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The last couple of days the pictuesque city of Chambery became a gathering place for humanitarian actors, researchers and organizations. CartONG organized their biannual GeOnG conference in their headquarter city. This years conference was at the same time the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the NGO. CartONG is a French non-governmental organization that fosters the use of geographic information tools to improve data gathering and analysis. Hereby they work in close collaboration with humanitarian aid and emergency relief organizations as well as development programmes.

Attendants of the GeOnG had the chance to learn about current practices and projects, the latest technologies and developments in workshops, round tables, panels, lightning talks and speed geeking sessions faciliated by CartONG and provided by international organizations, actors and researchers including Médicins sans frontières, UN OCHA, UNHCR, British Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Digital Humanitarian Network and MapAction.
Benjamin Herfort, Melanie Eckle and Marcel Reinmuth attended the conference to present current research and projects of the GIScience research group and to share their knowledge regarding OSM methods.

They organized a half day workshop in which attendants with different levels of OSM experience could learn about and test different methods of OSM data import and export.

Benjamin Herfort and Melanie Eckle were moreover invited as panelists to round tables on the use of Big data and the use for the humanitarian field and Crowdsourcing for humanitarian programming.

We thank the CartONG team for facilitating this interesting gathering and are looking forward to taking our collaboration further.

We would like to cordially invite all Master Geography students starting this semester and all interested people to our public Master Welcome Event today. You will have the opportunity to get insights into the GIScience Group Heidelberg and see four very cool short talks about most recent research topics!

See you there: Wed, 19 October 2016, 16:15h, Berliner Str. 48, Lecture Hall

We are looking forward to it

We cordially invite all interested to our forthcoming talk next Monday about the cross-cutting theme of smart city research. Dr Jochen Wendel from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will report about an open data infrastructure that allows data storage, data exchange, data analysis, as well as data visualization across projects and domains. He illustrates approaches that help overcoming existing obstacles in terms of a lack of interoperability, which is a major impediment to implementing smart city approaches, and seriously hinders further developments.

The n-dimensional city - Analyzing multidimensional data for smart cities approaches

Dr. Jochen Wendel / European Institute for Energy Research (EIFER), KIT Karlsruhe
Mon, Oct 24, 2016, 2.15 pm; Venue: INF 348, Lecture Hall (Room 015)

Last week members of the GIScience group Heidelberg contributed two talks to the final COST ENERGIC meeting, which was held at the historic Oondatje Theatre of the Royal Geographical Society in London. On Thursday, Benjamin Herfort and Melanie Eckle talked about the latest achievements, current state and future avenues of data quality assessments in OpenStreetMap. René Westerholt provided a wrap up of the state of spatiotemporal social media analysis on Friday. He completed his talk with a range of key messages for prospective developments in the field.

Melanie, Benjamin and René during their talks

Melanie, Benjamin and René during their talks

The interdisciplinary colloquium series of the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) starts with GIScience by a talk of Bernhard Höfle about “3D Geodata in Environmental Research” on 24 October 2016 and was now announced via press release.

Furthermore, Alexander Zipf will give a talk about “Crowdsourcing of Geodata for Humanitarian Aid” on 14 November 2016, which is also a research focus of the future Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT).

The talks will take place at the Neue Universität, Lecture Hall 15, 4:00 p.m.


The Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE) helps to sustainably combine existing competences available at Heidelberg University in the area of environmental sciences and initiates new research projects. Going beyond the traditional boundaries of a specific subject or discipline, the HCE aims at providing academic solutions to existential challenges and ecological effects of natural, technological and societal changes on human beings. The “Heidelberg Bridge” colloquium is a lecture series that focuses on these issues and creates a platform for interdisciplinary exchange and communication with the public.

New HistOSM 2 released

For all people who are interested in historic features of the OpenStreetMap dataset a complete new worldwide map service has been published. It is extending the original old HistOSM (*) from 2009 considerably.


As of October 2016 you can find 638.284 objects that were tagged ‘historic’ all over the world. The range of object types is almost inexhaustible. It varies from buildings, castles, memorials, archaeological sites or ship wrecks to more exotic or unexpected features like meteor craters, Celtic earthworks, charcoal piles, aircrafts or boundary stones. While browsing the map there is an additional dynamic chart that informs about the frequency of the different objects in the current map view. Further information from the individual objects, inclusive an image preview (where available), can be obtained by clicking on the features.

It’s implemented using OpenLayers 3, D3.js and Semantic UI. The place search is powered by Nominatim and the background OSM layer is from OpenMapSurfer. This is dynamically gray-scaled by a HTML5 canvas composite operation inside the OpenLayers rendering pipeline in the client.

Cartographically interesting, a scale based switch from linear to point representation for individual objects is applied for better readability.

Check it out and have fun.

Ref. old HistOSM realized 2009:

Auer, M., Fees, M. & Zipf, A. (2010): HistOSM.org – ein Webportal zu historischen und archäologischen Stätten und Sehenswürdigkeiten auf Basis der nutzergenierten Daten von OpenStreetMap (OSM). AGIT 2010. Symposium für Angewandte Geoinformatik. Salzburg. Austria.

HistOSM 2

HistOSM 2

Next Wednesday, René Westerholt will talk about the spatial analysis of Twitter data. The talk is part of the “WISC Seminar Series,” which is hosted by the Warwick Institute for the Science of Cities at University of Warwick, Coventry, UK. The talk starts by highlighting the types of spatial analyses that have been conducted so far. Common mistakes and misunderstandings are outlined by briefly reviewing selected studies. Afterwards, René will report about recent results regarding the effects of ignoring the specific characteristics of social media data. The talk closes with reflections about future prospects.

