The Location of Things – Maps, IoT and Digital Twins – GDM #14

Making our cities more sustainable is one of the biggest challenges that faces humanity in the 21st century; so much so that the United Nations in all its wisdom has identified it as one of the 17 goals for the planet: United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #11 to transform our world – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

With less than 9 years left to achieve the ambitious goals set out for our cities, 2020-2030 is being touted as the decade of action! As with many things in life, What gets measure gets managed and measuring the transformation of a city towards a more sustainable future is not simple task. How do we use the tools at hand to help local policy makers and city agencies to make their cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable? To be more precise, how can geospatial data and technology help tackle this challenge?

The Location of Things – 14th Geoawesomeness Digital Meetup

We teamed with our friends over at Microsoft Azure, Grey Matter and Evident Proof to deep deeper and talk about the role of Internet Of Things (IoT), Digital Twins and Maps in helping transform our cities and buildings.

You can join us live, listen to 4 amazing talks and network with the rest of the spatial community during the event on 23rd June (registration link).

The WHAT and How of transforming our cities  

Digital technologies can transform a city and interconnect key areas of its ecosystem. Although few places in the world have moved beyond pilots or specific initiatives, more cities are beginning to use sensor data, digital twins, automation and control systems for urban planning, visualisation, simulation of the urban environment, connecting citizens to services, and operating city infrastructure through city management dashboards.

Digital Twins

The concept of digital twins – a digital model and representation of real-world environment brought to life with real time data from sensors and other data sources – has entered the realm of smart cities and promises to enable city administrations and urban planners to make better decisions with the help of data integration and visualisation from across the urban space.

Location and Geospatial services

Understanding and operating an environment as complex and interdependent as a city needs a lot of data and maps are a fundamental tool for making sense of that for planning and operations.

Maps can help you understand the data from sensors more easily by seeing them in context; they also turn out to the be a logical way to organise and manage ontologies and hierarchies of smart devices into a smart building.

The role of Microsoft Azure in all of this

Microsoft Azure Digital Twins platform enables modelling and creating digital representations of connected environments like buildings, factories, farms, energy networks, railways, stadiums, and cities, then brings these entities to life with a live execution environment that integrates IoT and other data sources. To drive openness and interoperability, Azure Digital Twins comes with an open modelling language, Digital Twins Definition Language (DTDL), which provides flexibility, ease of use, and integration into the rest of the Azure platform.

Location can also be important in modelling and predictive maintenance for gaining insight and making data-driven decisions. Azure Maps provides mapping and geospatial services including access to real-time traffic, transit planning, route-finding, and weather data that are a key part of the smart city opportunity which is why Microsoft’s Smart City IoT services integrate closely with Azure Maps.

About Geoawesomeness Digital Meetup

The main objective for us at Geoawesomeness to host these meetups is to bring the community together to talk about how geospatial data and tools is transforming the world for the better. Think of these events as an open-source project aimed at enabling conversations and cross-industry cooperation. Each event has at least one speaker from the industry that is using geospatial data and tools to solve problems.

Since the middle of 2020, we hosted 13 events until date and already have plans for many more in 2021 (2021 schedule). More than 5000 GeoGeeks from all over the world attended the events so if you are looking for (virtual) opportunities to network with the geospatial community, the Geoawesomeness Digital Meetup is the place to be!

The event is hosted by Muthu and Aleks. You will find their contact details below.

Geoawesomeness Digital Meetup Schedule for 2021

Geoawesomeness Digital meetup is all about bringing the spatial community together and enabling interactions within the community whether it’s for fun and/or profit. And along the way, we hope that the meetup will help us all better understand how location data and technology are transforming the world for the better.

We are quite excited about our digital meetup series and it’s great to see that you are excited about it as well! We promise it’s going to be #geoawesome! In the meantime, if you have ideas/suggestions for us to make this a regular feature on your calendar, do let us know!

Interested in working with us?

Interested in hosting an event together with the team? Let’s talk! Send an email to

Upcoming Events

Digital Meetup #14 on 23rd June 2021 – Maps, IoT, and Smart Cities (supported by GreyMatter)

Digital Meetup #15 on 28th July 2021 – Reality Capture, Drones and Analytics (supported by DroneDeploy)

Digital Meetup #16 5th August 2021 – Advanced Construction and Engineering (Supported by Cesium)

Digital Meetup #17 23rd September 2021 – Property Data-as-a-Service (supported by LoveLand Technologies)

Missed a presentation?

Watch all the presentations on Geoawesomeness YouTube Channel.

Past Events

Digital Meetup #9 on 18th February 2021 – Location, Location, Location: Using travel time and transport data for making business decisions (supported by TravelTime)

Digital Meetup #10 on 24th March 2021 – Location Intelligence and the Counter-drone use case (supported by Carmenta)

Digital Meetup #11 on 8th April 2021 – 5D Location Intelligence and Situational Awareness (supported by Luciad Hexagon Geospatial)

Digital Meetup #12 on 28th April 2021 – Unlocking Geospatial Technology for Game Engines (Supported by Cesium)

Digital Meetup #13 on 6th May 2021 – Common Operating Picture for Real-time Geospatial threats (supported by DataCapable)

Digital Meetup #1 to #8 were held in 2020 – information and details available here

Join us in Digital Earth Symposium for Sustainable Societies – ISDE12

In Geoawesomeness’s 10 Year Anniversary, we are celebrating by featuring stories about Humanitarian OpenStreeetMap and MapAction. It’s awesome to know that there are other groups of people working on the same goal.

