Establishing the “Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology” at Heidelberg University – A new project funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation (KTS)

A major project funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation (KTS) Heidelberg is starting this July. The KTS will support the establishment of the “Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology” ( HeiGIT for short) within the Institute of Geography at Heidelberg University.

This new project aims at improving knowledge and technology transfer from fundamental research into practice within the field of Geoinformatics.

Initially, the HeiGIT team will focus on three main topics:

• “Navigation Intelligence and Location-based Services” (the development of services that are strongly linked to location (e.g. routing and navigation services such as,
• “Big Spatial Data Analytics” (the analysis of large amounts of spatio-temporal data, e.g. traffic patterns in a specific region) and
• “Volunteered Geoinformation for Humanitarian Aid” (the use of spatial data for disaster management)

The GIScience team headed by Prof. Zipf has already demonstrated through previous projects its ability to realise services that can be (and have been) used by the wider public – for example in the use case of route planning. In addition, during a number of real disaster events both scientists and students from the group have contributed their know-how to assist in disaster management efforts. For example, after the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, the GIScience team provided support through the generation of geographic information using multiple sources such as OpenStreetMap, Twitter, Flickr and Instagram. These contributions helped to answer important questions such as
“Which roads are still passable?”, “Where is the level of destruction at its strongest?”, “Which areas can be accessed or evacuated in given time frames?” and “How reliable is the information contributed by volunteers?”.

New methods for the extraction and processing of geographic information from big and heterogeneous data sources are essential for disaster management, health planning and environmental monitoring, to name a few. These methods are also required for urban planning and smart cities, and in particular, transport planning and mobility research. This includes the automated analysis of data from social media, which will be one of the research areas at the new Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology. This includes the automated analysis of data from social media, which will be one of the research areas at the new Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology.
Such information supplements existing data sources from official bodies or from remote sensing by helping to create a richer picture.
In particular, data from ‘OpenStreetMap’ will be used for the creation of up-to-date maps and location-based services. In order to assess, integrate and use the data from different heterogeneous sources automatically and in an useful way, the HeiGIT will develop, improve and put into practice advanced methods in the field of Geoinformatics.

The research in Geoinformatics in Heidelberg has its roots in the European Media Laboratory (EML), which was founded by Klaus Tschira in 1997. In this institute, Alexander Zipf worked as the first PhD student and as a postdoc researcher. Later, the innovative work has been repeatedly supported by the Klaus Tschira Foundation. After years as a professor in Mainz and Bonn, Alexander Zipf returned to Heidelberg University in 2010, his alma mater, establishing the GIScience Research Group.

The Klaus Tschira Foundation was established in 1995 by the physicist Klaus Tschira (1940 – 2015). The foundation supports the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science as well as the appreciation of these subjects. The nationwide commitment begins in kindergarten and continues in schools, universities and research institutions. The KTS is committed to new forms of science communication. It supports both the development and the clear presentation of research results. The foundation realizes its own projects and awards grants.

mobility patterns from social media

Further Information
– GIScience Research Group Heidelberg University –
– Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology –
– Klaus Tschira Foundation –

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