VGI & Citizen Science - GEOlab



Welcome to the Web page showing the collection of activities and applications developed by the GEOlab (Geomatics and Earth Observation laboratory) of Politecnico di Milano - Como Campus, in the frame of a research program about user participation in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).



The developed applications are the following:

A gaming application where people have to detect land coverage through a fun experience in which they can challenge their colleagues and friends and, in the meantime, contribute to the evaluation of land cover classifications. Successfully tested in a mapping party during FOSS4G Europe 2015 conference.
A Python procedure for GRASS GIS, partially available as a Web Processing Service (WPS), which allows to import customized road datasets from the OSM database and an authoritative source and returns some measures of their spatial similarity.
A Web client for visualizing Big Geo Data based on java, using tecnologies as MongoDB on the server side and on the client side jQuery, Bootstrap and OpenLayers 3. The dataset used refers to the number of calls exchanged between callers located in Milan and receivers located in other provinces in Italy (more information here).
EST-WA is a tool developed by GEOlab for representing 4D variables (3D location of the variable values at different times) provided in netCDF format. The tool is based on the open source NASA World Wind virtual globe and is used to visualize telecommunications and social media data. Raw data is transformed in netCDF files and then visualized on the EST-WA application.
  • website of EST-WA software
  • Web application to create netCDF files from Telecommunications (SMS, Call, Internet) MI Open data Telecom Dataset
An application of Rasdaman array database to manage telecommunications Big Geo Data. The dataset used is the result of a computation over the Call Detail Records (CDRs) generated by the Telecom Italia cellular network over the city of Milan (more information here).
  • Web application to test the Web Coverage Processing Service (WCPS) OGC standard provided by Rasdaman
An application developed in 2014-2015 to collect biodiversity data about flora species in Val D’Agri, Basilicata Region in Italy. The associated form allows also the geolocalized data capture of information related to road access and fencing status of restoring areas close to oil & gas production facilities, well clusters and flowlines managed by eni S.p.A..
  • Web map showing the reports collected
A social, 3D Web platform allowing people to create, add and share geospatial information (including VGI) as well as projects. It provides a virtual globe-based interaction with the data in a social network-like way. Winner of the first prize at the first and second editions of NASA World Wind Europa Challenge.
  • website of PoliCrowd (developed in 2013)
  • website of PoliCrowd 2.0 (developed in 2014)
An application developed within an ongoing INTERREG project on slow tourism focused on Via Regina region allowing users to report a range of tourism-related elements while walking along the slow tourism paths. Users are asked to classify the element and provide additional information about it including multimedia (photos, audios and videos).
An application developed in winter 2013 allowing citizens to report damages occurred to the road pavement. Users are asked to provide information about the damage, register its position and take a picture of it. All the reported damages are then published as standard WMs layers.
Developed in 2014 in cooperation with students from I.S.I.S. Paolo Carcano, the application allows to report existing architectural barriers and exploits the current Italian legislative framework to help citizens in classifying them as conformal or not conformal.
  • Web map showing the architectural barriers surveyed
An application developed in collaboration with AdbPo (Autorità di Bacino del fiume Po, Po river basin Authority) allowing both the technicians and the common public to report environmental phenomena/emergencies and territorial/urban elements related to water management.

The new Web 2.0 technologies and the non stop-spread of mobile devices, equipped with stable Internet connection and multiple sensors (e.g. the camera and the GPS), have transformed all people into potential providers of geographic information. Some common definitions relevant to this field are the following:

A concept coined by O'Reilly (2005) to define the new nature of the Web allowing users to add, share and disseminate contents. In contrast to the previous Web (or Web 1.0), which was static and one-directional (users only consume resources), Web 2.0 is by nature interactive, based on user-generated contents and therefore bi-directional (users both consume and produce contents).
Also called GeoSpatial Web 2.0, this term denotes the geographic extension of Web 2.0, i.e. the complex set of tools, infrastructures and services related to the management of geographic information over the Web.
Coined by Goodchild (2007) after the dawn of Web 2.0, this term refers to the vision of humans as sensors that voluntarily create, assemble and disseminate (on the Web) geographic data.
This concept can be thought as a special case of VGI, in which a coordinated group of people act together to carry out a predefined work or function which was once in the domain of a specific agent. The most meaningful example of crowdsourcing is OpenStreetMap, the free map of the world created by volunteers.
OpenStreetMap is probably the most popular VGI/crowdsourcing project on the Internet today. It is the free map of the world created by volunteers that everyone can edit. Its open license makes OSM data increasingly used in hundreds of applications (including research studies) and many services are built on top of them.
Citizen science is the set of scientific activities in which amateurs voluntarily participate in data collection, analysis and dissemination of scientific projects. Citizen science activities range from active and cognitive (e.g. classifying satellite images) to passive (e.g. donating CPU time to computing projects).
This term, born in the mid-1990s' before the birth of Web 2.0, points to the social role of GIS as a means to promote the goals of nongovernmental organizations and groups, especially in developing countries.
Again born in the mid-1990s' and sometimes used as a synonym of PGIS, this term focuses instead on the practice of exploiting GIS to support public participation into decision-making processes, especially in developed countries.
Big Data is the term used to describe the deluge of data in our networked, digitized, sensor-laden, information driven world. When we speak about Big Geo Data, we refer to georeferenced temporal data, e.g. the data coming from social media or VGI.



