Case Study: Watching over natural hazards with the help of GIS

shutterstock_113062828-1024x681A lot of environmental issues are regularly addressed and solved by environmental consultants. Their scope of influence spreads within the range of environmental management, assessment, dealing with environmental crisis and strategic planning for both governments and commercial clients. Air, land and water contamination and assessment are in their area of expertise, and this is especially emphasized in the case of natural disasters.

Ubyrisk Consultants is a French independent consulting firm especially dedicated to the study and management of natural hazards since 2001.

As an engineering consulting firm, Ubyrisk Consultants are proposing a large number of services in the field of natural hazards, such as: stakes and vulnerability studies, spatial analysis dedicated to natural risks using GIS, professional training, advice and expertise relative to natural risks and their management, together with statistical data supply and processing.

The company manages the website Catnat.net – the first French language website dedicated to global natural disasters news. The site is daily updated with the most recent news about possible natural hazards. You can explore a detailed georeferenced database about dangerous natural events that occurred throughout the world since 2001. They wanted to use their database to build map layers with various types of natural events which could be shared with their subscribers.


In 2014, Ubyrisk Consultants had a project in which they wanted a tool that would have made possible for their clients to cross their own data (site localization for example) with the natural hazard layer they would be provided with. For example, if you are an insurance company and want to assess the possibility of drought in a certain area, you would select the coordinates to have an instant overview of potential risks. Or, if you are a governmental agency conducting a statewide project on emergency preparedness, you would be instantly equipped with an overview of potential threats like tornadoes or tsunamis using various map layers as a tool for visualization of risk assessment.

The goal of Ubyrisk Consultants, viewing themselves primarily as a service provider, was to optimize their workflow and focus on producing the quality content on natural hazards risk. Therefore, not having to worry about software maintenance was one of the prerequisites of having an unobstructed workflow.

In the words of Yorik Baunay:

We needed a cross-platform map tool that could be displayed on PC, Mac, tablet and smartphone and from any location.

It was also important that this platform had a user-friendly interface that can be handled even by a non specialist, so that their staff could maintain their usual working schedules and tasks without extra effort in mastering complex GIS software.

In abstract, the key prerequisites for the project were:

  • having a collaborative platform for sharing mapping data with clients
  • web solution compatible with any device and accessible from any location
  • not having to worry about the software maintenance which includes hiring extra IT staff
  • easy-to-use interface which could be used by people with no previous experience in GIS


They chose GIS Cloud platform as an answer to their needs for successful execution of the project.

Yorik Baunay, Ubyrisk Consultants:

“The main challenge that we overcame with GIS Cloud apps was to have a single online system that allowed us to display in a same map a lot of structured layers (our layers and our customers layers) in order to get a powerful “geodecisional” tool understandable by everyone (everybody can read a map !)”

Choosing an online platform like GIS Cloud for data management purposes meant that their data didn’t have to stay on their servers, and that they didn’t have to worry about storage and maintenance. Their maps would be easily accessed and edited from anywhere using a platform which at the same time provides both space & tools needed for managing large datasets regardless of computer performance or user proficiency.

“Using GIS Cloud apps made our mapping workflow easier, because we directly produce standardized data layer that can be imported under GIS Cloud. For that we work with QGIS software, create our layer ready to import it to GIS Cloud.”

Considering the fact that georeferenced data on natural hazards is rare to find, Ubyrisk Consultants made use of GIS Cloud’s platform to promote their expert service built on layers of data quality. It improved their communication with the clients, making a data sharing process easier and secured on a cloud.


Recommendation of Yorik Baunay:

  • the relative simplicity of handling the system (for administrators as well as for final user)
  • the price that makes the tool affordable compared to others solutions, especially for a small company like us
  • the fact that the platform is evolutive and is continually improved

Road more on GIS Cloud blog

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Location-based ads for mobile and desktop are starting to be more contextually aware


Mobile device usage continues to soar, and it now accounts for more than half of time spent on digital media. “Always on” consumers are checking their mobile devices upwards of 100 times a day, and as a result, advertisers have been paying more and more attention to mobile.

