Feed on

The GIScience Research Group at Heidelberg University and the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT) are happy to share the their GIScience github repository contains now already over 50 open source repositories and it’s still growing. These contain results from several research projects and in particular also some very active long term activities. Most of the tools and services are related to OpenStreetMap and related Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) sources, but also 3D geodata e.g. the Heidelberg  LiDAR Operations Simulator Helios, the Voxel Octree Solar Toolkit Vostok, the 3D WebGIS framework GIScene.js etc.

The oldest and certainly largest project are all the services and growing ecosystem around Openrouteservice. E.g. there is a QGIS plugin, geoJSON support, a very handy Python library, one for Java and JavaScript and a library for R stats usersORS includes not only routing, geocoding, maps or isochrones (the isochrones also support population statistics) on an interactive web map (maps.openrouteservice.org), but APIs for those and further services such as time-distance matrix calculations or a POI API (openpoiservice) - all with professional documentation. ORS supports more specialised routing profiles than ever: from heavy vehicles, wheelchairs, e-bikes to fitness-level biking and others with many options each.

Another major activity is related to intrinsic OSM quality measures, mostly based on analysing the history and metadata of OSM (including the osm wiki). This includes several active projects, such as ohsome, oshdb, osm-measures, osm-vis, osmatrix, iOSManalyzer, etc.

Several other repositories are related to supporting humanitarian organizations like MissingMaps (RedCross, Doctors Without Borders, etc.) and HOTOSM with tools for improving and analysing crowdsourced geographic information, e.g. MapSwipe analytics, the HOT critical number tool, osm-analytics, or also the Realtime OSM service, that is needed for updating the openrouteservice for disaster management.

There are also some more generic (e.g. libraries for discrete global grid Systems: geogrid) or even more special tools (incline from osm gps tracks) you may want to explore on your own… Have fun!

See all the current projects at https://github.com/GIScience. There are some further activities and old projects that still need to be added to the repository, so stay tuned for future updates. And of course we are looking forward to contributions from whoever wants to work with us. Feel invited :-)


Editors: R Westerholt , F-B Mocnik, A Comber, C Davies, D Burghardt, and A Zipf

A place for place – modelling and analysing platial representations

Places are understood as locations and areas to which anthropogenic meaning is ascribed. As such, places have been of central interest to philosophers and geographers for a long time, and a large stack of mostly discursive and qualitative literature evolved around this topic. Talking about digital and formal representations of places, however, the inherent vagueness of the aforementioned definition has so far hindered significant progress towards a platial notion of GIS. Place as a concept in the field of GIScience is therefore still in its infancy. Some progress has been made recently, but a consistent theory of how to characterise, represent and utilize places in formal ways is still lacking. A place-based account of GIS and analysis is nevertheless important in the light of the plethora of increasingly place-based information that we have available in an increasingly digital world. Digital technologies are nowadays strongly integrated into everyday life. As a result, a large number of especially urban datasets (e.g., geosocial media feeds, online blogs, etc.) mirror to some degree how people utilise places in subjective and idiosyncratic manners. Taking full advantage of these often user-generated datasets requires a thorough understanding of places. It also makes apparent the pressing need for respective models of representation, analytical approaches, and visualisation methods. This demand reflected by recent events like the PLATIAL’18 workshop lays out the motivation of convening this special issue.

We are seeking your original contributions on the following topics (and beyond if fitting):

  • How can we move forward the integration of platial information with GIS?
  • How can we integrate and align GIScience notions of place with existing human-geographic and philosophical notions?
  • How is it possible to establish and quantify relationships between adjacent places?
  • What might be a suitable strategy for aggregating subjective platial information?
  • What roles do uncertainty and fuzziness take in a platial theory of geoinformation?
  • In which ways can places be visualised, and how can we do that at multiple scales?
  • What can we learn about places from volunteered and ambient geographic information?
  • How can platial analysis be integrated with applied research agendas from neighbouring disciplines like sociology, urban planning, or human geography?
  • Further topics are welcome if they fit the overall theme of this special issue
Important dates and anticipated timeline:

