Carla Johnson, the CEO and founder of Boulder-based geospatial mapping company Earthvisionz, has been creating 3-D virtual Earths since long before Google did. Now, she’s using her deep experience and expertise to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earthvisionz is offering a free, daily Global COVID-19 Health Alert that breaks down key virus-related statistics, including total cases, active cases, recovered cases and deaths, on
a global and state level. And anyone can receive the alert by subscribing to a private Google Group mailing list.
“It’s a one-stop shop that aggregates key data, puts it into a format that’s easy to read, and allows you to link to your location,” Johnson explains, adding that her firm began following the virus back in January, before most people in the U.S. were aware of its threat. The company, which pulls its live data from sources ranging from universities and state agencies to the Centers for Disease Control, expects to track the virus for the next twelve to eighteen months, when experts expect multiple waves of infection beyond the initial outbreak.
“Our targeted subscribers right now are first responders, Homeland Security, FEMA, local law enforcement — anyone who needs to be aware of their health protection wherever they are,” she notes. “We are the glue between pieces of information, which is important at this stage when we don’t have really good ways to protect people except for social distancing and wearing face masks."
This new initiative is a natural outgrowth for the company, which was founded in 2010 to fill a key need: combining real-time data alerts with mapping technology in a geospatial risk-management application dubbed VAST. Earthvisionz bills itself as a real-time geolocation risk-management firm, helping organizations with people and properties spread out in multiple locations prepare for, respond to and recover from weather events and other disasters. VAST maps those dispersed assets and provides live notifications for 144 types of severe weather, natural disaster and social unrest — and now, it includes a special alert for COVID-19.
The U.S. Air Force, which has thirteen Air Education and Training Command bases around the U.S. and Pacific Rim, was the first organization to benefit from VAST. Earthvisionz began marketing the product for commercial use in 2015, and current clients range from real estate firms to utility and energy companies.
In Colorado, the application was used in 2012 to track the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire outside of Colorado Springs, providing live feeds of the fire's perimeter, satellite imagery and wind conditions that allowed telecommunications company TW Telecom to limit its losses. Earthvisionz also traced the boundaries of the Boulder County Flood of 2013, notifying users such as insurance companies and county workers of road closures and areas the flood had damaged during the initial crisis as well as long after the water receded.
Now it's added COVID-19 alerts to the mix. “It’s not just about seeing COVID-19 cases,” explains Jeff Schott, co-founder of Earthvisionz. “It’s about seeing them in relation to other events, such as natural disasters, that our customers have to respond to.”
The company will continue mapping COVID-19 infections alongside wildfire, hurricane, tornado and other disaster data in the coming months. This information will help organizations make responsible decisions about the safety risks and restrictions facing what Schott terms the "second responders" — people, such as property inspectors and roofing contractors, who are vital in the recovery and rebuilding efforts after an initial emergency response — and determine whether additional precautions will be necessary before putting boots on the ground. Earthvisionz also plans to integrate COVID-19 data, including local restrictions, into DriveTracker, an application that optimizes driving routes with data about live weather and road conditions.
Johnson and Schott both have deep roots in Colorado. Johnson received several of her degrees, in geology, biology and chemical engineering, from the University of Colorado Boulder, and in 1994 founded Waterstone, a hydrology engineering firm working on water issues globally. Schott previously owned the Boulder County Business Report — now BizWest — before partnering with Johnson to start Earthvisionz.
“We’ve been involved in numerous environmental projects in Colorado, including the cleanup of Rocky Flats, and working on water studies around the state, including on the South Platte River,” says Schott. “Boulder is an amazing mecca of the environmental sciences and geolocation mapping.”
And now, Earthvisionz is helping people in Colorado — and around the country — respond to a new crisis. Knowledge is power, Schott points out: “We’re offering the COVID-19 Health Alert as a free public service to help keep people safe.”
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