Enabling the public sector to save money, innovate and make more effective policy decisions by using space technology and data


About Crisis Hack

Back in March 2017, Britain's pioneering location-data lab, the Geovation Hub, launched CrisisHack 2017: a three-day hack event exploring how geospatial technology could be applied to improve natural disaster response.

Following on from this success, planning for CrisisHack2018 soon got underway. The launch briefing event took place on 9 April, with the main event running from 26-28 April 2018 at the Urban Innovation Centre in London.

The hack was run in partnership between the:

  • Geovation Hub
  • Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)
  • UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Programme (SSGP)
  • Gather Hub
  • IBM

CrisisHack2018 included two user-led challenges – one a global challenge which focused on the urban sanitation crisis in developing nations, and one on a national level which focused on improved flood response in the UK.

The SSGP Challenge

SSGP’s participation in CrisisHack2018 aimed to improve awareness and increase the uptake of existing space data and services at a local and national level, especially in relation to the data which is made available to the UK Government to see what can be done to optimise its use.

As well as co-ordinating the national challenge, working with the Environment Agency, SSGP also secured the use of legacy data provided by the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters, which was used during the severe floods experienced in winter 2013/14.

Datasets for the hackathon were kindly made available by:

  • Airbus Defence and Space
  • Canadian Space Agency; Global Affairs Canada and Maxar Technologies Ltd
  • Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) – the French Space Agency

The UK challenge was set by Geomatics Team in the Environment Agency (EA) and their user needs, focused on flood outline mapping and in particular how to improve the water / non-water identification in both urban and rural environments

On the Day – Innovation in Action

CrisisHack2018 was attended by approximately 20 people. There were 6 participating teams and 5 of these focused on the UK Flooding challenge. Team sizes ranged from 1 to 6 people.

Hackers came from a diverse set of backgrounds from the public, private and NGO sectors, including domain experts, engineers, web developers, hydrologists, geospatial analysts and modellers. Some of them has used earth observation data previously and some of them were exploring this type of data for the first time.

The innovative solutions were very diverse. The winners, CCHydrodynamics, impressed the judges with their application Risk Assessment Planning for Incidents and Disasters (RAPID) based on spatial portfolio risk analysis, which incorporated SPOT-5 data alongside other geospatial datasets. The solution was aimed at transforming various complex data sources into simple information that emergency responders and inspectors can use on the ground.

The runners-up, a team of five individuals who formed a team (Poober!) during the hack, had a stab at tackling the urban sanitation crisis, creating an agile model for capturing better data sets whilst also improving sanitation management.

Other solutions focused on:

  • Sharing platforms for crowdsourced information – by dedicated hacker David
  • Real-time flood forecasting incorporating weather data and earth observation data by the academia (Loughborough University) /industry (SSTL) collaboration – Team Floodcaster
  • Improving the identification of water / non-water extent combined with relevant population data by a team from the MOD – JFIG/42 Engineer Regiment
  • Science-based flood risk assessment model by DSTL team named ‘It’s pouring in Goring!’

The judging panel, which included SSGP, Oxfam, UCL, Geovation Hub and the EA, was highly impressed by the range of teams and new ideas, and have made a number of new connections to ensure those ideas are developed.

Read more about the impressions on the winning team