IIASA’s data collection tools and services

Blog / Steffen Fritz / April 1, 2021

At the Center for Earth Observation and Citizen Science (EOCS) of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), we have been producing tools designed to engage citizens in documenting and sharing land use and land cover information. Here are a few examples of our products:

1. Geo-Wiki:

The Geo-Wiki platform provides citizens with the means to engage in environmental monitoring of the earth by providing feedback on existing information overlaid on satellite imagery or by contributing entirely new data. Data can be input via the traditional desktop platform or mobile devices, with campaigns and games used to incentivize input. These innovative techniques have been used to successfully integrate citizen-derived data sources with expert and authoritative data. Since 2009, Geo-Wiki has grown rapidly, with currently over 15,000 registered users and applications in many successful citizen science campaigns, most recently crowdsourcing global agricultural field-size data, performing post-disaster damage assessment, poverty mapping and more. We have many ongoing projects that bring together the field of Earth Observation and citizen science, including several citizen observatories funded by the EU, which are developing new services such as land cover change detection, quality assurance of citizen science data, supporting local food growers and more.

For more information: geo-wiki.org

 A global reference database of crowdsourced cropland data collected using the Geo-Wiki platform

2. Laco-Wiki:

LACO-Wiki integrates the current LACOVAL (LAnd Cover VALidation) software prototype for the validation of land cover maps with Geo-Wiki. The result is an open access on-line validation platform offering standardized validation functionality for map users and producers.  The LACO-Wiki offers a four-step validation workflow, in which the user uploads the map for validation, creates a validation sample, carries out the sample interpretation and generates a report detailing the accuracy assessment. In addition to a land cover validation tool, LACO-Wiki is also intended to become an open access repository for calibration and validation data that can be used by the land monitoring community to improve future land cover products.

For more information: Laco-wiki.net

LACO-Wiki: A New Online Land Cover Validation Tool Demonstrated Using GlobeLand30 for Kenya 

3. FotoQuest Go:

There is a need for low-cost solutions for acquiring high quality ground-based data to support the delivery of timely, accurate and well-validated environmental monitoring products. By leveraging the proliferation of mobile devices, the FotoQuest Go app offers a citizen-centric tool to mapping land use and land cover dynamics. FotoQuest GO aims to complement data gathered through the European Union Land Use/Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS) and assesses the quality and reliability of citizen-generated land-use data. Participants are asked to go to specific locations and take photographs using the FotoQuest Go app, and identify the land use and land cover, such as crops, grass, forest, roads, or buildings. Once they upload the results from their quest, near real-time feedback is sent directly to the participants within 24 hours. The player would then earn 1 EUR if their submission passes the quality check, and the location they visited is removed from the map. In addition to collecting valuable information on land use land cover change, FotoQuest Go also aims to spark a sense of adventure and exploration, encouraging participants to get outside and enjoy nature. Participants can also compete for points and prizes.

For more information: fotoquest-go.org

LACO-Wiki: A New Online Land Cover Validation Tool Demonstrated Using GlobeLand30 for Kenya

4. Picture Pile:

The Picture Pile application is designed as a generic and flexible tool for ingesting imagery for rapid assessment and classification. The images can be very high-resolution satellite images, orthophotos, images from UAVs or geotagged photographs. In Picture Pile, volunteers were shown boxes of 1 km2 (at the equator) and were asked whether they could see evidence of cropland in the satellite image or geo-tagged photograph. A simple game mechanic was employed in which volunteers would swipe the image to the right if evidence of cropland was visible, to the left if no evidence was present and downwards to denote ‘maybe’, e.g. when images were cloud covered or features were difficult to distinguish. The first use of Picture Pile in a campaign was one focused on the identification of deforestation. Picture Pile was applied to mapping building damage from Hurricane Matthew.