30 March 2019

Deadline: Full paper submission

15 June 2019

Anticipated paper acceptance notification

1 July 2019

Camera-ready papers are due

1 August (anticipated)

Publication of the special issue

Further Info (pdf)

Guest editors: Rene WESTERHOLT

University of Warwick


Franz-Benjamin MOCNIK

Heidelberg University



University of Leeds



University of Winchester



TU Dresden


Alexander ZIPF

Heidelberg University


Within the European FP7 project “CAP4Access“, we studied the usage of crowdsourced geographic information (and more specifically OpenStreetMap data) for improving accessibility in selected European regions. This 3 year research study led to several implementations and extensions of Open Source GI solutions with respect to OSM data quality assessment as well as wheelchair routing and navigation. In previous blog posts we have already introduced the Wheelchair extension of OpenRouteService and also wrote about the navigation app for Openrouteservice.

Furthermore, during the piloting activities we organised several mapping events to use these apps in action and learn how they can be improved to provide better service. Wheelmap, an already existing platform developed by our project partner SozialHelden was also used and improved throughout this project.

One of the outcomes of the events was to learn from target groups that less people were aware of the availability of this software, especially young researchers who have the interest and knowledge to adapt it in their work and even further extend it. Therefore, together with colleagues at SozialHelden we present a software article entitled “Wheelmap: the wheelchair accessibility crowdsourcing platform” where you can find more technical details and information about how to use or extend this in your project. Wheelmap is an ongoing project. So, in case you are interested and have an idea on how to extend Wheelmap, kindly get in touch with the authors of this article for collaboration!

A map showing POIs in four different colours in Wheelmap

A map showing POIs in four different colours (accessibility levels) in Wheelmap

Further reading:

Mobasheri, A., Deister, J., Dieterich, H. (2017). Wheelmap: The Wheelchair Accessibility Crowdsourcing Platform . Journal of Open Geospatial Data, Software and Standards, 2: 27, doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40965-017-0040-5

Relevant Publications on this topic:

After the successful GeOnG conference 2018 in chambery we want to thank the organizers and all participants. We contributed in several ways, as already highlighed in our previous blogpost. Now, we also want to share our slides and workshop material with everyone interested.

Round table discussion:

  • Machine Learning, AI & satellite imagery: what impact on humanitarian mapping: slides


We are looking forward to the next GeOnG in 2020. :)

Our full packed workshop at the GeOnG 2018

In a newly published open access paper, we present a system that generates customized pedestrian routes entirely based on data from OpenStreetMap (OSM). The system enables users to define to what extent they would like the route to have green areas (e.g., parks, squares, trees), social places (e.g., cafes, restaurants, shops) and quieter streets (i.e., with less road traffic). We present how the greenness, sociability, and quietness factors are defined and extracted from OSM as well as how they are integrated into a routing cost function.

We intrinsically evaluate customized routes from one-thousand trips, i.e., origin–destination pairs, and observe that these are, in general, as we intended—slightly longer but significantly more social, greener, and quieter than the respective shortest routes. Based on a survey taken by 156 individuals, we also evaluate the system’s usefulness, usability, controlability, and transparency. The majority of the survey participants agree that the system is useful and easy to use and that it gives them the feeling of being in control regarding the extraction of routes in accordance with their greenness, sociability, and quietness preferences. The survey also provides valuable insights into users requirements and wishes regarding a tool for interactively generating customized pedestrian routes.

An important feature of the system is that it allows users to interactively define the weights of these factors in the extraction of the customized route. The system also informs users about the length, greenness, number of social places, and total length of noisy streets of the shortest and customized routes. This enables them to make a more aware decision on whether to take one of the two routes or to further edit the factor weights. In our opinion, such an user-system interaction is important to the extent that pedestrian route choice is subjective and dependent on the circumstances at the moment of the route request. We also presented the prototype of the system’s interface that is already integrated into OpenRouteService (ORS), a widely used open source web-service for several navigation purposes based on OSM data. ORS includes several research results, e.g. for the here explained healthy green & quiet routing, but also Landmark based navigation, routing across open spaces , wheelchair routing for all of Europe and more.