The HOT Tasking Manager is the tool where most of the work of the Missing Maps community and members happens. The projects created tell us a lot about the current mapping efforts and also show where we already succesfully mapped basic infrastructures like roads and human settlements. Tools like OSMatrix or OSM Analytics try to find ways to visualize how the OpenStreetMap changed over time. Nevertheless, we still don’t have a map of all Missing Maps projects! We think, that it is time to change this. That’s why the disastermappers heidelberg / GIScience Heidelber team had a closer look at the HOT Tasking Manager and extracted all the information related to the Missing Maps project.


Overall, there are 268 projects in the Tasking Manager which have “Missing Maps” in their name. Most of these projects are located in Africa, but there is also a considerable number in Carribean and South Asian countries like Honduras, Haiti or Bangladesh. And there is even a Missing Maps Tasking Manager project in Japan (#1699).


When looking at the number of projects created per month, this leads to encouraging results. Since the first Missing Maps project created in November 2014, projects are constantly created. In terms of projects created 2016 was definitely a phenomenal year for the Missing Maps project. In march 2016 35 projects were created, most of them by the American Red Cross. In collaboration with Red Cross partners in the Bahamas, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru these projects addressed local hazards and vulnerabilities in dozens of disaster-prone communities. The “Map South Kivu” project led by MSF is one of the projects, where projects were created over a longer time period (more than 12 month and there is still a lot to map!). By now, 18 projects has been created to map this part of DRC that, for decades, has faced unceasing humanitarian crises.

Most of the projects (70%) are completely mapped. Nevertheless, progress is still needed regarding the validation of the contributed map data. Only half of the projects which are completed are also validated to more than 95%. This underlines, how important it is to encourage the mappers of today to become the validators of tomorrow.

Want to have a look at the map yourself? We created a uMap for you:

Further information regarding the Missing Maps projects can also be found at the diasastermappers heidelberg news blog.

Melanie Eckle and Benjamin Herfort represented the GIScience Research Group at the 5th Japanese-German University Presidents’ Conference that was held on 29th and 30th of September in Karlsruhe. The German-Japanese University Consortium HeKKSaGOn was founded in July 2010 as an association of three German (Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Göttingen) and three Japanese (Kyoto, Sendai, Osaka) universities.

We presented our work related to the ongoing HeiKa project “CrowdFDA” during the session of Working Group IV “Disaster Risk and Response - Scientific and Technological Issues”. Furthermore, we gave an overview of the actitivity of the GIScience research group on crowdsourcing geographic information.The session was attendet by representatives of the Disaster Prevention Research Group (Kyoto University), the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (Tohoku University, Sendai) and the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (KIT).

We are looking forward to new research opportunities.

Brussels became the global center for OpenStreetMap enthusiasts, humanitarians and researchers during the last week. The 2nd HOT Summit was held on the 22nd September and was complemented by a Missing Maps Mapathon in the evening. From 23rd - 25th September the State of the Map conference opened their doors for the global OpenStreetMap community. Finally, all core members of the Missing Maps Project gathered together for a two-day workshop and meeting on 26th and 27th September.

During the HOT summit Benjamin Herfort of the GIScience Research Group and Pete Masters (MSF UK) presented their work related to the concept and development of the MapSwipe App. The talk showed how crowdsourcing geographic information can support the work of humanitarian organisations. Specific issues on data quality, community engagement and the future of MapSwipe were discussed during the talk and the following days.

Besides technological innovations like MapSwipe or POSM (Portable OpenStreetMap), this years HOT summit also provided the attendees with insights in the OpenStreetMap related work of several community leaders from countries in South America and Africa. These inspiring talks e.g. on slum mapping in Colombia or about the Ramani Huria project, pointed out how important mapping and geographic information are for local communities.

Moreover, all these projects show that putting together ressources and connecting the work of humanitarian organisations, remote communities, researchers and local communities will not only help to improve the OpenStreetMap, but also to improve living conditions and foster sustainable economic development.

The HOT Summit Mapathon that was organized at MSF and Handicap International office Brussels provided a venue for further discussion and for doing what “Hotties” do best- creating maps of the vulnerable areas of the world. The150 attendees mapped Masisi in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help MSF to identify vulnerable populations, plan and manage medical interventions and provide better care for those displaced by violence in the region.

The presentations, workshops and “bird of feathers” in the State of the Maps conference covered a great variety of topics. These included technical issues and tools such as the OSM Analytics and Overpass Turbo, training, community building and integration of OSM in geography education. Further focus was laid on research in OSM also including OSM data quality. In this scope Martin Dittus of the University of London also cited the work of Melanie Eckle of the GIScience research group regarding the data quality in remote and local mapping.

On 26th and 27th September the Missing Maps Meeting was held in MSF Brussels Operation Center offices. The workshop was designed to strengthen the collaboration between the core members of the project American Red Cross, MSF UK, British Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross, CartONG, HOT, Georg Washington University, Cadasta and the GIScience Research Group Heidelberg. The latter organized a session on data quality issues to learn about data needs and requirements in the humanitarian practice. Altogether the workshop illustrated the potential of the diverse backgrounds of the Missing Maps team members regarding collaboration and support for projects within the Missing Maps Project. In the future the members of the Missing Maps Project will follow this path and extend their efforts to map the most vulnerable places in the world. The GIScience Research Group will support the Missing Maps by developing and improving tools like the Tasking Manager and MapSwipe and research related to the quality of crowdsourced geographic information and community engagement.

A special thanks to the MSF Brussels for providing us with a great venue and the community, attendees and Missing Maps partners for a very interesting couple of days in Brussels!

We are looking forward to meeting some of you soon at the GeONG in Chambery.

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