Thursday, December 6, 2018

Locational intelligence through Geoinformatics and AI?

People use computers in their everyday life. From navigation systems to shopping planners and smart houses our life is affected more and more by intelligence systems. But how are such systems working and what will it mean to society?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a computer programme or a machine to think logically, solve problems and to learn. In practice however, most applications have picked on problems which computers can do well. Searching data bases and doing calculations are things computers do better than people. On the other hand, "perceiving its environment" in any real sense is way beyond present-day computing. Generally speking, an ideal intelligent machine mimics human cognition. AI involves many different fields like computer science, mathematics, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.

Researchers from the Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS at the University of Salzburg and computer scientists from the University of Klagenfurt critically discussed recent developments of AI for locational intelligence. The main goal of the workshop was to describe and analyze various “intelligent” methods related to natural language processing (NLP) and spatial information. They identified five major topics:

Sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis is an essential part of Natural Language Processing, which focuses on determining whether the attitude of a piece of text on a particular topic is either positive, negative or neutral. Markus’ work focuses on evaluating the most cutting-edge technologies in sentiment analysis. In particular, he developed a benchmark tool that measures the accuracy, performance and ratio between those qualities and it supports both English and German language.

Topic Modeling
A system was presented that collects news from various sources (blogs, news sites, etc.) categorized based on the specific topic they refer to. Topics are derived by crawling a predefined set of sources various times a day, which results in a corpora for headlines. The process followed extends the traditional bag-of-words search of articles by taking into consideration queries that focus on word order and various regular expression techniques.

Localization based on textual information
Only in some cases text messages can unambiguously be assigned to a location. While there are many methods to retrieve the meaning or the sentiment of a short message like a tweet, localization is still challenging. Recent research demonstrates for extreme events such as floods or Earthquakes that it is possible to construct a spatial footprint of a large body of messages mentioning such events or related keywords.

Pattern Recognition of Places
Traditional search of places (e.g. using Google Maps) is performed using simple sets of keywords. This approach is limited since it cannot identify features of place that go beyond place names, such as activities and purposes. To address this, a novel place search process is proposed based on pattern-based representation. Patterns are derived through a combination of knowledge extraction from narratives and probabilistic machine learning based on real world data. 

Human Trajectories
Most humans generate spatial traces ones they move. Telecom operators always know where customers are but are of course reluctant to give away personal information. However, some providers started to provide generalized and anonymized data which can still provide the base for analyses which aim to understand flows in cities. But many users provide their spatial footprints voluntarily or unknowingly through their activities in social media. This data help scientists to understand movement pattern but trigger research on geo-privacy.

Contact Person: Thomas Blaschke

Monday, November 26, 2018

CopHub.AC - a Horizon 2020 project to support the Copernicus Academy

The Horizon 2020 project CopHub.AC – coordinated by Z_GIS - started in October 2018. The vision of CopHub.AC is to establish within the next two years a long-term Copernicus hub to consolidate and sustain the Copernicus Academy as a knowledge and innovation platform. 

With 13 European partners involved from academia and industry, including associations from the GI / EO sector, the project pursues specific activities on developing a knowledge landscape, new formats of research briefs, outreach and sustainability. It will focus and link ongoing R&D activities on Copernicus-relevant fields on a high scientific level to make the Copernicus Academy sustainable.

Together with the “sister project” CoRdiNet, similarly supporting the Copernicus Relays, the joint Kick-off meeting took place at Research Executive Agency (REA) and NEREUS Secretariat in Brussels on 11th and 12th of October with in total more than 30 participants from all over Europe discussing and planning project-specific and joint activities.

Project Coordination: Stefan Lang, University of Salzburg, Z_GIS
Contact: Stefan Lang, Barbara Riedler

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Successful PhD defence

Gyula Kothencz, PhD student within the Doctoral College „GIScience“ successfully defended his PhD „Data and information development methodologies for green urban area planning and management“.

In his dissertation, Gyula developed methodologies to map objective and perceived green space characteristics as well as to produce cost-effective urban vegetation height maps from satellite imagery.

The research is comprised of three methodologies. Firstly, Gyula investigated the correlation between green space visitors‘ perceptions and spatial green space indicators. Then, he predicted the influence of perceived green space characteristics on two indicators describing human well-being, which are green space visitors‘ level of satisfaction and quality of life contribution of the green spaces. In this research he investigated also the potential of geo-tagged photographs and running trajectories from park users. The study confirmed correlations between visitors‘ subjective evaluations of green spaces and the examined objective, a.k.a. measurably spatial indicators of the study areas. One applied research article showed already the value for urban planners and decision makers to be able to include subjective human perception of green spaces in planning. The developed methodologies and the results are being practically applied in two similarly sized European cities, Salzburg, Austria and Szeged, Hungary in decision support projects concerned with green urban areas.

We wish Gyula all the best on his future road of life!

