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Effective disaster response thanks to geodata

Part 3 of the series "Smart cities of tomorrow" – based on an article by Jens Wille in Transforming Cities 04-2021

There are no limits to data-based applications when it comes to actively designing living space and improving quality of life in cities. The technological triad of data analytics, location intelligence and cloud computing makes it possible to use location-based data to improve the quality of life in cities. 

The first part of this series shows how cities can be made more livable based on social factors. In the second part, we talk about the potential of geodata for intelligent traffic management. The third and final article in this series answers the question of which digital solutions support disaster control and pandemic response.

Use of geospatial data for pandemic response

From devastating forest fires to accidents: Evaluating and visualizing movement data on interactive maps can save lives. The analysis of location-based information also offers the chance to detect and interrupt infection chains at an early stage.

That's why Ubilabs developed the map-based documentation platform Kadoin in collaboration with the Hannover Medical School for the German Federal Ministry of Health: Based on Google Maps, health authorities can more quickly and easily track who had contact with whom and when. But infected private individuals can also import their location history and select, upload and edit data from the timeline - an important contribution in the fight against the virus. In order to protect personal data comprehensively, Kadoin runs as a front-end application exclusively in the browser. In this way, data is only held temporarily.

  • The aim of the "Kadoin" tool is to interrupt infection chains at an early stage
  • A map-based planning tool for targeting mobile vaccination teams in Düsseldorf, Germany

Also in the fight against the pandemic, we developed a vaccination route planning application for the Düsseldorf fire department. This application helps to deploy mobile vaccination teams much more efficiently and thus to supply more people with the vaccines. When planning vaccination missions, the fire department first loads all addresses of the people to be vaccinated into the application. Using geocoding, they are then automatically located and displayed on the digital map. All of this is done in compliance with data protection laws. Based on this, the program searches for locations - for example, the parking lot in front of a supermarket - from which the fire department can reach as many vaccinees as possible.

We have up to 4,000 citizens who need a vaccination in their home environment. Even at this moment, one of our teams is sitting in the vaccination center planning the next vaccinations - without this tool, it would be almost impossible.

David von der Lieth, Head of the fire department and member of the crisis team of the city of Düsseldorf

Preventive disaster control

Hurricanes, floods, droughts, inundations - today, more than ever, urban planners must address preventive measures to protect against environmental disasters. Again, this is only possible with in-depth knowledge and predictive analytics. Thanks to machine learning, we are now able to make predictions based on historical and current data. In this way, threatening developments can be counteracted at an early stage with preventive measures, and in the event of a catastrophe, a targeted and rapid response can be taken. The combination of weather data and location-based information allows, for example, probability statements for the occurrence of certain events such as flooding and helps in the search for possible protective measures. 

The pan-European INDRIX (Inclusive Disaster Resilience Index) project, which Ubilabs supported with a web application, takes a different approach. INDRIX combines the expertise of NGOs in disaster management and the social sector. Together with public civil protection authorities and research partners, previous project results were collected, clustered, mapped and evaluated. Information from many different sources and existing programs was brought together in a unique prevention platform: Country-specific measures for disaster prevention in the area of coastal and flood protection can be found here, as well as early warning systems for earthquakes. In addition to the visualization and evaluation of example projects, a social resilience index can also be determined for each region.

  • The index shows which regions have a conspicuously high number of students without a school-leaving certificate
  • Here, the number of hospital beds is visualized - of great importance in times of pandemic
  • Evaluation of the unemployment of young adults

In this way, regions in Europe with a particularly high need for prevention and disaster control strategies can be identified. Dynamic visualization supports the evaluation of the results. Based on qualitative and quantitative data, a user-friendly, interactive map was developed and made accessible to both organizations and European citizens - another new way to reach affected people as active stakeholders.

Smart cities of tomorrow: Digital technologies for real quality of life

These examples illustrate how data analytics, location intelligence and cloud computing can be used to improve living conditions: Cloud computing provides the technical infrastructure for storing and managing large volumes of data. Data analytics covers the entire cycle from data collection and processing to analysis and visualization. And finally, location intelligence adds the ability to derive applicable knowledge from data, taking into account spatial contexts - and thus to better understand circumstances with the help of location information and to be able to influence them in a goal-oriented manner.

This article is based on an article by Jens Wille in the magazine Transforming Cities

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