Flood-mapping system for better navigation

Flood-mapping system for better navigation

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US: University of Houston (UH) Professor Gino Lim is developing a computer-based real-time flood-mapping system that will help emergency responders better navigate roads in bad weather.

Lim recently received USD 400,700 grant from the city of Houston to build a computer programme that will instantaneously classify the level of flooding on roads near major highways within the Sam Houston Parkway (State Highway Beltway 8). Similar in concept to Houston TranStar’s online real-time traffic map, Lim’s Real-Time Flood Mapping System will use a colour-coded computer map to indicate the severity of flooding on major road segments. Red will mean that segment of road is severely flooded, while green will mean it’s safe to travel the road. This technology could eventually be helpful for any large metropolitan area that frequently has to deal with flash-flooding.

Lim and his team are developing a database that connects three major flood-monitoring database systems. Once the system is developed, it will undergo six months of testing, and it’s expected to be in place for first responders to use by the beginning of the hurricane season in June 2013.

“This tool will substantially improve first responders’ decision-making abilities and their response times. Information like this is priceless and could mean the difference between life and death,” Lim said.

Lim’s system will merge city and flood databases into one comprehensive resource that will be hosted on TransStar’s website. Algorithms devised by Lim will turn this data into colour-coded, visual representations of flooding on a map that can be accessed by emergency responders via the Internet on their laptops.

“During Hurricane Ike two years ago, we did a lot of testing on data transfer,” Lim said. “What we found is there can be problems with wireless connections because they are reaching the maximum capacity of some towers, which makes this communication difficult.”

To overcome that issue, Lim is partnering with Houston PBS to transmit a static image of the flood map via television signal that would refresh every 10 minutes, or less, depending on demand. This programme will allow responders to download the most up-to-date image on their laptops.

Lim is being assisted by Tom Chen, a UH engineering professor, and graduate students and researchers from UH’s Systems Optimization and Computing Laboratory (SOCL) in the industrial engineering department, and the Southwest Public Safety Technology Center (STWC).

Source: University of Houston