Prof. Maria Antonia Brovelli

Degree with honors in Physics, PhD in Geodesy. She is Professor of GIS and Remote Sensing at Politecnico di Milano. From 2001 to 2011 she was the Head of the Geomatics Laboratory of the Politecnico di Milano and from 2006 to 2011 she lectured also GIS at ETH of Zurich. Since 2011 she is Vice Rector for the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano. She is chair of ISPRS WG IV/4 “Collaborative crowdsourced cloud mapping (C3M)”, Associate Editor of Applied Geomatics Journal (Springer); Member of the Board of the Italian Photogrammetric and Topography Society (SIFET); One of the Directors of OSGeo; Member of the Advisory Board of the ICA-OSGeo Labs Network, chair of the “Capacity Building Working Group” of the UN Open GIS Initiative, Member of the UN_GGIM Academic Network Task Team. She organized (in Como) the first WebMGS Conference in 2010 and the FOSS4G Europe in 2015. In 2015, she was awarded the Sol Katz prize.


Dr. Giorgio Zamboni

He obtained a degree with honors in Computer Engineering at Politecnico di Milano with specialization in design, development and management of multimedia applications, multi-dimensional graphical systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for the treatment of spatial data. He obtained a PhD with honors in Geodesy and Geomatics at Politecnico di Milano, with specialization in techniques for acquiring, geocoding, analyzing and processing geographic data and development of advanced geocomputing software. He is responsible for design, implementation and development of the Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) of the Municipality of Como and his current research activities at Politecnico di Milano focuses on GIS, WebGIS, multi-dimensional Virtual Globes and automatic integration of heterogeneous geographic data for environmental and territorial analysis by means of multi-resolution algorithms. He is co-author of several national and international scientific publications on geodetic and geomatic themes.


Dr. Marco Minghini

Dr. Marco Minghini obtained a BSc degree with honors in Environmental Engineering at Politecnico di Milano (2008) with a thesis on the ortho-rectification of satellite images using LiDAR DTM. In 2010 he obtained an MSc degree with honors in Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at Politecnico di Milano with a thesis on the georeferencing and WebGIS publishing of historical maps. In 2014 he obtained his PhD with merit in Environmental and Infrastructures Engineering with a thesis on the use of open source software, including mobile data collection and virtual globes for VGI and citizen science applications. Since 2014, he is a temporary research fellow at the GEOlab of the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano. Driven by the use of open source software, his current research focuses on geoWeb services and geoWeb applications, citizen science and VGI. He is an active member of COST Action TD1202 "Mapping and the Citizen Sensor", a Charter Member of OSGeo and the Secretary of FOSS4G Europe 2015.


Eng. Carolina Arias Muñoz

Eng. Carolina Arias Muñoz obtained a BSc degree in Environmental Engineering at Medellin University in 2006 and an MSc degree in Environmental and Geomatics Engineering at Politecnico di Milano in 2012. Her MSc thesis was about geospatial Web services for limnological data, a case study of sensor observation service for ecological observations. She is an Associate Professor in San Buenaventura University in Colombia since 2007, working and teaching in the fields of environmental planning and GIS. Since November 2013 she is a PhD student at the HydroInformatics Lab of the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano. Her research activity is focused on Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) and Geospatial Web Services, Environmental Big Geo Data and FOSS4G. On her PhD thesis she is focusing on exploring the subject of Big Geo Data management, from storing to visualisation. She is a Charter Member of OSGeo and a member of the Organizing Committee of FOSS4G Europe 2015.