Under the motto “Digital Earth for Sustainable Societies”, the Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS, University of Salzburg is hosting “ISDE12 – International Symposium for Digital Earth 2021” in Salzburg from July 6th to 8th 2021. 

The conference addresses the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and showcases ways how the concept of “Digital Earth” can help to achieve them. In particular, the European Commission, in cooperation with ESA, is presenting the “Destination Earth” initiative that aims for solutions for climate change and for a climate-neutral Europe. Besides, GeoHumanitarian, Digital Twins, and Youth Forum are held in ISDE12 to discuss the solutions for improving livelihoods around the planet.

ISDE12 is organized as a hybrid event. The registration to ISDE12 is now open. Please use our Conference software for the registration:

About ISDE

The International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) aimed at harnessing the world’s data and information resources to describe and digitally represent our planet, and to monitor, measure, and forecast natural and human activities on earth.

Digital Earth is the name given to a concept by former US vice president Al Gore, describing a virtual representation of the Earth connected to the world’s digital knowledge. In his remarkable 1998 speech, Gore described a digital future where children – indeed all the world’s citizens – could interact with a computer-generated three-dimensional spinning virtual globe and access vast amounts of scientific and cultural information to help them understand the Earth and human activities.

The 2009 Beijing Declaration of Digital Earth stated “Digital Earth is an integral part of other advanced technologies including: earth observation, geoinformation systems, global positioning systems, communication networks, sensor webs, electromagnetic identifiers, virtual reality, grid computation, etc. It is seen as a global strategic contributor to scientific and technological developments, and will be a catalyst in finding solutions to international scientific and societal issues.”

Since 1999, 11 International Symposia and 7 summits on Digital Earth, organized by ISDE have been held in 12 countries around the world. ISDE also publishes the International Journal of Digital Earth and Big Earth Data journal, and Manual of Digital Earth. In addition, ISDE is a member of the Group on Earth Observations, International Science Council, and Geospatial Societies of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management.

The Vision

“Digital Earth” was introduced as a vision in 1998 by the then US Vice President Al Gore. He described a digital future where everybody will be able to interact with a computer-generated three-dimensional spinning virtual globe and access vast amounts of scientific and cultural information to help them understand the Earth and human activities – with technology so easy that even a child can operate it. Digital Earth may destine to become the defining scientific and technological achievement of the 21st Century. This grand challenge will demand extreme computing for the most demanding Big Data challenges, the smartest applications of artificial intelligence, webs of sensors and actuators, and compelling gamification and visualisation methods. Most importantly, it will require agile minds collaborating in cross-discipline innovation and scientific pursuit. Young people in particular, as ‘digital natives’, are adept to connecting local action and global changes through mixed-reality media to open online services.

The mission

The International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE) has been dedicated to implementing this vision since 2006. This is made possible by advances in ongoing Earth observation using sensors in space and on the surface, the establishment of extensive geodata infrastructures and the development of dynamic geomedia. The Department of Geoinformatics at the University of Salzburg has contributed to these developments in a leading position for decades. This was recognized by the invitation to host the Digital Earth Symposium ( in Salzburg in July 2021.

Host organization – University of Salzburg

The Department of Geoinformatics – Z_GIS at the University of Salzburg is an interdisciplinary Centre of Competence for Geoinformatics and geospatial data management, integrating basic and applied research with graduate education and outreach activities.

By applying innovative spatial concepts and methodologies, Z_GIS are contributing to the management of our societies, businesses and environments. As an Interfaculty Department, Z_GIS develop geospatial competences across disciplines, offering graduate study programme in residential as well as distance learning modes. Our global network of partners from academia and industry serves as a strong platform for joint research and exchange of students and faculty – supporting the worldwide geospatial community and fostering awareness of the spatial dimension of social and natural phenomena. | | twitter: @Z_GIS1

AGIT & GI_week: joint exhibition

Z_GIS organizes conferences since 1989. Over 1000 people attend the biggest scientific conference – the AGIT Symposium & GI_Forum – at the University of Salzburg in the field of Geoinformatics each year. In 2021, these two symposia together with the ISDE12 will share the innovative international EXPO in 2021 and attract an even broader audience to the University of Salzburg.

Z_GIS has strong experience in organising conferences for many years. Over 1000 people attend the biggest scientific conference – the AGIT Symposium & GI_Forum – at the University of Salzburg in the field of Geoinformatics. The goal of the conferences is to promote translating theory, methods and techniques into a broad range of Geoinformatics application domains. Young researches are especially welcome to contribute and discuss their findings. The international GI_Forum runs concurrently with the highly regarded German language conference on Applied Geoinformatics – AGIT hosted by our local conference team for more than 30 years. The two symposia share the innovative AGIT EXPO exhibit and stimulating social events.

