Rapid Inventory Collection System (RICS)

The Rapid Inventory Collection System (RICS) is used to capture geo-tagged digital imagery and collect geo-tagged notes of built environments. Up to four high resolution cameras capture images that are then displayed on the RICS Graphical User Interface (GUI) and saved in the JPEG format. It is typically used for building and infrastructure damage assessment following a natural disaster.

In particular, RICS:

  • Complements and augments the detailed field damage assessments (house-to-house and structure-to-structure) currently undertaken during post-event impact assessments using hand-held Personal Data Assistants (PDAs)
  • Provides a quick ‘first-look’ of the damage impact area to prioritise the worst-hit regions for detailed surveys
  • Permits complete coverage of building damage in a disaster-affected area (provided vehicular access is available)
  • Collects data focusing on ‘population coverage’ and in disaster situations quickly collects information on undamaged structures allowing engineering and GIS staff to focus on damaged structures
  • Allows fieldwork (damage assessment) to be undertaken more efficiently.

At the end of a survey, geo-referenced JPEG imagery is available for analysis. At Geoscience Australia each property within the survey zone is attached to a RICS image. Damage to the properties is then ascertained from the images using GIS software.

Software Components

RICS is written in C++ using Microsoft Visual C++ Express 2008. wxWidgets, a GUI library, is used to implement the user interface. wxThreads, included in wxWidgets, is used to implement software threading. Image capture, image streaming (via the Ethernet network) and compression in the JPEG format are performed on a separate thread for each camera. The GPS data fetch and NMEA 0183 parsing is also performed on a separate thread. SQLite is used to store image file names and their corresponding GPS data, enabling images to be geo-referenced.

Hardware Components

RICS is designed to be a cost effective tool for capturing geo-tagged imagery of built environments. As such, off-the-shelf hardware is used to set up the system. At Geoscience Australia, the following hardware components are used:

  • Mini tripods mounted on a motor vehicle with magnets
  • Camera configuration consisting of two, three or four Allied Vision Technologies (AVT) GC2450 GigE 5 megapixel digital cameras (2448 by 2050 pixels)
  • Five port Gigabit Ethernet switch with jumbo frame support to network camera image streams (jumbo frames reduce the CPU load required to handle incoming data)
  • Fujinon 16mm or 12.5mm focal length lenses
  • Swann 1020 camera housings providing all weather protection
  • An Intel™ Core i5 laptop with 4 GB of RAM
  • Inverter to power laptop and network switch
  • GPS receiver
  • Camera batteries.

User Interface

RICS’ user interface was designed to be user-friendly, consistent and intuitive. The main window consists of three sections, images, GPS data and notepad.

Streamed images are displayed in the top section while the GPS data displayed in the middle section includes the time (UTC), latitude, longitude, bearing, number of satellites, fix quality and speed. The speed, in kilometres per hour, is displayed prominently in a larger font. The bottom section notepad allows users to type notes during a field session. If a user wishes, the current time, latitude, longitude and bearing (heading) can be added to the end of each line, allowing the notes to be time and geo-referenced. The notepad text is saved as a ‘comma separated value’ file, and can therefore be opened in a database or spreadsheet program. The image below shows the RICS user interface in session mode with two cameras attached.

Fig. 1: Cameras mounted on a 4WD vehicle

RICS user interface
© Geoscience Australia

RICS in the Field

RICS was deployed following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires, the 2010 Kalgoorlie and Christchurch Earthquakes, 2011 Brisbane floods and Tropical Cyclone Yasi to collect geo-tagged imagery of structures and buildings. It was deployed recently to capture geo-tagged imagery of the Darling River in New South Wales for ecological research.

RICS will continue to be used to enhance the commercial and industrial components of the NEXIS buildings database. Geoscience Australia also plans to use RICS to validate the Australian Bureau of Statistics residential buildings assessment which is used by NEXIS in some Australian regions. We are on standby to use RICS in Australia for both infrastructure and natural environment damage/impact assessment and are seeking collaboration to utilise RICS in neighbouring nations such as New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and other South Pacific and South-East Asian countries.

RICS vehicle with two side cameras

RICS vehicle with two side cameras
© Geoscience Australia

RICS set-up inside a vehicle

RICS set-up inside a vehicle
© Geoscience Australia

ArcPad (showing the tracklog)

ArcPad (showing the tracklog)
© Geoscience Australia


RICS was released as open source in August 2011. The software and source code can be downloaded from http://code.google.com/p/rics/.

Topic contact: hazards@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 11, 2011