Dr. Monia Elisa Molinari

Dr. Monia Molinari obtained the MSc with honors in Environmental and Land Planning Engineering at Politecnico di Milano in 2008. In 2012 she obtained the PhD in Earth Sciences at the Università degli studi di Pavia with a thesis on an open source GIS-embedded approach for landslide modeling in innovative early warning monitoring systems. During and after the PhD she collaborated with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI). Since 2014 she is a temporary research fellow at the HydroInformatics Lab of the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano.


Eng. Daniele Oxoli

Eng. Daniele Oxoli obtained the BSc degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Politecnico di Milano in 2013. In 2015, he obtained a full-marks MSc degree in Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at Politecnico di Milano with a thesis on the combined use of GIS technologies together with hydrological and hydraulic modelling to investigate the effects of the urbanization on surface runoff for Como City (Italy). Since November 2015, he is a PhD student in Geomatics and temporary research fellow at the GEOlab of the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano.


Eng. Candan Eylül Kilsedar

Eng. Candan Eylül Kilsedar obtained her BSc degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Sabancı University-Istanbul/Turkey in 2012. She obtaibed MSc degree in Informatics Engineering from Politecnico di Milano in 2014. Her MSc thesis focused on deriving insightful data regarding user interactions on web through analyzing logs of web applications. She is strongly interested in web technologies and started working on geospatial data visualization on web during her Master of Science degree. Since November 2015, she is a PhD student in Enviromental and Infrastructure Engineering and temporary research fellow at the GEOlab of the Como Campus at Politecnico di Milano.


Eng. Mayra Alejandra Zurbaran Nucci

Eng. Mayra A. Zurbaran Nucci BSc degree in Computer Science at Universidad del Norte in 2006, she is currently a PhD student at the same university doing a research internship at Politecnico di Milano thanks to the awarded grant under the Erasmus Mundus program under the Sustain-T project. Her PhD thesis is about privacy on Location-Based Services (LBS) and location data protection mechanisms. She taught algorithm and programing I & II at Universidad del norte during 2013 and 2015. Since November of 2015 she is a PhD researcher at the GEOLab of the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano. Her research activity is focused on Volunteer Geographic Information (VGI) and the privacy measures applicable to such data. She is also a python & django enthusiast and a contributor to FOSS community. On her PhD thesis she is focusing on exploring the impact of privacy preserving algorithms on spatial analysis. She is a active member Member of GReCIS.


Dr. Luciana Cezarino

Post-Doctorate Student of Geomat at POLIMI - Politecnico di Miliano, polo Como, Erasmus Program. Professor at UFU - Federal University of Uberlândia - Brazil. Degree in Economics by State University of Londrina (UEL) at 2002. Masters in Business by FEA/USP - University of Sao Paulo (2005) with UFSC/LPA /SEBRAE grant. PhD in Business Administration at FEA/USP with CNPQ grant at 2013. Sandwich research period made in 2011 at the Università Bocconi in Milan-Italy supervised by Prof. Maurizio Zollo. Research line are focused on systemic vision applied to organizational learning processes and green logistcs at supply chain management. Coordinator of Golden for Sustainability Brazil - global research project leaded by Prof. Maurizio Zollo from University of Bocconi, Italy. Coordinator of PRME - Principles of Responsible Management Research at UFU. Member of Enviromental Management Research Group (EEGAS) and Logistcs Studies and Sustainable Management (ELGOS) at UFU. Ex-professor at UNIFAFIBE 2003-2005, University of Ribeirão Preto (UNAERP) 2005-2010, FEARP/USP - University of Sao Paulo 2010-2013. Worked as Marketing MBA Coordinator at FAAP - Fundação Armando Álvaro Penteado at Ribeiroo Preto - SP, Brazil 2012-2013. My future interests are focused on conducting academic research on Green Logisctics and Sustainability Business Geographic and Economic Data.


Eng. Gabriele Prestifilippo

Eng. Gabriele Prestifilippo obtained a BSc degree in Computer Engineering at Università degli Studi di Catania in 2014. In 2016 he obtained a MSc in Computer Science and Engineering at Politecnico di Milano with a thesis on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), creating a web application to visualize and analyze multidimensional datasets in more than three dimensions. He is a contributor to FOSS community. He is interested in full-stack web development and he is reasearching about web technologies involved in the GIS.



