Sunday, March 19, 2017

Prof Thomas 'Tom' Poiker awarded 2017 Waldo-Tobler GIScience Prize

The Austrian Academy of Sciences through its Commission for GIScience is awarding the GIScience Prize named after Prof Waldo Tobler to a scientist having demonstrated outstanding and sustained contributions to the discipline worthy of inspiring young scientists in Geoinformatics or Geographic Information Science, and having accomplished significant advances in research and education.

The received nominations were reviewed and assessed by an external panel of peers, who unanimously (!) recommended to award the 2017 prize to Prof Thomas Poiker (SFU professor emeritus).

Thomas Poiker received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Economic Geography in 1966 from Heidelberg, and then joined Simon Fraser University’s Geography department in 1967. He quickly became interested in the emerging fields of computer cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and became one of the pioneers in GIS research. He has published widely on GIS methods, and held a joint appointment with Computer Science. In addition to GIS, 'Tom' also taught economic and quantitative geography and cartography.

Quoting from the evaluators letters of appreciation: "Thomas Poiker has contributed very significant foundational concepts to the field of GIScience since its very early days ... one of the most widely adopted algorithms for generalizing lines. The TIN structure similarly has become a foundational digital representation for digital surfaces at different granularities ... He has made significant contributions to core GIScience research and to GIScience education...". And, "Pioneering, and serving as a beacon in the early days of what was to become Geographic Information Science ... significantly influencing many generations of researchers, and highly regarded as an academic teacher".

Thomas Poiker also had played an important role in educational innovation: already in the 1990ies he joined the UNIGIS distance learning network of universities as its first North American partner, where he is remembered for introducing 'collaborative assignments' fostering teamwork long before the days of the MOOC, and for his dedication to individually advising students.

In the words of Jeff Thurston: "Tom Poiker was instrumental in the success of the UNIGIS program in Canada. As one of the MSc graduates originating from that program, I consider Tom to be the 'spatial spark' that caused my interest and intrigue about spatial science and GIS to begin and grow. Tom Poiker is not just passionate about GIS and computer science, but he is also one of the best professors I have interacted with - knowing "when to cause students to scratch their heads, to ponder their thoughts and to question outcomes." He nudged us toward finding answers on our own, and did so sometimes rather directly in disagreement, at others in humour and yet at other times with a return query. I can say that I turned toward GIS because of Tom. I was lucky to have him as a professor and we shared in a book we later wrote."

Congratulations to this recognition of a lifetime of leadership and excellence!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Z_GIS participation at JURSE 2017

The 2017 Joint Urban Remote Sensing Event (JURSE 2017) was organized along with the GIS and Remote Sensing Annual Scientific Forum (GRASF 2017) in Dubai from March 6-8. JURSE elucidates innovative methodologies and technological resources employed to investigate the manifold aspects of the urban environment through satellite and airborne remote sensing.

Professor Thomas Blaschke, vice-president of the Society of Geoinformatics, GeoIT and Navigation, held a key note presentation at GRASF on “Big Earth data”. He gave an engaging and fast-paced keynote address, arguing that while the amount of readily accessible remote sensing information is mounting, it is flat-lining when it comes to thirty years old concepts of downloading and processing image by image. He recommended more efforts be devoted to more intelligent, context-based image analysis and he introduced a concept developed at the University of Salzburg in a joint effort between the Departments of Geoinformatics and Computer Science based on data-cubes.

Professor Blaschke also conducted a special session on “Integrated analysis and monitoring approaches for livable cities at JURSE which investigated how spatial technologies can help urban planning to measure, monitor and ultimately improve liveability of cities and within cities. Among other speakers, PhD Candidate Pablo Cabrera-Barona presented an epistemological GIScience framework based on new economic approaches. In his talk “From the ´Good Living´ to the ´Common Good´: What is the role of the GIScience?” he discussed spatial indicators that can be linked to indicators used within these new economic approaches, with a focus on urban quality of life. His presentation was so well received by the expert audience that Pablo received invitations for further talks. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Winner of 2017 EDC 'Best Student Award': Azmat Arif

Azmat Arif
As an ESRI Development Center, Z_GIS every year has the opportunity to nominate one top student based on his or her software development competence. This year this special honour is awarded to Azmat Arif for work leading to her University of Salzburg "Applied Geoinformatics" MSc Thesis "Deriving Hospital Catchment Areas from Mobile Phone Data" supervised by Dr Bernd Resch.

A brief abstract describing Azmat's work: delineating catchment areas of medical facilities is essential for estimating the quality of a health-care system and to maximise the efficiency of health service provision. One critical shortcoming of previous approaches is manifested in comprehensive assumptions about a hospital’s patients by using census data or gravity models. In contrast, this approach uses anonymised mobile and landline phone data to derive hospital catchment areas. The overall goal is not to assess the quality of the health care system, but to identify the geographic areas from which people actually communicate with, and thus likely use a hospital. Thus, results from this research reveal new insights into the de facto catchment areas of hospitals by minimising assumptions about demographic factors. 