For further information about the GI_Week and its two concurrently running conferences please visit:

– (for the conference on Applied Geoinformatics in German language) (for the International conference in English language)


  • Heinz Fassmann, Austrian Minister for Science and Education and Geographer
  • Carl Steinitz, Haward University
  • Lawrie Jordan, ESRI
  • Huodong Guo, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Martin Visbeck, Geomar Kiel
  • Martin Raubal, ETH Zürich
  • Yana Gevorgyan, GEO director (from July, 01)

Data Driven Intelligence Forum

How can we combine data economy and sustainability?

As part of ISDE12, the Data Intelligence Offensive is hosting a forum for exchange and debate on the issues of the emerging data economy. There are already many technically feasible solutions, but the challenge for politics and business will be to implement them for the benefit of society, the environment, and nature – as formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – and in accordance with the strictest ethical and legal standards.

The topics of the forum include presentations of the Austrian data strategy, current projects on the intelligent use of data in geoinformatics, lightning presentations of solutions offered by start-ups, discussions on the development of GIS data spaces, and various exchange formats with international experts and researchers. The RSA FG is also represented and will give some presentations. The Research Studio iSPACE is a key partner.

In keeping with the spirit of ISDE12, the DIO Forum is designed to build bridges between politics, science and society.


  • Michael Wiesmüller – BMK
  • Günther Tschabuschnig – President of the DIO
  • Thomas Prinz – RSA FG iSPACE
  • Markus Biberacher – RSA FG iSpace
  • Martin Loidl – Z_GIS, Department of Geoinformatics, University of Salzburg
  • Gerald Spreitzhofer – CEO of MetGIS
  • E. Geyer Scholz – Founder of Smart City Consulting
  • Fred Seyr – Spot on Statistics
  • Jan Kinne – Istari
  • Peter Penzenstadler & Felix Haberl – Vloor
  • Lucas Kruitwagen – OXEO

Youth Forum

A special track of the ISDE12 is going to be the Youth Forum, which aims to serves as a platform bringing together initiatives and efforts from around the world and unconstrained by disciplinary or other boundaries. We want to involve young people and their ideas to the conference – not only at the conference but they will also connect throughout spring 2021. They will create added value and synergies by learning from and with each other. Watch out for online round tables scheduled on a range of topics.

One particular idea for Youth Forum is Covid-19-Impressions:

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has a fundamental impact on our lives – and this worldwide! All areas of life – be it contact with friends and family, school, vocational training, study and work, leisure time, sport, travel, etc. – have changed massively as a result of the pandemic and thus also led to new good and bad experiences. Many of these are obvious, but many more remain hidden. We want collect all these hidden, unknown experiences from all over the world and make them visible with our Covid-19-Impressions project (

Digital Twins – Forum for a Sustainable Planet

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is designed as a universal development agenda for all countries. SD Goals address economic, social, and environmental aspects of balancing the use of natural resources for socio-economic development with conserving ecosystem services critical to the wellbeing and livelihoods of everyone. Digital Earth plays a key role in providing insights into scientific foundations of informed decisions and evidence-based policy advice.

The Digital Twins Forum for a Sustainable Planet creates a space to understand the contributions of Digital Earth to SDGs, connecting scientists with policymakers. Keynote speakers from government and academia present the role of Digital Earth developments informing SDG policies. Brief flash talks from researchers sharing their Digital Earth insights and technologies will broaden the scope of different perspectives.  Based on these stimuli, a round table facilitates a dialogue with the audience.

The program of the forum includes keynotes and talks by:

  • Prof. Graciela Metternicht
  • Dr. Zhongchang Sun
  • Marc Paganini
  • Dr. Argie Kavvada & Dr. Adytia Agraval
  • Prof. Maria Brovelli

YOU as a student, researcher, project manager, consultant, or government official are working towards SDGs – this is the right forum for you! Do not miss the opportunities to connect with our keynote speakers to exchange knowledge, collect ideas, identify challenges, explore opportunities and initiate collaborations towards Digital Earth contributions to SDGs. Join this forum!

We are open to accepting additional suggestions of flash talks: 5-minute oral challenges as well as your research outcomes in support of SDGs. Please send your proposal and slides to emails:

Destination Earth Forum

On Thursday, July 08 we want to highlight recent efforts and achievements on the way from “Digital Earth vision to Digital Twins of the Earth”. Our special track – the Destination Earth Forum – is co-organized with ESA and will promote the European approach of instantiating the Digital Earth concept.

The forum starts providing a high-level vision from invited speakers from all over the world and will then focus on Destination Earth and the European perspective.

Special forum in ISDE12 – GeoHumanitarian Action

This special forum is co-organized by the Christian-Doppler laboratory GEOHUM. GeoHum-Christian Doppler Laboratory of the University of Salzburg is in cooperation with Doctors without Borders and other humanitarian organizations.

The GeoHumanitarian Action Forum is a special forum in this year’s ISDE and will be held on Thursday, July 8th, 2021. The day’s programme brings together experts from research institutions, service providers, and humanitarian actors, to exchange about the role of geospatial technologies and Earth observation in humanitarian operations. With a mix of presentations, panel discussions, and keynotes, the forum’s interactive format will give both newcomers and experts plenty of opportunity for networking and sharing ideas.

Geospatial technologies at the interface of satellite Earth observation ( EO ) and geoinformatics ( GI ) are now widely used to support humanitarian operations. The uptake and further development of dedicated information services happen at unprecedented speed, with applications ranging from mission planning and operations in crisis intervention to population estimation for food distribution or vaccination campaigns. The global pandemic experience has even further pushed the need for objective and up-to-date information on impact on mortality rates and mitigation measures.

