Regional Analysis Division R & D Activities

The emphasis of the work out carried in Regional Analysis Division is on the development of tools and methods aimed to assist regional, urban and environmental planning. The division concentrates on the application of techniques from the fields of geography, applied informatics, remote sensing, statistics, mathematics, operations research, city planning and economics to develop information and decision support systems that can be used by both the public and private sectors. Specifically the researchers of the division are involved in:

The division participates in research and development projects related to the design and development of "intelligent" information systems for statistical and environmental databases, collection and analysis of socio-economic data and development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) applications for planning. These are funded from organizations such as the European Union (EU), the General Secretariat of Research and Technology of Greece (GSRT), the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG), the Regional Development Agency of Crete, NATO and others. EU funded research programs in which the division has participated include DOSES, IMPACT II, ORA, ENVIRONMENT, INFO 2000, TELEMATICS, INCO-DC, IST and EUMEDIS. Additionally, several contracts from agencies such as the National Statistical Office of Greece, the Municipality of Heraklion, the Ministry of Health, the Athens Urban Transport Organization and others have been secured.

Applications of Geographical Information Systems

GIS are information systems that can store, manipulate, analyze and display digital maps. They contain cartographic information (street and transportation networks, property boundaries, measurement locations, contour lines, etc.) and descriptive data (street names, population, measurements, statistics, etc.). They are the only information systems that can be used for handling data with a spatial nature and they have many applications in the fields of managing natural resources, environmental monitoring, urban planning, etc.

The division was one of the first research organizations in Greece involved in GIS applications. Since 1991 a GIS laboratory has been established that includes workstations, digitizers, plotters, GPS receivers, software (Arc/Info, ArcView, MapInfo, TransCAD, Idrisi, etc.). A GPS base station was established at FORTH in 1998 and operates on a 24-hour basis thus permitting differential correction of GPS data collected in the field.

  • Spatial decision support systems
    SDSS are systems that can be used for supporting complex decision making and have extensive applications in environmental planning, business decision making, resource allocations and other. They bring together GIS databases, mathematical models, impact assessment methodologies and decision rules through an easy to use interface that hides the intricacies of the system from the end-user. Application areas studied in the division include watershed planning, flood protection, management of catastrophic events, urban planning, sustainable tourism planning, noise mapping and others. The emphasis on the work carried out includes integration of mathematical models with GIS systems, design of visualization procedures and development of methodologies for impact assessment.

  • Web GIS
    The rapid advance of the use of Internet is having a profound impact on GIS. This is because with the information society the demand for spatial data has expanded exponentially. In the past, GIS use has been limited within a small group of professionals (geographers, surveyors, etc.), whereas with web GIS there is the potential to make geographic information available to a large worldwide audience. Researchers at FORTH have implemented techniques and methodologies for both client based and server based web GIS applications. Tools such as the in-house developed GAEA Map Applet (www-regional.iacm.forth.gr/gaea) use heavily the client side to perform the necessary computations limiting the interaction with the server to data exchange. Whereas, tools based on MapObjects, or ArcIMS technology from ESRI provide additional functionality and nicer look-and-feel but all computations are carried out on the server, which prepares the necessary images and returns them to the client.

  • Advanced travelers information systems (ATIS)
    In transportation, the provision of real-time traffic information on-line is a need widely acknowledged. Although systems that provide such information are presently available, they are not as complete, as they should be. Researchers at FORTH are using in-house developed Internet GIS solutions to implement systems that provide real-time information using the Internet and as advances in telecommunications progress also mobile phones. Traffic flow information is obtained through direct links to traffic management systems that collect data from loop detectors. Real-time and static data are stored as databases and visualized on top of the actual street map through the web GIS.

    Sites developed by the division's researchers, include:
    • http://www.Chania.gr: fully operational, provides real-time information for traffic conditions covering the municipality of Chania and is also a map guide for the city,
    • www.InfoTraffic.gr: fully operational, to provide real time traffic information on the web (developed in collaboration with InfoCharta Ltd. and InfoTraffic Ltd) .This is also a widely used as city guide portal in Greece that contains information for several cities.

Remote Sensing Applications

Satellite remote sensing methods and techniques are used for data capture and the study of many environmental problems and phenomena. Earth Observation data from new satellite sensors providing images of Very High Spatial Resolution are used for urban applications. On the other hand, ASTER, Landsat, SPOT, IRS, MODIS and AVHRR data is routinely used in supporting a broad range of environmental applications. More specifically, the division is involved in the following application fields:

  • Thematic mapping and land cover - land use studies,
  • DEM development and 3D Visualizations,
  • Environmental monitoring and change detection,
  • Feature extraction and urban application,
  • Natural and man-made disasters analysis,
  • Surface radiation balance and microclimatic applications,
  • Environmental and atmospheric physics

A Dartcom HRPT/CHRPT/SeaWiFS satellite receiving station is operational in FORTH since 2002. Image data from several satellites is transmitted providing a spatial resolution of 1.1 km in up to ten spectral bands.

Spatial Statistical Modeling

The goal of spatial statistical modeling is the identification of the underlying patterns that exist among various spatial variables. Space-time models, spatial econometrics and multivariate analyses are some of the techniques studied in the division. Areas of applications explored include geodemography, short-term traffic forecasting, and regional economic modeling. A sample of the projects that FORTH researchers are involved include:

  • Classification of Greek municipalities according to their socio-economic characteristics based on the latest census and multivariate statistical techniques.
  • Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis (ESDA) and spatial statistical modeling for the evolution of productivity differentials of the (NUTS 2) European regions and their dependence to the region specific industry mix and technological advances.
  • Development of space-time short-term forecasting models for traffic flows and occupancies in transportation networks based on measurements from loop detectors.

Sustainable Development Assessment Tools

Recently, R&D activities of the Division have expanded to include the development of tools for sustainability assessment and implementation. They can prove to be very useful for various planning agencies, local, regional and national authorities and stakeholders in order to evaluate current development and implement in practice sustainability. Focus has been placed on the fields of tourism and urban development. A sample of the activities that FORTH researchers are involved include:

  • Development of a methodology and a set of indicators for sustainable tourism, formulation of policy goals and related criteria
  • Design of a GIS based integrated system to support tourism policy making in Mediterranean destinations,
  • Development and estimation of sustainable urban development indicators using GIS and remote sensing technology.