IMSG’s VizLab awarded an Innovation Champion Award

IMSG’s VizLab awarded an Innovation Champion Award

I.M. Systems Group, Inc., a science-based professional services company supporting the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory (VizLab), in partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Systems Lab (GSL), has won the American Council for Technology – Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) 2023 Innovation Champion Award for the Urban Heat Islands of Washington DC Virtual Reality (VR) Experience: A Revolutionary Approach to Understanding and Addressing Heat Inequities. This immersive VR experience allows individuals to explore the city from a new vantage point, providing insights into the urban heat island effect and its impact on different neighborhoods. Urban heat islands occur when urban areas experience higher temperatures compared to surrounding rural regions due to human activities such as construction, transportation, and energy consumption.

The Urban Heat Island of Washington DC VR Experience utilizes cutting-edge technology to combine urban heat island data provided by NOAA with other publicly available information, including 3D building models and satellite imagery. Using Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) software, a highly detailed 3D model of Washington, D.C. has been created, which accurately reflects the city’s landscape. This model is then overlaid with the urban heat island data, providing users with a realistic representation of the temperature disparities across different areas of the city.

Through VR headsets, users can navigate the virtual city and gain insights into the distribution of high and low-temperature zones, examining how various factors such as land use, vegetation cover, and areas paved with asphalt influence these patterns. Additionally, the experience includes a guided tour of four diverse neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., showcasing temperature and socio-economic disparities and highlighting community-government partnerships aimed at addressing these challenges.

By offering a captivating and informative experience, the Urban Heat Island of Washington DC VR Experience aims to raise public awareness about the importance of addressing urban heat islands in cities. It serves as a powerful tool for stakeholders, urban planners, researchers, and the general public to better understand the impact of heat inequities and explore potential solutions.

The innovation aligns with the goals of the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), a jointly developed system by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NOAA, which seeks to address heat-related health issues through interagency cooperation. The Urban Heat Island of Washington DC VR Experience leverages data collected through community science field campaigns, funded by NOAA, to inform decision-making processes regarding heat planning, preparedness, and response.

This VR experience is just the beginning. With over 60 communities engaged in urban heat island mapping campaigns supported by NOAA, these VR experiences have the potential to drive awareness and encourage innovative solutions nationwide. IMSG staff at NOAA VizLab Mr. Rafael DeAmeller and Mr. Juan Pablo Hurtado made significant contributions to this innovation. For further information, please listen to the Federal News Network’s Accelerating Government with ACT-IAC – Episode 28: Innovations in the Federal Network radio show at and read more about the ACT-IAC Innovation Awards here:

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