All this blends to earlier work and concepts on adaptive and personalized GI services (maps, routing, and navigation). While some ideas have already been developed in the late 90s and early 2000, due to the availability of VGI these ideas can now be brought into practice and evaluated scientifically.

New Publication:

Novack, T.; Wang, Z.; Zipf, A. (2018): A System for Generating Customized Pleasant Pedestrian Routes Based on OpenStreetMap Data. Sensors 2018, 18, 3794.

Related earlier publications:

Das Wintersemester hat begonnen und damit auch die Vortragsreihe der Heidelberg Geographischen Gesellschaft HGG. Wir möchten Sie herzlich einladen an den Vorträgen der HGG teilzunehmen. Das Rahmenthema dieses Semester lautet:

Reisen für die Wissenschaft
Expeditionen, Exkursionen und Explorationen

Die Vorträge dieses Semester:

”And Germany pays you for asking us these questions?” Humangeograhische Reflexionen über das ethnologische Fremdverstehen
Prof. Dr. Veronika Cummings (Universität Mainz); Dienstag, 30. Oktober 2018, 19 Uhr
Geography Awareness Week:
Alles im Lot - mit dem Forschungsschiff “Meteor” im Mittelmeer
Dr. Bertil Mächtle (Universität Heidelberg); Dienstag, 13. November 2018
Von Berkeley und Cambridge in die ganze Welt: Hundert Jahre universitäre Forschungsreisende, 1868-1962
Dr. Heike Jöns (Loughborough University); Dienstag, 4. Dezember 2018, 19 Uhr
Die Gletscher- und Siedlungspanoramen der Schlagintweit-Brüder - Frühe Ansichten der Natur und Kultur im Himalaya
Prof. Dr. Marcus Nüsser (Universität Heidelberg); Dienstag, 11. Dezember 2018, 19 Uhr
Man(n) muss es mit eigenen Augen gesehen haben! Afrika als Ziel geographischer Forschungsreisen im 19. Jahrhundert
Prof. Dr. Ute Wardenga (IfL Leipzig); Dienstag, 29. Januar 2019, 19 Uhr

Ort der Abendvorträge

Kleiner Hörsaal (HS2) des Kirchhof -Instituts für Physik (KIP) Im Neuenheimer Feld, Gebäude INF 227 (gegenüber Mensa)


Mitglieder frei

3,50 € (StudentInnen und SchülerInnen 2,- €)

Schulklassen in Begleitung ihrer LehrerInnen frei


Die HGG lädt Ihre Mitglieder zur AbsolventInnenfeier des Geographischen Instituts ein.
Zeit: 30. November 2018, 17 Uhr;  Ort: Neue Aula der Universität Heidelberg
Oberbürgermeister Prof. Dr. Eckart Würzner wird den Festvortrag „Heidelberg – The Knowledge Pearl“ halten. Bitte melden Sie sich hierfür unter folgender E-Mail-Adresse an: geogalumni@uni-heidelberg.de

HeiGIT/GIScience member Sven Lautenbach acted both as part of the boards of directors and as an instructor at the 10th Summer School for Spatial epidemiology, social media, and urban health that took place at the Humboldt University in Bielefeld. This year’s summer school aimed at the use of social media to capture spatial patterns in mental health related outcomes.

The theoretic part of the course covered the topics of urban health, epidemiological challenges and opportunities to urban mental health and the use of OSM data in this context. In addition, Markus Reichert (KIT) presented the outcomes of the psychogeography project the GIScience group is involved as well.

