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Crowdsourcing, citizen sensing and sensor web technologies for public and environmental health surveillance and crisis management: trends, OGC standards and application examples

Maged N Kamel Boulos12*, Bernd Resch34, David N Crowley56, John G Breslin56, Gunho Sohn78, Russ Burtner9, William A Pike9, Eduardo Jezierski10 and Kuo-Yu Slayer Chuang11

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, UK

2 International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Commission IV - Geodatabases and Digital Mapping, WG IV/4 - Virtual Globes and Context-Aware Visualisation/Analysis, ISPRS Headquarters (2008-2012), National Geomatics Centre of China, Beijing 100048, PR China

3 SENSEable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139, USA

4 Institute for Geoinformatics and Remote Sensing, University of Osnabrueck, 49076 Osnabrueck, Germany

5 School of Engineering and Informatics, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

6 Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

7 Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering, York University, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada

8 International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Commission III - Photogrammetric Computer Vision and Image Analysis, WG III/4 - Complex scene analysis and 3D reconstruction, ISPRS Headquarters (2008-2012), National Geomatics Centre of China, Beijing 100048, PR China

9 Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99352, USA

10 InSTEDD (Innovative Support to Emergencies, Diseases and Disasters), Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

11 ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute), Hsinchu County 310, Taiwan

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2011, 10:67  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-67

Published: 21 December 2011


'Wikification of GIS by the masses' is a phrase-term first coined by Kamel Boulos in 2005, two years earlier than Goodchild's term 'Volunteered Geographic Information'. Six years later (2005-2011), OpenStreetMap and Google Earth (GE) are now full-fledged, crowdsourced 'Wikipedias of the Earth' par excellence, with millions of users contributing their own layers to GE, attaching photos, videos, notes and even 3-D (three dimensional) models to locations in GE. From using Twitter in participatory sensing and bicycle-mounted sensors in pervasive environmental sensing, to creating a 100,000-sensor geo-mashup using Semantic Web technology, to the 3-D visualisation of indoor and outdoor surveillance data in real-time and the development of next-generation, collaborative natural user interfaces that will power the spatially-enabled public health and emergency situation rooms of the future, where sensor data and citizen reports can be triaged and acted upon in real-time by distributed teams of professionals, this paper offers a comprehensive state-of-the-art review of the overlapping domains of the Sensor Web, citizen sensing and 'human-in-the-loop sensing' in the era of the Mobile and Social Web, and the roles these domains can play in environmental and public health surveillance and crisis/disaster informatics. We provide an in-depth review of the key issues and trends in these areas, the challenges faced when reasoning and making decisions with real-time crowdsourced data (such as issues of information overload, "noise", misinformation, bias and trust), the core technologies and Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards involved (Sensor Web Enablement and Open GeoSMS), as well as a few outstanding project implementation examples from around the world.

Citizen Sensing; Sensors; Social Web Crowdsourcing; Twitter; Geo-mashups; Semantic Web; OGC Sensor Web Enablement; OGC Open GeoSMS; 3-D Visualisation; Natural User Interfaces; Public and Environmental Health; Crisis Informatics