If you are interested in this event, please find all information here: and the full program of the GeoHum-Forum here.

Call for Sponsors

Z_GIS see sponsors of the ISDE and the joint exhibition as our partners! We offer a variety of different, pre-defined sponsorship packages, from Bronze to Platinum level, which includes many benefits, as well as special sponsorships. Should you look for a more individualized sponsorship option, we’ll be happy to answer your questions via mail: or

This event is designed to bridge politics, science, and society. You will meet representatives from federal and state governments, the EU Commission, UN organizations, and international space agencies.

We invite you to present your company at ISDE12 and to actively shape the program in the form of:

  • pitch at the Youth Forum (“empower young talents”)
  • give an “innovation keynote”
  • become a sponsor (bronze to platinum packages available)

Please find details at or

Based on an elaborated Covid-19 hygiene concept, we are planning a hybrid event that can be attended on-site and online. More than 1,350 people have already expressed their interest in participating. In case it is not possible to allow on-site planning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a plan B for a purely online event.
If you are interested in positioning your company and/or your solutions to the SDGs and the topic of Digital Earth / Digital Twins, we look forward to your feedback!

Drones with thermal cameras: what are the use cases?


Unmanned drones on the market today are no longer only an entertaining gadget for hobbyists, nor are they only equipped with low-resolution, standard optical cameras. Many of today’s drones can be equipped with high-precision, high-quality thermal cameras that have a wide array of uses in government applications and private industry.

However, before we get into the several applications of drone thermal cameras, let’s discuss what thermal cameras are and what makes them useful today.

What are thermal cameras?

Thermal camera sensors, like standard electro-optical cameras, generate an image or digital reproduction of what they see, but instead of capturing the wavelengths of light to which our eyes are sensitive, they capture heat, emitted as infrared radiation, to produce an image.

Since thermal cameras are built to sense and view heat zones that are completely undetectable to the human eyes, the resulting images look remarkably unlike how we see things through our eyes.

Standard thermal cameras show blue to red smears, with each color reflecting different temperatures produced by people, structures, and objects. Areas with lower temperatures are represented by blue, while those with higher temperatures are represented by red. Some thermal cameras, on the other hand, use different color schemes.

Thermal Imaging of a House without Insulation

The thermal scale of the sensors can be modified based on the user’s preference or on the particular application for which it is being used. The scale can be adjusted to reduce color contrast to get more general data or to reduce complexity, or it can be adjusted to increase the color contrast for more accurate and granular temperature assessments.

Thermal cameras have been used in military applications for years to identify threats at night or through terrain with low visibility. These days, they are available as portable or mountable accessories as a solution for thermographic services for industries such as manufacturing, business, and defense.

Thermal Cameras on Drones

Typical thermal cameras that are mobile and portable, and those installed on stationary structures for continuous coverage and surveillance, were great first steps in the use of thermal imaging devices. With the advancement in drone technology and the production of smaller, less costly, commercial drones, attaching thermal cameras to drones seemed to be a logical next step.

DJI and FLIR Systems collaborated in 2015 to create the DJI Zenmuse XT, one of the first drone thermal imaging cameras, by combining their industry-leading aviation systems and first-class infrared imaging innovations. The introduction of thermal cameras as a feature of high-end drones has drastically increased the prevalence of drone technology in many industries.

Since then, FLIR has developed new thermal camera models to satisfy various industries’ needs. Local government agencies, large and small private businesses, and even ordinary households can now use thermal imaging to enhance their physical security, to identify areas in need of immediate repair or likely to need repair in the future in their buildings and infrastructure, and to provide additional services in a variety of industries and applications, thanks to drone companies like Yuneec, Autel Robotics, and Parrot.

Common Uses for Drones with Thermal Cameras

Solar Panel Field Inspections

Solar Panel ArrayConducting inspections of solar panel fields, especially larger installations, can take a long time. A drone, by contrast, can inspect a large solar field in a much shorter amount of time and at a lower cost than hiring a manned aircraft with thermal sensors. A drone can use its higher precision capabilities to monitor defects in solar cells and get exact measurements of other particularly critical issues at relatively frequent intervals.

Electrical Inspections


Electrical installations, such as power stations, powerlines, and voltage regulation devices, may more be easily inspected and checked for excessive heat spots, defective parts, and weak connections from a safe distance using thermal cameras and trained drone operators, eliminating any requirement for bulky devices or placing lives in danger.

Drones minimize costs and resources by reducing the number of engineers needed to carry out the task to only some drone operators and pilots with built-in or remote screens, even in difficult-to-reach locations.

Roof and Building Inspections

Roof and Building Inspection

As one would expect, drone thermal imaging is beneficial for examining the exteriors of homes and businesses. It’s ideal for detecting leakages and identifying causes of power inefficiency and external problems. In the case of houses, this can save homeowners a lot of money on energy and maintenance costs when these issues are detected early.

Drones can also significantly reduce the time it takes to examine large structures and areas, so long as the particular drone can reach a high enough altitude, subject to technical and legal restrictions, to get a bird’s-eye view of the entire structure or area. When the drone operator identifies a problem area, he or she can then guide the drone closer for more precise imaging.