Catchment Areas: (a) Port of Spain General Hospital,
(b) San Fernando General Hospital,
(c) Caura Chest Hospital, and
(d) Sangre Grande General Hospital.
The approach proposed in this research uses anonymised mobile and landline phone data to delineate hospital catchment areas. The aim is to identify the geographic areas, in which people use a hospital instead of assessing the quality of the health care system per se. Therefore, we analyse calls to and from hospitals in Trinidad and Tobago. This goes beyond just using patient records in that we are able to draw conclusions from a wider range of communication with a hospital (enquiries, arrangement of appointments, follow-up care, visitors, etc.), beyond patients’ hospital stays.

In performing this research, a number of limitations are identified. First, not all calls made or received within a hospital are necessarily related to the hospital’s “business”, which induces an un-known bias. Moreover, it is not accounted for the mobile cells’ spatial density in this analysis. Thus, the current method does not consider the probability of a cell phone connected to a particular antenna decreaseing if many cells’ coverage areas overlap. Furthermore, the use of grid cells in the calculation of the catchment areas may lead to a modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP). This could potentially be mitigated by intersecting all ellipse segments, which was too computationally intensive given our extensive dataset. Finally, evaluation and validation of our results are difficult as no data for ground-truthing or comparable studies exist.

Congratulations to this distinction, and to continuing a tradition of excellence established by previous recipients of this award like Laura Knoth in 2016!

Earth observation for humanitarian action presented at Humanitarian Congress Vienna 2017

Under the headline “Humanity on the run” representatives of several humanitarian aid organizations gathered at the 4th Humanitarian Congress Vienna on 3rd March 2017, to create awareness for the multiple humanitarian crises the world is facing today, and to discuss political and ethical as well as organizational answers to these challenges. The Humanitarian Congress was organized by Doctors Without Borders, Caritas Austria, the Austrian Red Cross, SOS Children’s Villages, and the Austrian Platform for Development and Humanitarian Aid – Global Responsibility and in collaboration with: CARE, Diakonie, Hilfswerk, HOPE´87, Jugend Eine Welt, LIGHT FOR THE WORLD, and World Vision, and took place at the University of Vienna.

We used this opportunity together with Doctors Without Borders and the Austrian Red Cross to showcase our satellite-based mapping services to a wider audience of humanitarian aid experts. The various services include analyses of camps of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to estimate population numbers, support of groundwater exploration, and land cover (change) mapping. We provide these services operationally to Doctors Without Borders, and further develop and adapt them to the needs of other aid organizations such as the Austrian Red Cross and SOS Children’s Villages within various joint research projects.

Contact: Stefan Lang, Lorenz Wendt

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Einladung: Open Data Workshop - Stadt Salzburg

'Open Data' sind nicht nur wichtige Grundlage einer offenen und 'partizipativen' Gesellschaft, sondern dienen auch als Basis zahlreicher innovativer Anwendungen, hilfreicher Apps und neuer Perspektiven.

Österreich liegt im Bereich der Öffnung des Zugangs zu Datenbeständen im vorderen Feld (>, die Stadt Salzburg hat diese Initiative aktiv aufgegriffen. Als Fachbereich für Geoinformatik interessieren uns vorrangig georeferenzierte, dh verortete Daten und Dienste zu unterschiedlichen Thematiken, wir sprechen daher von OGGD - Open Geo|Government Data.

Wir laden zu diesem Workshop ein, um 'open data' der Forschungs-Community vorzustellen, deren Anwendung in der Lehre wie insbesondere auch Wirtschaft zu fördern und insgesamt das reichhaltige aktuelle Angebot vorzustellen.

Gleichzeitig streben wir eine Intensivierung des Dialogs mit den zuständigen Stellen in der Stadtverwaltung an. Welche Datensätze werden aktuell genutzt? Welche würden sich Anwender noch wünschen? Welche Zugangspfade werden bevorzugt? Welche Daten werden auf welcher administrativen Ebene bereitgestellt? Welche konkreten Lizenzmodelle stehen im Vordergrund?

Wo? iDEAS:lab der Universität Salzburg - Schillerstraße 30, Techno-Z XV, Erdgeschoß

Wann? Montag, 27.3. ab 14:30


  • 14:30 Kurze Statements zu OGGD - Open Geo|Government Data 
  • 14:45 Ein subjektiver Blick auf OGGD von Stadt und Land Salzburg sowie Österreich - J.Strobl 
  • 15:15 Bildung thematischer Arbeitsgruppen (zB: Datensätze, Datenqualität, Datenformate, ...) 
  • 15:30 Arbeitsgruppen zu den gewählten Themen 
  • 16:30 Vorstellung der erarbeiteten Ergebnisse 
  • 17:00ff Freie Diskussion, individuelle Vorstellung von Produkten etc 

Bitte um Anmeldung online!

Zur Vorbereitung des Workshop bieten wir an, einige Notizen zu ihren Interessen, Anliegen und Vorschlägen einzubringen ...

Wir freuen uns auf ein spannendes Treffen am 27.3.!
Josef Strobl