Many brands now rely on so-called location-based marketing, which sends consumers ads based on which stores or venues are nearby. In the past this kind of ads often missed the target because customers found the ads creepy and intrusive. Today the sentiment towards this new ways of advertising has changed as start-ups understood key barriers in user acceptance. Also the ads are now more relevant to users, who started to find value in provided offers and are open to opt-in to receive alerts and notifications with coupons and promotions.

The customer acceptance for location-based ads was possible due to advancements in mobile technology as well as because companies understood that location is only one of targeting dimensions. If the ad was supposed be effective, it would have to be more relevant, more context oriented, more tailored.

The modern ad targeting is looking at all factors that might influence each consumer’s purchasing decisions, such as nearby venues, events, the weather, and neighborhood demographics such as the ages and gender, traffic conditions etc.

location-based-mobile-adFor example, if someone goes to a lot of football games, the app might send him ads about sales at nearby sports equipment stores. If it starts to rain the app would send you a discount for a waterproof jacket at nearby The North Face outlet. If you are stuck in a traffic jam you would get a railway ad.

Although it sounds like the faraway future it is already a multibillion dollar industry with many players including start-ups like Ubimo, Placed, PlaceIQ, Factual, Locomizer, Skyhook Wireless or NinthDecimal just to name a few. All this start-ups offer platforms for real-time contextually aware marketing offering based on big data analytics.

Another important trend in location-based advertising are iBeacons. These are Bluetooth low energy devices which allow for proximity sensing of a mobile device. These devices can last a full year on a single battery and can transmit different message depending on your distance. For example when you’re 30 meters away from American Eagle the app would send you a message attracting you to enter the store, when you stopped for a while close to jeans stand it could send you a 10% off coupon for a pair of jeans. This kind of solution requires an app but big players like Google, Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare are testing iBeacons for proximity marketing.

iBeacon Swirl - Geoawesomeness

Most of these solutions are focused on mobile platforms but marketers understand that mobile is only a part of the equation. The offers pushed in apps allow stimulating purchasing decision on the spur of the moment at a particular location. But the fact is that every day we spend long hours in front of the computer. Modern advertising platforms understand it and offer multi-layered digital channels that work together to help migrate the consumer from their desktop to the check-out. Online and offline.

Technologies such as IP targeting and cookies enable marketers to tailor website messaging according to the user geography. This kind of solutions allow to get a location accuracy of about a ZIP code level. It’s not every detailed but it’s enough to advertise something in your district or neighbourhood.

Google is testing more accurate solution. The company is planning to track a position of your smartphone and based on that push location-relevant ads to your desktop.

Another part of the equation is paying for the local product or service. Start-ups are searching for ways to make it more convenient for users with mobile payments. One group of solutions is based on hardware related technologies like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Other developers are searching for convenient payment platforms which could work for both web and mobile like PayPal or PolyPayments in Australia.

One of the first adopters of these sorts of solutions are online gaming websites. Mansion Casino Australia for example has been targeting players with their local payment methods, like PolyPayments in Australia.

Several start-ups like Square, Bindo or Cover are testing different solutions which would allow for local automatic payments without a need of asking for check in a restaurant or waiting in a line for a cash register in a shop.


Payments are important part of the shopping experience and process for start-ups as the prize is to get a transaction-based commission. This approach has been brought to global customer awareness by Uber and is getting popularity among business as user acceptance and trust for these kind of solutions is growing.

As consumer habits shift, so is the prominence and importance of mobile advertising in mix with “traditional” web campaigns. The ability to target ads using location data is a powerful tool to reach consumers that has a high return on investment for advertisers. And the more targeted the better. Today, relevant data is available, even for small agencies, that permit highly local decisions about who, when, where and how to target ads. One must also remember that a key for monetizing this so-called location-based advertising is a convenient way for payments. Fortunately big players and start-ups are innovating in a good direction.


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