Google Earth saves

A few weeks ago, the health services of Amsterdam tracked down an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease using Google Earth, reports Trouw, a Dutch newspaper, today.

The details, translated from Dutch: Starting July 6, around 30 people became infected, of which two died. Soon, a certain type of “cooling tower” in the center of the city was suspected of being the culprit, but Dutch authorities did not have a list of such towers to inspect. Instead, health workers used Google Earth to visually identify all buildings in the area that had such towers on their roofs, and then contacted building management in each to determine whether it was the at-risk kind.

On July 18, one of the identified towers — on top of the old central post office building just to the east of Amsterdam’s central station — proved to be the origin of the outbreak. End of story.

You might wonder, of course, why Dutch authorities didn’t use some kind of official national imaging system. I suspect the reason is that Google Earth’s dataset (minus the bits censored by the Dutch government) is pretty much as good as it gets when it comes to coverage of Amsterdam, and that speed was of the essence. Still, a large area just to the east of the central station is thoroughly censored (it’s the Navy barracks in Amsterdam), so imagine if that’s where the outbreak had in fact started — they’d still be looking. (Via Jan Marijnissen Weblog)

4 thoughts on “Google Earth saves”

  1. It’s great that people use the technology and internet to solve problems.. that’s creative.. but on the other site it’s a shame that they need Google Earth to get a list of Buildings.


  2. Reminds me of a saying we had in the Marines: “If it’s stupid and it works, it ain’t stupid.”

    As for it “being a shame” that they had to use Google Earth, how much did it cost in person-hours to train “general” users to zoom, pan, and plot placemarks? Let’s be conservative and say 10 minutes. How long would it have taken to get them up to speed with a “real” GIS package? From where I sit, that strikes me as real time, real money, and in this case actual people dying.

    But don’t take it the wrong way: I’m sure your feature-extraction plug-in with the Bayseian filter works great…


  3. @ Brian Timoney;

    I think you understand me not correctly.. You are right.. but they had to be prepared. In Holland its normal such maps are allready available.. not using google earth.. The local government had nothing.


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