.
So here are some possible uses of this technology...
- Evacuation Plans
- You took a long lunch and got yourself lost in a large new department store, and then it catches on fire, and you can't find a salesperson to quote you any ad hoc fire sale prices, because they all left. So you gather up as much stuff as you can carry, and head for the exit. But where IS the exit? (Remember — you're lost.) The first thing you have to do is find the evacuation plan. This should only take a couple of minutes, but you're in a hurry (because you need to get back to work, and because the building is on fire), and finding the floor plan on the wall with all of that smoke in the air, and with all of the choking and hollering, is surprisingly difficult. What if you could pull up an evacuation plan on your smart phone, showing where you were (via GPS), with the quickest way out highlighted? Not something you would use every day, but if you ever had to use it, you'd be really grateful that somebody had anticipated the need.
- First Response Plans
- While finding yourself inside a burning building probably isn't an everyday occurrence for you, some people consider this to be normal — they are the people who deliberately run into burning buildings instead of trying to find their way out (i.e., the firefighters). Saving them a few minutes in finding their way inside a burning building would mean that they could save more lives.
- And sometimes, the lives being saved might be their own. Firefighters who have fallen victim to the heat and the smoke aren't good at identifying their locations and rescue routes, since they're choking or unconscious. But GPS locators are becoming standard gear for first responders, and this means that the fire chief can monitor the locations of everybody on the scene, from his/her office, or even using a smart phone. If somebody doesn't respond to a status check, the chief can direct the nearest firefighter to the rescue.
- Active Shooter Plans
- In the event that the police have to respond to a report of a person with a gun inside a building, knowing the layout of the building is crucial to combating the threat in the safest possible manner. If a police chief has the floor plan, along with the location of all of the first responders, a far more effective strategy can be developed in real time. One by one, rooms that have been called "clear" can be highlighted on the map, and everybody can see the strategy unfold, until the threat is finally contained, with less guesswork — and thus less risk — to the people in harm's way.
Even in non-emergency situations, spatial information is very useful. People in large office buildings need to know where they can find people in other departments. Accountants need to know how many square feet are allocated to each department, and what assets (such as office furniture) they're supposed to have, so that the costs can be tracked. Maintenance personnel need to know the location and type of equipment that needs to be serviced.
There are many different types of systems for handling all of these types of information. Most of it is in databases and/or spreadsheets. But we live in a physical world, and spatial arrangements matter. Somebody has the floor plans, but if they're electronic, the only people who have access to them are the handful of people who are registered to use expensive CAD or CAFM systems, but who don't get paid to service information requests from other departments. Yet everybody can use this information!
We've found that it all comes down to two basic types of data: 1) the 2D geometry, and 2) the room number. The employee database identifies the room number for everybody in the company. Likewise, the asset management system lists the room numbers for each asset. The maintenance system requires a room number before a technician can be sent out to service a trouble ticket. The floor plans identify the geometry of each room, along with the room number. And all of the rest of the spatial information is relative to the floor plans. So a system that joins the 2D geometry with the room number can function as the "pivot table" for every type of information available. And if it is easily accessible, it will save people a lot of time.
So Floor Maps puts the floor plans on Google maps, along with the room numbers. At the very least, people who know a room number can find the physical location of that room, or vice versa. But that's just the beginning. Since the room number is the key field, any number of other types of information can be queried, from databases and/or spreadsheets, using Floor Maps hooks. For example, in the site at the top of this page, if you click on one of the rooms, a pop-up appears, and the occupant of that room (in this case, the teacher) as well as the department, are being dynamically fetched (via AJAX) from a MySQL database. In actual deployments, this info typically comes out of the employee database, which is always the most up-to-date.
So we're developing commercially viable implementations of Floor Maps, which corporations and public institutions can use simply for the direct economic benefit. And then, the information will be available to first responders, and it didn't cost anybody anything.
Since everybody is leary of getting locked into proprietary technology, we're developing Floor Maps as open source software, free of charge to everybody. It's actually just a set of best practices that we've found performs reliably under the wide variety of usage cases, and with the open source as the instrument of those practices. Small organizations can just use the software straight out of the box, while large institutions will want to integrate Floor Maps into their enterprise DBMSs. Either way, a standard set of techniques becomes available, for in-house usage, without the need for any training, as well as for first responders trying to save lives. And nobody has to worry about being held hostage by a software vendor.
Needless to say, everybody is sensitive to the security issues. While floor plans are useful in-house, and necessary for effective emergency response, there isn't always a legitimate reason to make all of the info available to everybody in the world. For example, if an active shooter had access to the same floor plans as the police, there is no advantage. So Floor Maps code uses state-of-the-art security techniques. Combined with documentation on additional measures that the system administrators can employ (such as SSL and VPN), access can be restricted just to those who have a legitimate need for the information.
Please consider doing a Floor Maps implementation, for your own benefit, and to encourage the development of open standards that will benefit everyone.
— The Floor Maps Team