Road and Bridge Inspections


Thermal cameras are particularly suitable for assessing the extent of erosion on bridges and roads, as well as analyzing their general stability, so having them mounted on drones makes the inspection process much simpler, quicker, and far less expensive. Inspectors of large land or water bridges often have to climb hundreds of feet into the air, suspended over land or water, which puts their lives at risk. Drones can severely reduce or in many cases eliminate this requirement, which helps not only to keep insurance premiums and medical bills low, but can also prevent the loss of life.



Drones are increasingly being used in agriculture because the thermal cameras available for drones can efficiently deliver accurate temperature readings, which can be used to identify the presence of crop pests and diseases, can measure acidity, and can determine other environmental factors that can negatively affect production. Cattle ranchers also use thermal drones to keep a record of their livestock and locate any cows that have run off away from the herd.

Oil and Gas

Oil and Gas Pipelines

Refinery and pipeline monitoring are two particular fields of application for drone thermal imaging that fall into the oil and gas category. Thermographic drones fitted with optical gas imaging (OGI) sensors can easily detect leakage from a safe distance during refinery examinations. Pipeline checks are often carried out by fixed-wing drones rather than the more prevalent quadcopter drones because they can cover more ground as pipelines can run for miles.

When compared to the conventional use of manned aircraft, both systems are considerably less expensive. Often, thermal imaging drones will stitch several images into an actual 3D map to offer both a general summary and more precise details that reveal trouble spots as well as the lifespan of individual elements for later study, in addition to collecting high-resolution photos.

Public Safety and Security


The most significant advantage that thermal drones have is for public safety and security. Relief and recovery operations, fire protection, and mobile monitoring are just a few of the applications that rescuers and security personnel have found drones with thermal cameras to be useful in.

Thermal camera-equipped drones are one of the most effective ways of locating missing individuals because they can detect people even in dark or partially occluded environments. When looking through the haze and visualizing the trouble spots from above, thermal drones can aid in the quick detection of forest fires and volcanic activity.

Since they are remotely operated, unmanned drones also protect personnel from unnecessarily risking their lives. Drone footage can be streamed and viewed in real-time for tracking, intelligence gathering, and to assist ground teams to avoid hazards while locating victims or dealing with environmental threats.

Potential Areas Of Concern With Thermal Camera-Equipped Drones


Although drones have many advantages, they also have the potential to be misused by bad actors. Drones are widely available and the cost, even with advanced features like thermal cameras, is only coming down. This means that criminals or even just nosy neighbors can also acquire a relatively advanced drone and invade the privacy of other members of their community. Since loud propellor sounds are no longer the issue that they once were, a malicious drone operator can pilot a drone unnoticed and obtain valuable data on a target’s movements and habits. Being equipped with a thermal camera means that this surveillance can be conducted day or night.

Government officials can also employ this technology to infringe on the individual rights of citizens if there are not strong legal protections in place to prevent police and other law enforcement agencies from deploying drones against the citizenry.


When using drone technology, safety is the most crucial factor to consider. Drones with high-quality cameras can detect potential accidents and efficiently navigate their way through them, which is a useful feature. Drone navigation capabilities must be comparable to those of manned aircraft navigators.

Hiring experienced drone service operators that can fly an airborne drone without damaging it is essential. Drones flying over densely populated areas face a higher risk of ground impact or of causing injury or damage owing to machine failure or hacking.

Weather Dependent

As compared to conventional aircraft, drones are more susceptible to nature and climate conditions. In moderate to heavy rainfall or high winds, a drone cannot navigate properly or collect accurate data or imagery. That being said, there are drones on the market that are more durable and can effectively survive strong gusts of wind.


Drone pilots are discovering more opportunities to use thermal imaging sensors as the technology in this fascinating area advances. Drones equipped with thermal cameras are now being routinely used to increase solar plant performance, to monitor and check livestock, to quickly detect thermal runaway switches on electrical supply lines, to inspect infrastructure at mines, to maintain agricultural systems, and to assist in search and rescue missions. As drone technology improves and as new industries find uses for remotely-operated drones, the use cases for drones equipped with thermal cameras will only continue to grow.

This personalized Star Map is the best gift you can buy and receive

We, as humans, have always been drawn to the night sky. Those bright, white dots in the pitch black blanket that spreads over our heads during the night have always captivated even the most uninterested of eyes. Stars have always been an interesting topic, whether it’s scientific or magical, exact or ambiguous, they’ve been there, rolling on our tongues.

Stars charts and astronomy is also an important part of the heritage of cartography and navigation. Since ancient times, people have observed the night sky to predict the future, navigate and understand their place in the universe. So-called Celestial cartography goes back to 2nd-century Greek mathematician Claudius Ptolemy and his astronomical manual Almagest, which served as the primary guide for European and Islamic astronomers until the beginning of the 17th century. Many cultures organized the stars into heavenly patterns called constellations that were reflecting stories and believes. In ancient Greece, these constellations were viewed as symbolic representations of classical Greek heroes and figures. These images formed the origin of the cosmological and celestial charts in beautiful star atlases of the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Curtesy @thepastelsuitcase

In the most recent era, start charts and constellations have nearly disappeared from the books and atlases as astronomy has been led by scientific discoveries rather than aesthetics and sentiment. Maybe this is why the Under Lucky Stars project caught my attention. The idea is to make printed personal star charts of the constellations in the sky at any past or future moment chosen by users. It is simple yet brilliant. I have immediately ordered one for my map collection, however, I can imagine that it is a perfect gift for and from any Geo Geek.