  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. Molinari M. and Mooney P. (2016). Towards an automated comparison of OpenStreetMap with authoritative road datasets. Transactions in GIS, doi: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2015.04.002 [webpage]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2016). Public participation in GIS via mobile applications. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 114, 306-315, doi: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2015.04.002 [webpage]
  • Mooney P., Minghini M. and Stanley-Jones F. (2015). Observations on an OpenStreetMap mapping party organised as a social event during an open source GIS conference. International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructures Research 10, 138-150. doi: 10.2902/1725-0463.2015.10.art7. [webpage]
  • Antunes F., Fonte C. C., Brovelli M.A., Minghini M., Molinari M.E. and Mooney P. (2015). Assessing OSM Road Positional Quality with Authoritative Data. Proceedings of the VIII Conferência Nacional de Cartografia e Geodesia, Lisbon (Portugal), October 29-30, 2015 [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M., Molinari M.E. and Mooney P. (2015). A FOSS4G-based procedure to compare OpenStreetMap and authoritative road network datasets. Geomatics Workbooks 12, 235-238, ISSN 1591-092X [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Celino I., Molinari M.E. and Venkatachalam V. (2015). Land cover validation game. Geomatics Workbooks 12, 153-158, ISSN 1591-092X [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Zamboni G. and Arias Muñoz C. (2015). From paper maps to the Digital Earth and the Internet of Places. Rendiconti Lincei 26, 97-103, doi: 10.1007/s12210-015-0437-y [webpage]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2015). Public Participation GIS: a FOSS architecture enabling field-data collection. International Journal of Digital Earth 8(5), 345-363, doi: 10.1080/17538947.2014.887150 [webpage]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2014). Three dimensional Volunteered Geographic Information: a prototype of a social virtual globe. International Journal of 3-D Information Modeling 3(2), 19-34, doi: 10.4018/ij3dim.2014040102 [webpage]
  • Brovelli M.A., Dotti L., Minghini M., Pancaldi M. and Zamboni G. (2014). Volunteered Geographic Information for water management: a prototype architecture. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Hydroinformatics, New York (USA), 17-21 August 2014 [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Zamboni G., Arias Muñoz C. and Bonetti A. (2014). Exploring twitter georeferenced data related to flood events: an initial approach. Proceedings of the AGILE 2014 International Conference on Geographic information Science, Castellón (Spain), 3-6 June 2014 [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2014). Web-based Participatory GIS with data collection on the field – A prototype architecture. FOSS4G 2013 Academic Proceedings, Nottingham (UK), September 17-21, 2013, OSGeo Journal 13, 29-33, ISSN 1994-1897 [pdf]
  • Minghini M. (2014). Multi-dimensional GeoWeb platforms for citizen science and civic engagement applications. PhD thesis, Politecnico di Milano, Italy [pdf]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2014). Web-based Participatory GIS with data collection on the field: a prototype architecture in two and three dimensions. Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana, Volume 30 (2014), 12-15, doi: 10.3301/ROL.2014.03 [webpage]
  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Zamboni G. (2013). Participatory GIS: Experimentations for a 3D Social Virtual Globe. International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XL-2/W2, 13-18, doi: 10.5194/isprsarchives-XL-2-W2-13-2013 [pdf]

  • Brovelli M.A., Minghini M. and Molinari M. (2016). A GRASS-based automated procedure to compare OpenStreetMap and authoritative road network datasets. Presented at the XVII Meeting of Italian GRASS and FOSS4G users, 2016-02-12 [pdf]
  • Zurbaran M.A. (2015). Location Privacy Protection & Tools. Presented at the GEOlab meeting, 2015-12-21 [pdf]
  • Arias Muñoz C. (2015). Cognicity - A Geosocial Intelligence Framework for Urban Data. Presented at the GEOlab meeting, 2015-10-23 [pdf]

