Geoinformation for Humanitarian Aid

What we do

A pivotal supplementation for official geodata and remote sensing data, user-generated spatial data such as those provided by the OpenStreetMap project or the Social Web are becoming ever more important for efficient crisis management. By mashing different datasets, the resulting situation intelligence enables humanitarian relief organizations and first responders to quickly gain awareness of the situation in the aftermath of a disaster event.

This information also plays a pivotal role in the efforts to mitigate risks, prepare for events, and limit their potential effects. In cooperation with users and relief workers, we are developing innovative processes and services for new analysis methods to better use this potential of different data sources.

MapSwipe Analytics

Information about the distribution of the population in an area is of pivotal importance for humanitarian aid. The distribution of buildings can serve as a proxy. Using the smartphone app MapSwipe, even users without prior experience can identify populated areas on a satellite image. MapSwipe was developed as part of MSF’s (Médicins sans Frontières/Ärzte ohne Grenzen e.V.) Missing Maps Project, and provides a valuable groundwork for the subsequent geodata gathering in the areas. For analyzing and visualizing the user-generated data, we provide the web service MapSwipe Analytics.

Join live

Our application MapSwipe Live shows the newest submissions from MapSwipe App users. That way, project managers can swiftly respond to problems during the data collection. To improve the user experience, we display each user’s own submission in an easy-to-understand rendering.

How do I do it right?

Detecting houses and other infrastructure on a satellite image sounds like a simple task – an impression reality does not always support. We have developed MapSwipe Tutorial, a service providing assistance in unclear situations.

Use MapSwipe Data for Your Projects

The MapSwip dataset contains several million classifications for different geographic regions. We provide services to enable relief organizations and other interested parties to use this vast pool of information: MapSwipe Processing offers download features. Alternatively, the data can be directly included in your application through our geoserver.

openrouteservice for Disaster Management

The routing service enables users to plan routes based on up-to-date OpenStreetMap data, all while taking into account disaster-related road conditions. This way, the on-site response teams always have access to continuously updated information about reachability and navigability of the surrounding roads.

Avoid Blocked Roads

After the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, the global OpenStreetMap community mapped up to 800 road kilometers – every hour! This included information about blocked and impassable roads. We render these data usable for evacuation and response planning.

Hourly Updates

We currently provide hourly update intervals for geodata of all of Africa, South America, and South Asia. During larger disasters affecting regions not yet covered by the service, the addition of new areas can be requested.

ohsome Nepal Dashboard

The Nepal Dashboard provides a tailor-made analysis platform based on the ohsome platform. In consultation with one of our partners, Kathmandu Living Labs, we focus on analyzing the mapping activities in Nepal. In the future, the dashboard is designed to visualize information about user-specific activities. This way, we want to enable the early detection of potential mapping problems, connect the individual mappers, and evaluate the effect of training measures. These objectives were heavily influenced by the experience with the thousands of mappers who contributed to the OpenStreetMap efforts in the aftermath of the earthquakes of April/Mai 2015.

OpenStreetMap Provides Support during Disasters

The ohsome dashboard enables the analysis of the OpenStreetMap data evolution. This feature can improve the coordination and operation of mapping efforts in areas affected by disasters.

Focus on Data Quality

To understand the data quality, we are developing special indicators. They help us determine areas in which the OpenStreetMap data are reliable, and which areas require additional validation.

Feedback for the Community

With the dashboard, we streamline the data gathering. Direct feedback can improve the quality of the OpenStreetMap data and helps to prioritize regions.

Additional Services


The Team

Melanie Eckle

Research Associate

Benjamin Herfort

Research Associate

Sven Lautenbach

PostDoc Researcher

Sabrina Marx

Research Associate