To generate your own star maps, you go to the Under Lucky Starts website and select a location and time. The engine calculates the azimuth and maps the position of the stars for any given moment in time. You then choose one of the 16 different designs, three sizes and six frame options. You can also type in a personalized title above the picture (although I decided not to keep it more personal).

Curtesy @inmyattic_

I have received my Star Map in a few days, and I love the design and quality. It shows the projection of the visible sky with the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) indicated. The stars close to the edge of the circle were closer to the horizon in my chosen moment, while stars close to the circle’s centre were visible right above my head. The size of each dot indicates the apparent magnitude of the star. The map also adds some of the visible constellations like CassiopeiaOrion or Leo.

I’ve ordered the map of curiosity, and I was pleasantly surprised by the aesthetics and experience it provides. Also, the print and frame quality gives you a premium feel. All my friends and family can expect to get one for any upcoming occasion 😉.

Identifying Job Trends in GIS – An Automated Approach

Illustration 1 - Programming Job Trends for GIS: Feb - May 2021
Illustration 1 – Programming Job Trends for GIS: Feb – May 2021

What skills do I need and for what roles?

GIS is a career field with a wide range of roles and applications. Entry-level GIS technician roles can involve plotting points on a map while advanced-level GIS developer roles can involve configuring the database structure for an organization completely from scratch. And what about GIS Analyst and GIS Specialist roles? What exactly do they entail? If you are new to the career field, or perhaps in the middle of it, what is needed to move forward? What skill sets are required and at what stage in your career do you need them? In an effort to answer this question for myself as I seek to take the next step in my geospatial journey from GIS Technician to GIS Analyst, I was inspired to write this program – which included teaching myself Python!

A Straight-Forward Approach

How does someone determine that information? One straight-forward approach is to pick a job site, search for the job title, read the job descriptions, and keep a count of the number of times a certain word appears. Rinse and repeat for all the words you are interested in. This would give you the information that you need, but it does come with a number of difficulties:

  1. Time commitment. Searching one job takes a few minutes. Searching a dozen jobs or more can take several hours.
  2. Human limitations. How many words can reasonably be kept track of during one scan? My guess would be in the 1-5 word range.
  3. Repetitive nature of the task. How long can someone really focus and be detailed-oriented when repeating the same mind-numbing exercise over and over?

An Automated Approach

What if there was a way to accomplish this task and address all of those difficulties at one time? Turns out, there is! One solution lies in using a combination of Python and R scripts to data mine job descriptions, keep a tally of key words, and visualize the results so that they can be easily interpreted. The process as presented in this article identified keywords from the first 25 search results using LinkedIn’s job search engine. The entire process follows this work flow model:

Illustration 2 - Job Trend Workflow Model
Illustration 2 – Job Trend Workflow Model

The Python script provides a output that looks something like this:

Illustration 3 - Sample Python Script Output
Illustration 3 – Sample Python Script Output

Once the information is in this format, it can be built into a data frame and queried to determine results. In this case, the R programming language was used to categorize the data by GIS Technician, Specialist, Analyst, and Developer. The mean number of search results for each keyword per category was calculated. This approach allows for a large number of skill set comparisons. The illustration at the top of this article compares programming job trends. A couple of other examples are trends comparing different Esri applications or Enterprise/Portal GIS solutions, as shown below:

Illustration 4 - Esri Application Job Trends for GIS: Feb - May 2021
Illustration 4 – Esri Application Job Trends for GIS: Feb – May 2021
Illustration 5 - Enterprise/Web Job Trends for GIS: Feb - May 2021
Illustration 5 – Enterprise/Web Job Trends for GIS: Feb – May 2021

As you can see, a lot of insight can be gained from the information when it has been gathered and visualized. Once the python script is written, it is adaptable and can be changed to search for new technologies or redefine keywords that may not be the ideal search term for the word. Changes in the visualization are also easy to accomplish because the R script imports an updated data set every time it runs.

Takeaways – and What’s Next?

As with any long-term GIS project, there will always be room for improvement. For instance, ArcMap and ArcPro were the keywords included in this data set. These are more conventionally written in job descriptions as ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Pro, so the trends for those words were not reflective of reality and need to be adjusted in future iterations of the script. Or perhaps it might be better to compare ArcGIS Desktop vs. QGIS as ArcMap and ArcPro are sometimes included in job descriptions under the blanket term ArcGIS Desktop.

As this project is in early-stage development, it will be adjusted to reflect better results. However, there are some interesting trends that are already apparent. For instance, in the Programming Trends bar plot, programming skills are rather low for the GIS Technician role. Python and SQL become important in the GIS Analyst and GIS Specialist roles with Python slightly edging past SQL. In the GIS Developer roles, Javascript and HTML start to be required, and SQL takes a higher importance than Python. Additionally, the Esri Application bar plot identifies ArcGIS Collector as important in the Specialist, Analyst, and Developer roles while ArcGIS Survey123 seems more relevant in the Specialist role.