During FOSS4G 2015 in Seoul, Prof. Maria Antonia Brovelli was honored with the Sol Katz Award, which is awarded each year by OSGeo to individuals who demonstrated leadership in the open source geospatial community and have contributed greatly to advance open source ideals in geospatial domain. More detailed information about the award and Prof. Maria Antonia Brovelli can be found here together with her acceptance slides.
PoliCrowd 2.0 project was awarded with the first prize at the second edition of the NASA World Wind Europa Challenge, a competition focused on the development of applications serving the INSPIRE Directive and using NASA's open source virtual globe technology, World Wind. The final stage of the competition and the award ceremony took place during the FOSS4G Europe 2014 conference in Bremen. The team was composed by the former students Andrés Quiñones and Luca Poddigue, and their mentor Dr. Giorgio Zamboni.
This research award was donated from Rotary Club Fund 2014 – Fondazione Provinciale della Comunità Comasca ONLUS for the best work presented by a young researcher on the topic "Smart city to support sustainable and participative development and social inclusiveness". The award was donated to Dr. Marco Minghini for his work titled "Field data collection and Web sharing: the role of participation to shape smart cities".
Every year the Italian group GIT (Geosciences and Information Technology) donates the award "Ivo Ricchetti" to the young researcher who gives the best oral presentation during the annual conference. At the GIT 2013 conference in Chiavenna (Italy) this award was won by Dr. Marco Minghini with the presentation "Web-based Participatory GIS with data collection on the field: a prototype architecture in two and three dimensions" (authors: Maria Antonia Brovelli, Marco Minghini and Giorgio Zamboni).
PoliCrowd project was awarded with the first prize at the first edition of the NASA World Wind Europa Challenge, a competition focused on the development of applications serving the INSPIRE Directive and using NASA's open source virtual globe technology, World Wind. The final stage of the competition and the award ceremony took place during the INSPIRE 2013 conference in Florence. The team was composed by the former students Marco Minghini, Andrés Quiñones, Michele Bianchi and Rodi Jolak, and their mentor Dr. Giorgio Zamboni.

A humanitarian OSM mapathon was held at the Como Campus of Politecnico di Milano to introduce children of the local elementary school "Adolfo Vacchi" to the humanitarian mapping with OSM. The event was organized in collaboration with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a not-for-profit organization engaged in humanitarian response activities, and the Missing Maps project, which coordinates mapping in the most vulnerable places in developing world. During the mapathon 32 10-year-old children mapped Swaziland for a project on malaria elimination.
  • article presented during the eventdescribeing the event published on a local Web magazine
  • mapathon logos created by the children after the event
A humanitarian OSM mapathon was organized at Politecnico di Milano in the frame of the OpenStreetMap Geography Awareness Week, a global initiative aiming at celebrating geography and making maps with OSM. The event was co-organized by GEOlab and the National Research Council of Milan – Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment (CNR IREA) in collaboration with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a not-for-profit organization engaged in humanitarian response activities, and the Missing Maps project, which coordinates mapping in the most vulnerable places in developing world. Two senior members of HOT were reached through a Skype call during the mapathon: Cristiano Giovando (HOT's Technical Project Manager) and Tyler Radford (HOT's Executive Director). The event was attended by 80+ people and was focused on mapping regions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Uganda. The majority of participants had no prior knowledge or experience in OSM and expressed great satisfaction on the mapathon experience and interest in attending similar future events.
  • slides presented during the event
An OSM mapping party was organized in Como city during FOSS4G Europe 2015 conference. The event was also advertised on the OSM wiki and was joined by 40 people. In addition to the update of the OSM Como map, the mapping party was an experiment aimed at studying how these events work and what types of geographic information can be feasibly collected during them. A research paper is under production which aims at summarizing the main lessons learned from this experience.
After the terrible earthquake devastating Nepal the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a not-for-profit organization engaged in humanitarian response activities, launched a global call for volunteers for creating/updating Nepal OSM maps that enable responders to reach those in need. GEOlab organized a community mapping at the university opened to anyone interested on April 29, 2015. About 50 people joined the event, which started with a Skype call with Cristiano Giovando from HOT and continued with a brief introduction to OSM before the real mapping started. A similar educational activity was then repeated in early May by involving a total of 50 students at the local high school Paolo Giovio.
COST Action TD1202 is an EU funded inter-disciplinary networking activity that involves almost 30 countries and seeks to enhance the role of citizen sensors in mapping. The overall aim of the Action is to increase the value of VGI provided by citizen sensors for mapping applications, with a particular focus on map production and map evaluation. GEOlab team is actively involved in this network. In addition to giving oral presentations at the Action meetings, in July 2015 the team has successfully organized the Training School "FOSS4VGI" focused on the use of FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial) to create, use and manipulate VGI data.
COST Action IC1203 is an EU funded inter-disciplinary networking activity targeting the scientific and technological advances enabling VGI by establishing a European network of excellence on GeoWeb technologies. Under the usual COST funding scheme, the Action seeks to develop software and methodologies to exploit VGI; define quality assessment criteria; create a repository of VGI analysis, integration tools and methods, literature and case studies; develop cultural and contextual analysis methods of VGI. GEOlab researchers are also actively participating to this Action.