Article of the Month - March 2020

China’s Geospatial information industry fights against COVID-19

 Prosper Washaya & Minyi Li, China

This article in .pdf-format (11 pages)

The Authors: Prosper Washaya(right) & Minyi Li (Left), Deqing iSpatial Co., Ltd, China    

This article describes how geospatial information is being used effectively in a crisis situation; in this case fighting the COVID19 virus in China.

The world is fighting to contain the COVID-19 epidemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and people are becoming more and more anxious as the virus hits over 70 countries with numbers of confirmed cases of infected people on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized on the need for countries to “strengthen preparedness for all possible scenarios and ensure early containment measures.”

In China, however, the number of confirmed cases has been on decline. WHO has praised “China’s aggressive efforts to wrest the epidemic under control” attributing this to the efforts that are being made by the government, institutions and residents.

As the majority of the population in China are staying indoors and taking preventative measures to help prevent the spread of the virus, front line workers, doctors, nurses, law enforcement etc., are risking their lives by exposing themselves to potential infection.

At the same time, people from other professions are doing their part; construction workers worked around the clock to build Wuhan's 2500-bed makeshift hospitals in record time to admit patients being treated for the virus.

China’s Secretary General Xi Jinping has said that the fast spreading crisis is “a major test for China” and encouraged people to work together to prevent and control the epidemic. The crisis has indeed proved to be a major test for what China’s technology can do.

As global technology leaders, major Chinese corporations like Alibaba, Tencent, and Huawei have harnessed the power of technology by using high-tech equipment like Drones, Disinfecting robots, high tech thermometers and Smart City Technologies.

 Smart City technologies such as Geographic information systems, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT), have played an essential role in the prevention and control of COVID-19.

A smart city is a concept that uses technology to improve governance, planning, management, and livability of a city by gathering real-world, real-time data.

According to Academician Li Deren from Wuhan University, smart city technologies are crucial in the fight against the virus. The ability for institutions to collect, store and analyze spatial information is vital if the prevention and control of the COVD-19 is to be achieved.

In Zhejiang Province, in a geographic information industry park that was started from scratch about ten years ago, and where the Inaugural United Nations Geographic Information Congress was successfully held in 2018, companies and institutions are currently implementing the smart city concept to fight the virus.

Through the Smart City concept, geographic information companies and institutions in China, working together with the public, are making efforts to ensure the defeat of the virus through Mapping, Navigation, Location-Based Service, and Remote Sensing. Government departments and professional institutions have used this to provide services such as epidemic monitoring and analysis and early warning, population migration analysis, material security etc.

Mapping, Location Based Services (LBS) and positioning

During the crisis, mapping data associated with the epidemic has been crucial, not only for institutions and decision makers, but also for the general public. Maps showing locations of confirmed COVD-19 cases are helping people understand the scale of the epidemic in their locations.

Here are some efforts that have been made by using mapping tools:

Fig. 1 Baidu maps “epidemic map” showing Corona virus cases in real Time

Fig. 2 COVID-19 thematic map developed by Skymap and the National Basic Geographic Information Center

Cross-infections are major risk to, not only frontline workers, but also members of the public. Therefore, geo-information technology companies are using location-based services to minimize the movement of workers collecting information relevant to combating the virus.

Some companies have combined mapping with Location Based Services to help reduce some of these setbacks:

 Fig. 3 Zhejiang Baijia Information COVID-19 Webmap platform

Fig. 4 Interface of China TOPRS Technology Co. Ltd mini program for employee information

Fig. 5 Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s GIS base system to display information about the

Fig. 6 Alipay’s Health Code system showing Grenn and Red Codes respectively

Artificial Intelligence and Big Data

In the information age, Big data and Artificial intelligence have become ever the more important in situations similar to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Here some institutions and companies at the forefront of applying these technologies in the battle against the virus:

Fig. 7 Deqing Xidian Smart technology is using facial recognition technology

Fig. 8 iSpatial’s Information Management System interface

Remote sensing

Remote sensing has proved to be an important tool in the current fight against the virus. Remote sensing is a component of Geoinformation technologies that involves obtaining information about the dynamics of the earth using ground based, airborne and spaceborne platforms, for example, cars, drones and satellites.

Some companies and institutions in China have adopted remote sensing in monitoring the six-day construction of the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan Hospitals in Wuhan:

Fig. 9 Goafen-2 and Jilin-1 multisperctral satellite images showing the construction site of the Houshenshan hospital before and after construction.

Drone Technology

During the epidemic prevention and control campaign, drones have become irreplaceable weapons and are playing a crucial role in the fight through geographic mapping, logistics for distribution of vital goods like food, face masks, medication etc., disinfecting communities, and information publicity.

Companies such as Tencent, JD.com, ZhongtuXintu, China AOPA, China Civil Aviation Emergency Rescue Alliance, Shenzhen Keweitai, Chaotu Group, Tianjin Wanmao, Hebei Tianhai Surveying and Mapping, Xi'an Geodetic Surveying and Mapping, etc, are members of China Geographic Information Industry Association's drone application and management committee and are currently taking advantage of drone technology in the fight against COVID-19.

China's geographic information industry association, states that as of February 12, 285 teams and more than 2,000 agricultural drones have participated in “disinfection operations”, and disinfection of a total of 677 million square meters been completed in 14,903 villages and communities in 20 provinces across the country.

Other Institutions and companies have utilized drone technologies in the fight against the virus in different ways:

Fig. 10 Drone disinfecting a neighborhood. Source: Economic Daily

Fig. 11 Drone disinfecting a neighborhood. Source: Economic Daily

Fig. 12 Zhongzhihuiyun team carrying out monitoring flights around Deqing City

GIS companies and institutions

Apart from their expertise, GIS companies have also provided a helping hand to those affected by the epidemic. China’s Ministry of Natural Resources reported that:

Organizations outside China

Outside China, Geoinformation Technology companies have also been involved in the epidemic fight. Here are some examples;

In one word, Geospatial information technology is able to greatly contribute to the fight against COVID-19.


©2020 FIG