In conclusion, the geospatial career field is constantly evolving and tools like this will be a great way to keep track of the changes, adapt to them, and ultimately be successful. I hope this article was insightful. No matter where you are at in your geospatial career, I would encourage you to explore automated options, keep learning new things, and always strive to improve your GIS!

1st CASSINI Hackathon: Digitise Green Spaces with European Space Technologies

Who knew that space technologies could give us a better understanding of how to protect our environment here on Earth?

Earth observation and space technologies have made it easier than ever to visualise and understand global challenges affecting nature. This allows us to build solutions that solve issues like vegetation changes and increasing air pollution.

Hackers in 10 cities across Europe will have an opportunity to build one of those solutions on 18-20 June at the first of six CASSINI Hackathons. This 3-day event will focus on digitising green spaces to benefit several outcomes related to daily life and resource conservation.

Created by the European Union, the CASSINI Hackathons and Mentoring events challenge participants to use Copernicus Earth Observation data and positioning technologies from Galileo and EGNOS to build their solution. They’ll also have access to technical and business experts for support during the event.

Hackers will compete in teams for prizes at the local and European level, and the 10 winners from each city will progress to a demo day and award ceremony. The top three teams will receive 100 hours of expert mentoring each to grow their projects into businesses.

Where and How to Compete

Local organisers will host all 10 events simultaneously in Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland. Participation requirements include living in an EU member state, Switzerland, Norway or Iceland.

To compete, hackers will join a team and select one of three challenges. The challenges require them to design products, devices or services with a specific goal:

  • Discover your city: enable urban citizens to better understand their city and its green spaces. Focus on supporting urban planning, discovering green factors that contribute to residential area life or promoting ecological sustainability.
  • Staying fit and healthy: support city dwellers in keeping their bodies and minds healthy. Focus on mapping and accessing green spaces for outdoor activity, forecasting air pollutants or understanding and monitoring UV exposure.
  • Protecting our rural areas: promote the digitalisation of open and forested green spaces. Focus on conservation, ensuring healthy and resilient forests or developing new green spaces in underdeveloped areas.

Although tackling these challenges may sound complex, hackers don’t need any previous space technology experience to participate. The hackathon will also provide everything needed to compete, including virtual storage, computational resources and a code repository. 

If hackers are still worried about competing with no earth observation or space technology experience, the organisers have that covered. There’s free training for the hackathon tools available online

Don’t Miss Your Chance to Attend

The CASSINI Hackathons and Mentoring events are spreading awareness and accessibility of space technology to protect the world’s natural spaces. Don’t miss the chance to impact the health of our planet and grow a sustainable business in the process.

Hackers can register online for the event, and those interested in organising future hackathons can submit an application.

Keep up with the innovative projects underway during the hackathon by following #CASSINIHackathons on Twitter.

OpenCage Geocoder Shows Us How to Stand Out from Tech Giants

In 2020, seven of eight companies with the world’s largest market capitalizations were tech giants, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (Google’s parent company).

With these companies’ unparalleled annual revenue and global name recognition, it may seem like there’s no room for startups to offer similar products and services. The reality is that it’s possible, so long as smaller companies can make their offer stand out.

OpenCage Geocoder API logoOpenCage, a geocoding API provider based in Germany, has risen to the challenge. Since becoming an independent company in 2015, OpenCage has seen steady growth even as they compete with the Google Maps Platform—an API provider used by more than five million websites and apps per week.

Companies like OpenCage can forge their path alongside industry giants with the help of a few key business strategies.

Offer What the Competition Can’t

Bigger companies often have a lot of red tape and unavoidable restrictions around the applications of their technology. By understanding where these limitations miss the mark with customer expectations, competitors can tailor their niche offering and grow a dedicated user base. 

For OpenCage, the company stands out primarily through the use of open data. Users can display their geocoding results on any map such as OpenStreetMap, whereas bigger companies typically display results on their map only. OpenCage also offers the flexibility to store data for as long as you want without any requirements to refresh it.

Because customers aren’t paying OpenCage for data sets, the service is less expensive. There’s also a flat pricing model with no surge pricing, so the company can offer predictable rates that larger companies with usage-based models can’t.

The company also stands out from the competition in that OpenCage doesn’t want customer data. Users can add an optional parameter that won’t log any records of queries, which is great for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)-conscious customers.

OpenCage has been able to figure out what their competitors’ customers are missing most and offer it, which is a strategy any startup entering a dominated space should consider.

Do One Thing Well

Often with bigger companies, you’ll see lots of divisions, products, and services. While this means they have a larger reach, it also limits the ability to excel in one particular area.

If you run a smaller company and are looking to stand out, limit what you offer and become known for it. You’ll have more potential than a company that does it all to draw in people who are looking for a specific product or feature.

For OpenCage, the company’s “one thing” has always been helping people answer the question, “Where are we?” 

They answer this question with a geocoding API and nothing more. Although their clients use their product within several applications—including fleet tracking, IoT sensors, and payment processing—OpenCage supplies the API, and customers use it how they please. 

That doesn’t mean they can’t help customers who are looking for additional services like mapping and routing. The company often refers them to other small companies with similar values. Joining a community of startups is a win for everyone and can provide strong financial value for the customer.

