FundingHeiGIT: Making Geodata Useful for Mobility Support and Humanitarian Aid

20 April 2022

Klaus Tschira Foundation bolsters funding for Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology

Freely accessible route planners that can be quickly used after catastrophes for work by aid organisations or can point people who have difficulty walking to the route with the fewest obstructions: the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology (HeiGIT) is working on intelligent routing and navigation services that access diverse geodata using geoinformation technologies and methods from geoinformatics. HeiGIT under the direction of Heidelberg University researcher Prof. Dr Alexander Zipf is backed by the Klaus Tschira Foundation, which has recently extended and substantially increased its funding. “We believe in the important, first-rate work HeiGIT performs and want to give the institute the necessary backing to pursue high-quality research and develop more useful applications for the good of society,” states Prof. Dr Carsten Könneker, Managing Director of the Klaus Tschira Foundation.

Karten- und Routinganwendung, die den Zugang zu medizinischer Versorgung zeigt und leitet

The over 20 HeiGIT employees are currently working in three core areas. Besides developing route planners to support customised mobility, they also harvest geodata for humanitarian aid. After an earthquake or flood, for example, first responders are able to quickly gain a geographical overview of the affected areas and determine possible deployment routes. In the third research and development area, the HeiGIT team is exploring how artificial intelligence can be used for analysing, processing, and visualising geodata. Through knowledge and technology transfer, the institute pursues its overarching goal of processing freely available spatial data with advanced geoinformation technology to benefit society. “HeiGIT has produced remarkable research results and has become an important incubator for technological innovation in the field of geoinformatics in the research city of Heidelberg,” affirms Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, Rector of Heidelberg University.

One of HeiGIT's special accomplishments is a globally unique open source software package that analyses the data from OpenStreetMap – a freely available and editable map – for usability and quality. “Missing geodata or data of poor or questionable quality are a problem for aid organisations in humanitarian missions, especially in the global south,” explains Alexander Zipf, professor of geoinformatics at the Institute of Geography of Heidelberg University and Director of the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology. With the aid of HeiGIT's latest development, historical mapping can be reproduced and reviewed. A variety of interfaces also renders the data compatible for web applications and other geographical analysis programmes. Besides open source programming, HeiGIT also follows a citizen science approach since laypersons can also contribute to many projects.

The Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technology was launched in 2016. In 2019, HeiGIT was established as an associate research institute of Heidelberg University and enjoys close ties with Ruperto Carola as a cooperation partner through shared personnel.

The Klaus Tschira Foundation (KTS) promotes the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science, while striving to increase the appreciation of these fields. It was founded in 1995 by physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940 to 2015) from private funds. The Foundation's three funding priorities are: education, research, and scientific communication. Its nationwide work begins in kindergarten and continues into schools, universities and research institutions. The Foundation promotes dialogue between science and society.