From land cover to land use – integrating remote sensing and human location patterns in urban areas

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

Earth observation (EO) provides a wide range of opportunities and solutions for obtaining information on the spatial development specifics of an urban area, on dominant trends in land cover, and on availability of green spaces and distribution of building density. While EO information is a valuable input to evaluating planning processes, its focus is still on land cover – referring to physical objects on the earth’s surface.

EO, however, only gives limited information on land use – referring to the function of objects. Urban planners, on the other hand, require information on the function of urban neighborhoods, i.e. they want to know how urban areas are actually used by people.

Contents and goals

The overall objective of the INTERSENSE project is to thoroughly investigate and demonstrate the potential of crowd data (cellular network data and location based social network data) for improving the modelling of urban function in Earth observation (EO) based information layers.

Motion trajectories extracted from cellular signalling data between mobile phones and cell towers of a telecommunications network provide huge samples of the whereabouts and mobility patterns of a huge sample of a population, with mobility patterns being a strong indicator for actual land use. Location based social networks collect so-called volunteered geographic information that allow users to interact relative to their current locations.


In the project geotagged Twitter data will be used that are collected as spatio-temporal point cloud, allowing for spatial analysis to derive spatio-temporal activity patterns. The innovation in the proposed approach lies in the combination of the crowd data with EO derived information layers to benefit from their synergies.

Research activities will focus on the development of novel techniques and methods for analysing the collected crowd data in terms of spatio-temporal activity patterns, and for integrating these with EO derived urban information layers.

Expected results

There are three Key Results expected to emerge from the INTERSENSE project: 

  1. The INTERSENSE geo database, containing the collected and pre-processed data sets from cellular networks and Twitter as well as the EO derived urban information layers,
  2. an interactive demonstrator enabling visual analytics of the developed urban functional information layers, and
  3. proof of concept of the resulting urban functional information layers and the developed techniques and methods they are based on.

The findings of the exploratory project will be discussed and evaluated during a final workshop together with external experts, including stakeholders from the telecommunications provider T-Mobile Austria GmbH.

Project Partners


AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH

Contact Address

AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH
Dr. Klaus Steinnocher
Giefinggasse 2
A-1210 Vienna