Set Realistic Goals

As a startup, don’t expect that you’re going to take over in an industry dominated by companies with decades of history and success. If your goal is to steal customers instead of finding your own, it will be hard to win. Instead, define what winning means for your business.

Winning can mean meeting a set revenue target and number of users. It could also be about establishing a certain reputation or level of name recognition. Set goals that make sense for your business, and stay laser-focused.

The team at OpenCage has goals that include establishing happy customers and maintaining stable growth as opposed to usurping Google’s industry-leading status.

The company supports these goals in several ways, one of which is through its terms and conditions. Because they only provide the API and not the data, they’re able to keep T&Cs simple and unintimidating, something larger companies are not always able to do. This makes customers comfortable working with them.

They’re also able to provide a level of support that bigger companies simply don’t have time for. When people interested in their product come to them with questions, OpenCage is there with an answer. As a small fish in a big pond, focus on those one-to-one connections to build long-lasting customer relationships.

Find Your Tribe

As a small player competing with giants, the world can feel like a lonely place. But the reality is there are many others in the same position. Finding, joining, and developing a community around your product and area of focus can be an effective strategy to help balance out the advantages of the industry giants. 

OpenCage is a Silver-tier corporate member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation and sponsors and contributes to the development of various open-source geo-technologies. The company also organizes Geomob, a regular series of events about geo-innovation and an industry podcast.

By giving back to the community, OpenCage has developed key relationships and brand loyalty amongst its target audience.

Stick to Your Lane

Start-ups offering competing products to the most well-known names in tech don’t have to be intimidated. While the products may be similar, the business approach shouldn’t be.

Focus on areas where you can stand out from the competition, and offer customers a level of flexibility and support that’s hard to find elsewhere. Perfect your offer and keep it simple. 

Instead of focusing on the competition’s customers, set goals that benefit yours. Find natural allies in the community to amplify your message. 

As OpenCage has shown, these approaches lead to the steady growth that wins the race.

How maps helped in the aftermath of Central American hurricanes

This StoryMap (first published on MapAction’s blog in November 2020) explains how some of the over 200 maps international humanitarian charity MapAction created following Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America in November 2020 were used to help get aid to people that needed it. Click here to view it in full screen.

StoryMap of mapping response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota

In November 2020, a three-person MapAction team travelled to Guatemala following extreme flooding and catastrophic landslides in 12 of 22 of the country’s administrative departments. This was caused by two severe hurricanes hitting the Central American region in quick succession. Around 6 million people were affected in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua and 590,000 had to leave their homes.

Ten departments of Guatemala declared a state of emergency and the government requested international assistance.

The devastating storms came on the back of social and economic hardship caused and exacerbated by COVID, unemployment and population displacement. The flooding caused widespread destruction of crops and livestock and around 5,000 wells were contaminated.

MapAction’s assistance was requested by the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). We helped to gather and map information about the evolving situation on the ground. This included mapping storm tracks, flood extents, building damage, affected populations and information about what assistance humanitarian teams were already providing in different locations so that gaps could be identified and rapidly addressed.

In addition to the Guatemalan team, a five-person MapAction team was already providing full emergency support remotely to OCHA’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) from 6 November following Hurricane Eta, while another team member had been seconded to ROLAC full time from September 2020 to assist with hurricane preparedness and other humanitarian issues across the region.

MapAction volunteer Emerson Tan filmed a vlog from the airport on his way back from Guatemala:


Mapping the La Soufrière volcanic eruption


Map of St Vincent and the Grenadines La Soufriere volcano: pre-event modelling of volcanic hazards in northern St Vincent
St Vincent and the Grenadines La Soufriere volcano: pre-event modelling of volcanic hazards in northern St Vincent

International humanitarian geospatial charity MapAction has been providing mapping and information management support to the La Soufrière volcano emergency on the Caribbean island of St Vincent, in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ve been helping the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the UN’s Environment Emergency Teams understand the evolving impacts of the crisis.

3D web map shows the observed volcanic events from remote imagery
3D web map shows the observed volcanic events from remote imagery

Explosive eruptions from La Soufriere beginning on 9 April caused ash clouds to cover much of St Vincent, Bequia and southern St Lucia, as well large parts of Barbados. The volcanic dome collapsed and pyroclastic flows descended from the mountain top. By 7  April, around 16,000 residents had been advised to evacuate following early signs of activity.

Map showing Overview of Affected Areas & Affected Population (as of 18 Apr 2021)
Overview of Affected Areas & Affected Population (as of 18 Apr 2021)

Monitoring of the volcano has been difficult as existing seismic stations were knocked out and it became dangerous to travel into the area. Recent rains have washed the ash into rivers and the surrounding sea, causing environmental damage. Mudflows (lahars) pose a dangerous threat to river valleys surrounding the volcano.


map of St Vincent and the Grenadines La Soufriere volcano: modelled drainage channels
St Vincent and the Grenadines La Soufriere volcano: modelled drainage channels

selfie of Lavern Ryan in a MapAction teeshirt outdoors with sea visible in the distance behind herView all the volcano mapping relating to this emergency here or read the blog by MapAction volunteer Lavern Ryan about her experience of being a part of the response team.