For more information: Picture Pile: Gaming for Science

The Picture Pile Tool for Rapid Image Assessment: A Demonstration Using Hurricane Matthew

5. Agrotutor:  

The Agri-Support is an app that allows farmers to record field information used to analyze spatial distribution of different types of food crops in local conditions, as well as to validate and calibrate crop and land use maps. It aims to facilitate the communication of proven agricultural best practices providing geo-located and timely information for parcels and crops registered by farmers across Mexico. The Agri-Support app was developed in cooperation with CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) to promote sustainable agricultural intensification in Mexico. The application allows farmers to register parcels and crops grown on them at different periods of time and simultaneously provides them with timely agronomical recommendations, potential yield and financial benchmarking information as well as historical and forecasted weather data. Farmers, in turn, can decide on whether they provide information on soils, management and yields, which can be used as inputs for the crop models creating a feedback loop allowing for continuously improved recommendations.

For more information: Mobile app for parcel information management “Agrotutor”

Crowdsourcing Farmers' Data: Agri-Support and CIMMYT Collaboration Projects

6. Natura Alert:

Natura Alert is an app that pinpoints the location of threats to biodiversity and habitat changes. Through the Natura Alert app, the BirdLife network of committed volunteers report threats to biodiversity and changes in specific habitats (arid lands, wetlands, grasslands, etc.) to help improve BirdLife’s network of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and other key environmentally sensitive regions. Natura Alert empowers citizens with a tool to inform authorities about the threats and changes.

For more information: natura-alert.net

7. City Oases:

City Oases is an app that aims to identify open spaces in urban areas. It shows these areas on a map along with the activities that could be carried out there. Participants can see the rating of previous users and pictures from the location, and they can rate these locations themselves. Additionally, they can rate whether they feel safe in these spaces, whether it is noisy and clean. CityOases helps us improve the database of open urban spaces and their usage.

For more information: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iiasa.cityoases&hl=en_US


About the author

Steffen Fritz

Steffen Fritz is currently serving as Program Director of the Strategic Initiatives Program (SI) and Researcher at the Novel Data Ecosystems Research Group (NODES) within the Advancing Systems Analysis Program (ASA) at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), in Laxenburg, Austria. The Strategic Initiatives Program (SI) has been started in 2021 and aims to improve the prospects of a sustainable future for humanity and to deliver transformative societal and policy solutions.

Dr. Fritz holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Durham in Geographical Information for Development and PhD from the University of Leeds. After his time as Researcher at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Italy, Dr. Fritz joined IIASA as Research Scholar and has become the initiator and driving force behind Geo-Wiki.org. Among many other projects, he was the Principal Investigator of the ERC funded "CrowdLand" and the H2020 funded "LandSense" and "WeObserve" projects. Currently he is going to lead the ERC Proof of Concept Grant “Picture Pile Platform”. Since 2009, in his function as Coordinator, work package or task leader Dr. Fritz was responsible for the tasks and an overall budget of approx. EUR 4.2 Mio.

The research interests of Dr. Fritz are transformative societal and policy solutions, machine learning and artificial intelligence, earth observation, citizen science, crowdsourcing, volunteered geographical information, food security, land-use science, global and regional vegetation monitoring, crop yield and crop acreage estimations of agricultural crops, serious gaming, gamification, and in-situ data collection of land-use and land cover via mobile technologies, as well as citizen science for SDG monitoring and implementation.

In the past, the German researcher Dr. Steffen Fritz joined several international scientific networks and is currently a memberand part of the expert group of the European Space Agency on AI - AIREO Network (AI-ready Earth Observation training datasets). Dr. Fritz has also been engaged as Lead Author for the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment, joined the Editorial Board of the Nature journal Scientific Data. He furthermore served as Guest Editor for several Research Journals including Remote Sensing and Sustainability. In cooperation with other Scientific Researchers, Dr. Fritz is co-author of around 400 publications, and four books. He has supervised or co-supervised more than 25 PhD students who were selected to take part in IIASA’s young summer student program (YSSP).

Dr. Fritz is the recipient of numerous awards as the “Best paper award” of the journal Remote Sensing, the “Citizen Science Award” for the use of app “FotoQuest” or the “Innovative Applications in Analytics Award” from Analytics Society of INFORMS, Kinaxis and Adelphi University.


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