‘Perfection’ vs. ‘good enough’ in Information Management - GeOnG 2018

Z_GIS was invited to the GeOnG Forum in Chambéry, France on the 29 October – 31 October 2018 to present a workshop on the humanitarian service Z_GIS is providing to NGOs since 2011. 200 GIS experts and managers from Europe and Africa attended the  biannual event. The GeOnG forum address issues related to data in the humanitarian & development sectors, including topics related to mapping, GIS, data collection & information management. This year, the Forum focused on “‘Perfection’ vs. ‘good enough’ in Information Management – Adjusting to context, scale, phase and funding”. In the context of a machine learning session, Gina Schwendemann presented the workshop: “Extraction of dwellings in refugee camps: how to do it and what it tells you”. Participants learned to object based image analysis (OBIA) in exercises related to the visualization of dwelling density and dwelling change detection in ArcMap. In a live demonstration of dwelling extraction in the refugee camp Minawao, Cameroon, it was demonstrated how the humanitarian office of Z_GIS use them for population estimation in order to supply medical-, food- and shelter logistics in remote places which cannot be found in OpenStreetMap.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

'Copernicus Master in Digital Earth' - New E+ EMJMD Programme

The 'Copernicus Master in Digital Earth - CDE' initiative, a joint Erasmus+ Key Action 1 project, has been kicked off at the coordinator's site 'Z_GIS' in Salzburg. This joint study programme responds to the current need of highly qualified specialists in the fields Geoinformatics / Geo and Earth Observation / Space. The two year full-time integrated Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD) Programme will start in the academic year 2019/2020. A first call for application of admission and E+ scholarships will be published soon.

One starting place for all students aims to establish a strong common denominator and core Geoinformatics competencies for the CDE Master of Science Study Programme. MSc students start their studies at the University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS for the first two semesters, before continuing towards developing a special flavor at one of the partner universities:
Jointly, these tracks offer outstanding candidates a pathway towards excellence in advanced Geoinformatics addressing the Copernicus and Digital Earth missions and objectives.

The consortium currently consists of thirteen partners, with three core academic partners in Europe who are offering double degrees, and several associated partners, who bring added value to faculty and students: Higher Education Institutions provide research facilities and supervision, Industry partners provide internships and scholarships and UNIGIS International provides outreach to students and scholarships.

Project and Joint Programme Co-ordinator:
Josef Strobl, University of Salzburg, Z_GIS
Programme Office:

Monday, November 5, 2018

ASEA Uninet Workshop 'smartFARMING' in Selangor, Malaysia

The Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS implemented a week-long Interdisciplinary Faculty Development Workshop on 'Geoinformatics for Smart Farming in Southeast Asia (smartFARMING)' at University Putra Malaysia (UPM), Selangor, Malaysia. The workshop was organised jointly by Z_GIS and UPM from 29th October to 2nd November, 2018. The smartFARMING project was co-funded by ASEA Uninet Austria.

The workshop was inaugurated by Dr. (Ms) Siti Khairulnniza Bejo, Head - Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, UPM. The session was followed by lectures delivered by Dr. Aimrun Wayayok, Dr. Rowshon Kamal and Dr. (Ms) Samsuzana Abd Aziz (all from UPM) as well as Dr. Shahnawaz from Z_GIS.

Dr. Shahnawaz (Z_GIS) conducted hands-on sessions of the workshop at Smart Farming Technology Research Centre, Faculty of Engineering, UPM. He also taught the concepts of Smart Farming and Suitability Analyses to the participants as well as trained them in using a range of data sets generated by various satellites and sensors. Having backgrounds in a range of disciplines, 30 teachers and postgraduate students from 9 universities across 4 countries (i.e. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam) participated in the workshop. They developed individual projects and explored geospatial applications of various remote sensing and other data sets in a range of disciplines and completed hands-on practical tasks with GIS software ArcGIS Desktop. All the participants presented outcomes of their project work in the concluding seminar. The workshop also included a field visit to Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang for traning ten participnts in ground truthing as well as for givig first hand experience of Smart Farming activities.

(smartFARMING participants hailing at the completion of the workshop) 

Prof. Abdul Rashid Bin Mohamed Sharif (UPM) conferred the certificates of successful completion on the participants and congratulated them for having benefitted from this international and interdisciplinary workshop. He also conveyed his gratitude to Z_GIS as well as to ASEA Uninet and expressed willingness to strengthen and expand the institutional collaboration with Z_GIS.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Z_GIS celebrating 30th anniversary

The Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS based at the University of Salzburg celebrated its 30th anniversary with two dedicated events, a GIScience Symposium and a Ceremonial Act on October 25, 2018. More than 200 participants enjoyed these special occasions supported by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the University of Salzburg and Land Salzburg.