The practical lectures used twitter data recorded before, during and after Hurricane Sandy hit New York city together with R to identify spatial clusters of emotions and to identify driving factors of the number of tweets related to different emotions expressed in the tweets. SatScan, geographically weighted generalized linear models and spatial eigenvector mapping were used for that purpose.

SatScan Clusters for the peri disaster 2 weeks time slot for the number of tweets associated with the emotion disgust.

SatScan Clusters for the peri disaster 2 weeks time slot for the number of tweets associated with the emotion disgust.

Geti's G* for the peri disaster 2 weeks time slot for the number of tweets associated with the emotion disgust.

Geti's G* for the emotion disgust during the two week peri disaster period.

HeiGIT ran a workshop on geodata for sustainable development at the Sustainable Development in Action conference organized by the Heidelberg Center for Environment and Momentum Novum at Heidelberg University.

Our workshop provided an overview about the importance of geodata to tackle the sustainable development goals (SDG) of the United Nations, highlighted the importance of bridging the missing geodata gap in large parts of the world and provided practical advice how to become involved in the missing maps project to help to close that gap.

The SDiA conference aims at an interdisciplinary approach towards different aspects of sustainable development and involves action labs and workshops to initialize concrete actions towards a more sustainable world.


The proceedings of the PLATIAL’18 workshop (organized by R Westerholt, F-B Mocnik, and A Zipf) have been published:


The concept of “place” is about to become one of the major research themes in the discipline of geographical information science (GIScience), as well as in adjoining fields. Briefly put, while locations provide objective references (e.g., point coordinates), places are the units utilized by humans to approach the geographic world. The PLATIAL’18 workshop makes a significant contribution towards establishing a notion of place and is meant to be the starting point for a series of future events. What sets this workshop apart from others dealing with the concept of place is that the focus is decisively on its quantitative investigation and conceptual formalization.

The workshop accommodates a wide range of aspects all of which in one or another way are related to the two outlined core foci. This is well reflected by the various topical sessions into which the workshop has been organized. These include “Conceptual Anatomy of Place”, “Disclosing Places from Human Discourse”, “Bridging Space and Place”, and “Exploratory and Visual Analytics of Place”. The content sessions were concomitantly inspired by two keynote talks by Alexis Comber (University of Leeds) and Clare Davies (University of Winchester).

In our most recent 3DGeo publication, colleagues from KU Leuven together with us developed a new method to extract drainage ditches from LiDAR point clouds in a fully automatic process.

Ditches are often absent in hydrographic geodatasets and their mapping would benefit from a cost and labor effective alternative to field surveys. We propose and evaluate an alternative that makes use of a high resolution LiDAR point cloud dataset. First the LiDAR points are classified as ditch and non-ditch points by means of a random forest classifier which considers subsets of the topographic and radiometric features provided by or derived from the LiDAR product. The LiDAR product includes for each georeferenced point, the elevation, the returned intensity value, and RGB values from simultaneously acquired aerial images. Next so-called ditch dropout points are reconstructed for the blind zones in the dataset using a new geometric approach. Finally, LiDAR ditch points and dropouts are assembled into ditch objects (2D-polygons and their derived centre lines). The procedure was evaluated for a grassland and a peri-urban agricultural area in Flanders, Belgium. A good point classification was obtained (Kappa = 0.77 for grassland and 0.73 for peri-urban area) by using all the features derived from the LiDAR product, whereby the geometric features had the greatest influence. However, even better results were obtained when the radiometric component of the LiDAR product was also taken into account. For the tested models for the extraction of ditch centre lines, the best resulted in an error of omission of 0.03 and an error of commission of 0.08 for the grassland study area and an error of omission of 0.14 and an error of commission of 0.07 for the peri-urban study area.

Roelens, J., Höfle, B., Dondeyne, S., Orshoven, J.V. & Diels, J. (2018): Drainage ditch extraction from airborne LiDAR point clouds. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Vol. 146, pp. 409-420.

Free access to the paper is available for 50 days via https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1XzwI3I9×1V2FA

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