I'm working on an application where currently a user can upload an image of a floorplan and place camera-icons on the image which can be linked to a Security camera or Webcam. Clicking on the icon will open the video stream of that camera.

Now, a request came in if we could support a Google Sketchup model of a building and place the icons in a 3D grid.

I'm trying to come up with some pros and cons of the concept, but i really don't see any advantages of a 3D model over a 2D floorplan other than "It may look pretty".

Take the following model for example: https://sketchfab.com/models/5d373566a2ba4970b8fb46515009bd1c

Imagine that you have both interior and exterior cameras.

I found this product that does something similar, but a lot more simplistic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mNkV_Tqzuc

  • If a 3D model is done correctly then you will be able to communicate possible obstructions and point out reasons that a camera should face a certain direction over another. It would also provide a better sense of where it can be placed to provide an out-of-sight-out-of-mind experience for whoever you are monitoring, or of course make it more prominent that you are watching them.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 24 '14 at 13:33
  • True, but that's more a concern for what the client imports rather than what i represent. The application just needs to provide a canvas and navigation to rotate/zoom the model and a way to add the icons on an XYZ-grid.
    – K120
    Dec 24 '14 at 14:12

The aesthetic and planning advantages of using a 3d map are outweighed by the added time costs required to create the 3d map. It's not like the cameras magically fly out of the boxes they came in and move to where-ever you touch on the map. They are carefully placed and wired into locations that serve the camera-owner's need. Long after the cameras are in place, your software comes along to help the owner see what they see. The purpose of any map (2d or 3d) in your software, is to help the owner choose which camera to look through.

How common is overlap in your current 2d solution? By that I mean, how often are two cameras installed so close together that the only way to differentiate them from each other would be two swivel the view into 3d so that you could choose the upper or lower camera? The answer to that question should help you appraise whether adding a 3d aspect to your software would actually enhance its functionality.

That having been said, check with your salespeople and make sure that they aren't loosing sales to products which just "look better". As programmers we tend to be very functionality minded in our creations. Designers are always reminding me that asthetics matter too.


There are clear advantages to 3D over 2D. Many people cannot visualize floor plans and even people who work with floor plans for a living learn more about the project when going to the space for the first time.

Secondly 2D does not show the view range as clearly as does 3D. As the camera looks down a corridor there will be a point where you can see a persons legs but not their head. This in-between area can be shown more clearly on a 3D rendering than it can on a 2D.


Short answer: Yes there are advantages, but not always.

However, I will never tire of saying that there is rarely a black and white view, and this is a case in point.

Take the simplistic case: You have a square building with one square inner void and a flat roof of a known height. You assume that cameras are fixed as high as possible towards the ceiling so maybe you don't even need to specify a height.

Now take a complex situation (not necessarily worst case scenario, but getting there). You have an awkwardly shaped building with multiple floors; lots of inner voids, some with domed ceilings; apex voids; gable ends; internal beams; stair wells, etc etc. A 2D plan view makes it really hard to strategically position cameras and be confident the locations are correct or even sensible.

The second case is one where a 3D view could really help, both from the perspective of the viewer, and a first person view from the security camera.

And then there's all the possible scenarios in between, some of which a 3D view doesn't add value (or even makes it more difficult); others where 3D view definitely adds value; and some where the use of 2D or 3D view may or may not be obviously beneficial.

The obvious question is: of your current and potential users, roughly how many fall into the '3D helps' box and how many don't. And of those that do - do you want to support them, and if so at what cost to the business. And once you start talking about business logic and ROI and new target markets, etc, then that's all research only you and your company can do.

The outcome of all this is that it is a short step to the ubiquitous answer of: 'it depends'.

I feel I'm stating the obvious here - without providing a real answer. But sometimes the obvious still needs to be stated.

Since we don't know about your particular types of users and their needs, and the knowledge you've built from customers past and present, then it seems unlikely that we can answer here the question better than you can.

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