The GIScience Symposium started with an inspirational keynote by Michael F. Goodchild, entitled 'GISCIENCE AND GEOGRAPHY: AN EVOLVING RELATIONSHIP'. This was followed by a veritable firework display of 'geospatial' flashlight presentations on Recent and Future Trends, from GeoAnalytics, Infrastructures, Maps, Education, Mobility, Terrain, Image Classification to Organisations & People by J. Wilson, K. Greve, G. Gartner, A. Car, St. Kollarits, G.Tang, M. Belgiu, and J. Petch.

The Ceremonial Act at the Salzburg Residenz highlighted Z_GIS' and Prof. Josef Strobl's  achievements, the latter honoured by Prof. Thomas Blaschke in a laudatio, followed by personal video messages from national and international partners and institutions. Prof Strobl was awarded the distinction 'Ehrenzeichen des Landes' in the course of this celebration.

'This day was an opportunity to reflect on and also enjoy the successes achieved through numerous outcomes from projects, from developing institutional and personal networks, and professional cooperation as well as communication. I hope that the recognition of Z_GIS‘ institutional standing expressed by PLUS and Salzburg leadership also serves as a motivation to continue with our ambitions and plans, and to keep building upon our achievements' , stated Sepp Strobl.

Photos by Hans-Christian Gruber
University of Salzburg, Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS @

Monday, October 22, 2018

Successful Workshop delivered for DSinGIS project

The DSinGIS project, coordinated by Obuda University supports Uzbekistan in sustainable development of GIScience education and is aiming to develop a new doctoral programme in Geoinformation Sciences.
From 2018 Oct 15 – 19, Z_GIS as project partner, conducted a five day workshop on learning support methodologies at the National Uzbek University in Tashkent. The 25 participants not only learned about different eLearning approaches, methods and tools, but they also gained experience using ArcGIS online StoryMaps and the elearning platform Moodle.

Z_GIS contact: Sabine Hennig
Workshop providers: Josef Strobl, Sabine Hennig and Robert Vogler
Erasmus+ CBHE Project DSinGIS  - Doctoral Studies in GeoInformation Sciences

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Focus: Copernicus Ecosystem Brussels

At the Copernicus-related multi-event at Brussel’s prestigious Docks Dome venue (9-11 October 2018), Z_GIS presented its broad range of Copernicus-related activities. 
Passing all relevant milestones during the week, the Copernicus Ecosystem workshop, the Copernicus Academy/Relays General Assembly, and the joint Kick-off meetings of two projects funded under the H2020 SPACE “Copernicus Hub” call, Z_GIS, represented by Dr Stefan Lang, used this unique opportunity to network with relevant peer actors and stakeholders and showcase our contributions to the Copernicus Academy via the CopHub.AC project. 
Peter Zeil from Spatial Services Ltd, one of the ‘fathers’ of the Academy, co-moderated a workshop on skills and training perspectives arising from new Copernicus businesses.  

Contact: Stefan Lang

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

GeoS4S headed towards completion!

GeoServices-4-Sustainability (GeoS4S), an ERASMUS+ project, co-funded by the European Commission is completing its duration after 3 years covering the period from 15 October 2015 to 14 October, 2018. The last months have been quite busy for the consortium members due to a number of concluding and dissemination events being organised at different locations.

(GeoS4S consortium members at the concluding meeting)

The concluding meeting of the GeoS4S project was conducted from 10th to 12th September, 2018 at King Mongkut's University of Technology, Thornburi, Thailand. The consortium members summarised their contributions and shared their experiences as well as envisioned the paths of future collaborations.

It was followed by GeoS4S Dissemination Conference-2 on 13-14 September at the Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand.

(Participants of GeoS4S Dissemination Conference-2)

About 60 academics, researchers and decision makers from 26 universities in Austria, China, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand participated in the GeoS4S-DC-2. The GeoS4S consortium members introduced Teaching-Learning materials for the 20 modules developed within the project, integrated in an ePlatform for free and open access worldwide. The participants from other universities presented the study programmes related to Geospatial education at their respective universities and assessed that how can they potentially benefit from the outcomes of GeoS4S project.

(Participants of GeoS4S Dissemination Conference-3)

Further to this, the GeoS4S Dissemination Conference-3 was organised at the School of Resource and Environmental Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China on September 19th and 20th. It attracted about 50 participants from 42 universities in Austria, China, Netherlands and Thailand. After the presentation of Teaching-Learning materials by GeoS4S consortium members and study programmes offered by different universities, the conference concluded with a round-table session. The discussion was largely focussed on how university level students at various universities in China could benefit from the Teaching-Learning materials of GeoS4S modules. It was clarified that all materials will be integrated in an ePlatform for free and open access worldwide.

For this 3-year ERASMUS+ project 'GeoS4S' the Interfaculty Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS of the University of Salzburg, Austria served as coordinator of a consortium of 10 universities from Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, China and Thailand. The GeoS4S Consortium is pleased to disseminate the Teaching-Learning materials of 20 innovative modules on a Moodle Cloud Platfrom benefitting Geospatial teachers and learners around the world!