Genetec's Immersive Mapping Feature Examined

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Sep 29, 2011

Integrating 3D mapping with security and surveillance systems has been one of the great hopes of the last decade. However, it is rarely used in practiced because it required time-consuming and cost-prohibitive 3D modelling of the facility. Genetec's new feature called Immersive Mapping is an attempt to overcome those barriers. In this note, we examine the technical details, pricing and competitive tradeoffs to traditional 3D modeling.

For a visual overview of what Genetec's 3D feature looks like, watch the Genetec promo video:

Feature Overview

In its first release, the immersive map will be a standalone map, viewable via Security Center or any web browser. It will simply be a map, without any cameras or other devices placed on it. In the future, however, it will be integrated with Plan Manager, Genetec's 2D mapping engine, which will allow cameras, and access control and alarm points to be placed on both maps. Navigation will also be linked, so moving throughout the 3D map will update the location shown in Plan Manager, and vice versa.

The map is built using still photographs, not via 3D modelling. Photographs are taken with a digital SLR, every 15 degrees at each location. A panoramic view is photographed approximately every 6-10 feet. These photographs are digitally stiched together to create the overall immersive map. This site survey is performed by Genetec, or may be undertaken with training by the customer's integrator, if security issues warrant.

Positioning and Availability

Genetec's main point is that the immersive map, by using photographs of the site, should provide a more intuitive and less processor-intensive user experience. Where 3D models provide blank, featureless, walls, the immersive map provides a view of the facility as it stood when the site survey was performed. This way, users familiar with the site will see it as they know it, and more easily recognize their position in the map. Users should reference Feeling Software's Omnipresence 3D [link no longer available] for an example of a 3D modelled solution.

The map may also be used for remote training of first responders. For example, since it is completely web-based, training for response to a nuclear power plant may be performed off-site, using the immersive map, to detail key locations and routes. It may also be used during a situation by a dispatcher to guide first responders through a facility. 

This feature will be available in the fourth quarter of 2011, with an MSRP of $0.25 per square foot. This licensing cost includes all necessary site surveys and programming. For an mid-size commercial facility (a hospital, school, etc.), around 100,000 square feet, this would mean a fee of $25,000 to provide the map, which does not include any base licensing fees for Security Center. For a larger facility, such as a shopping mall (averaging 500k-1M square feet), this could range from $100,000-$250,000 or more. At these prices, this obviously is not a feature for everyone. We see it more likely as being an add-on for critical facilities with capable security departments, or for high-risk facilities in larger municipalities, where local first responders would be trained to responed to crisis situations.

Competitive Options

There are not many competitors producing 3D mapping technology. The most obvious is Feeling Software, with their OmniPresence platform [link no longer available], which is a 3D PSIM, and carries a PSIM price tag, well into the six-figure range. There are definite advantages to a 3D platform such as OmniPresence. First, with Genetec's immersive map, no bird's eye view is possible. Users need to switch to a 2D map for an overall view, which can take more time and training. Second, in OmniPresence, surveillance video is stitched into the 3D model, so users simply need to navigate to the spot on the map they'd like to see, and video is presented to them. This is definitely a simpler way to view video, albeit a processor-intensive option.

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