Inventory Capture

IDCT in a nutshell

  • Open source suite of tools to generate information and models on ‘inventory’, from a) remote sensing b) field observations:

    o Building Data Capture application for Android phone or tablet
    o Windows tool for field data collection and management
    o Tool to develop homogeneous exposure datasets
    o QuantumGIS plug-in to extract building footprints from satellite imagery
    o Paper forms for building inventory capture
  • In addition to the software tools there are also protocols or guidelines that help in using tools for extracting data from remote sensing (satellite and other) images
  • The tools can be used for development of exposure datasets and models at the sub-national level, for exposure dataset development per-building and to capture earthquake consequences per-building
  • The tools are tailored to various operating systems and skill levels and are supported by user guides

Who developed the tools?

A pool of international experts working at the interface of inventory and damage data development, from both a research and an operational standpoint worked together on these tools. ImageCat in the person of John Bevington was coordinating the project, working with colleagues Charlie Huyk, Alessandro Vicini, Zheng-hui Hu and Ron Eguchi. Partnering organisations were Fabio dell’Acqua (University of Pavia), Colm Jordan (BGS), Jeremy Morley (University of Nottingham), Stefano Parolai, Mark Wieland and Massimilliano Pittore (GFZ), Charles Scawthorn (SPA Risk), Robin Spence and Roxane Foulser-Pigott (CAR Ltd), and Max Wyss (Wapmerr). An advisory committee consisting of Fumio Yamazaki (Chiba University), Rowan Douglas (Willis), Ed Parsons (Google), HannesTaubenboeck (DLR) and Friedemann Wenzel (KIT) verified quality standards.

Ticinum Aerospace, a spin-off from the University of Pavia, has generously updated BREC4GEM to work with QGIS version 2.x as a contribution to the shared goal of risk assessment and mitigation. The ported BREC4GEM tools will allow QGIS 2.x users to continue using the BREC4GEM plugin to extract risk-related information from 'large-scale' Earth-Observation data.

How are they of relevance?

  • These tools are of major importance to update and improve the Global Exposure Database and the Global Earthquake Consequences Database, so they continue to increase in value.
  • The mobile apps directly support crowdsourcing. They facilitate various types of users to combine and share their knowledge on buildings, which is particularly important immediately after an earthquake to understand the damage and to define a plan for rescue and later reconstruction.
  • The tools can combine remote sensing imagery with GEM data and data from users, to develop exposure models as input to advanced risk (loss and damage) modelling with GEM's OpenQuake tools.
  • The tools can furthermore be used as input to a great variety of existing tools and applications used in the risk management and risk reduction, such as for example the InaSAFE tool.


The image depicts how the tools can be used in practice. OpenQuake users will be able to upload information on single buildings that they captured by using mobile apps or paper forms that are based on the GEM Building Taxonomy. Other tools allow users to identify building footprints and add attribute information from remote sensing imagery. They can do so for developing exposure datasets and models or to capture information on consequences in the aftermath of an earthquake. After validation this data can be integrated into the Global Exposure Database or the Global Consequences Database.

Remote Sensing Protocols

Remote sensing allows to obtain information about objects through the analysis of data collected by special instruments that are not in physical contact with the objects. For the elements at risk during earthquakes (people, buildings, infrastructure) there are various methods to obtain the data that is of interest to either estimate risk, or to get an understanding of the damage and loss to these elements after an earthquake.

The OpenQuake platform will not feature any tools that support (use of) remote sensing, since there are already many (open) tools available. Instead it will provide protocols (guidelines) with step-by-step instructions on how to use these tools with remote sensing imagery.

The inventory capture protocols will help users in using existing tools, such as QGIS, GRASS, Google Earth. In addition a new protocol (BREC) has been developed specifically for GEM. The protocols help in the definition of building footprints (photo 1), as well as with extraction of information on urban or non-urban areas and land-use classification. In photo 2 you see an example of the latter, where an area is subdivided into smaller blocks with similar characteristics. This is the basis for developing exposure models and is referred to as developing of ‘mapping schemes’.

Field Observation Tools

GEM Inventory Data Capture Tools (IDCT) created tools to enable users to collect and modify building exposure information, which can be input into the Global Exposure Database and the Global Earthquake Consequences Database. These tools have been developed for devices using Android or Windows operating system and it utilises a map interface to mark survey points, and define a number of attributes about the structural characteristics (taxonomy) and eventual earthquake damage.

1: map interface to locate the building

1: map interface to locate the building

2a: use tablet / smartphone camera to take a picture of the building

2a: use tablet / smartphone camera to take a picture of the building

2b: photo of the building

2b: photo of the building

3: add details to data collection form

3: add details to data collection form


Android Field App
install here

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Windows Field App
download here

Use Cases

Development of exposure models at sub-national or local level

These models serve input to risk (loss and damage) calculations with the OpenQuake Engine. In order to work with the tools, you should possess some prior knowledge on buidling footprints and exposure modelling or collaborate with indidivudals/organisations that have experience and can support you and your work.

Within this context, the GEM Inventory Data Capture Tools (IDCT) created the Spatial Inventory Data Development Tool, which allows users to create exposure models through the combination of ground observations and/or remotely sensed sources, with “mapping schemes” or statistical summaries of construction type, occupancy, era, and story height within “homogenous zones”, or areas with sufficiently similar structure type distribution.

Development of exposure and damage datasets from single building (field) observations

  • You can develop exposure datasets and maps from field observations that clearly indicate what elements (buildings and people) are at risk in a certain area
  • You can develop datasets and maps that indicate the damage after an earthquake

These datasets can - after validation - be input to the Global Exposure Database and Global Consequences Database, or input to a great variety of existing tools out there for loss estimation and risk decisions, such as the InaSAFE tool for example.

Case studies and testing

The tools and protocols were tested at several points in time, to understand how they needed to be improved for actual use.


At the end of the 1st year of the project, a proof-of-concept study was carried out in Indonesia for exposure data(set) development.

The Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIDFR) and the Indonesian Government commissioned a study for the development of buidling exposure models for three regions in Indonesia. ImageCat carried out the study within the scope of GEM. The study benefited from and built on the existing local capacity within Indonesian companies for data collection (Waindo, SpecTerra) and risk modelling (PT Maipark),  and brought together regional and international disaster reduction experts and technology specialists.

An exposure database of about 300.000 buildings was rapidly developed through this effort, primarily focusing on five urban areas inside the three regions: Bali, Lombok, Pacitan, Sunda East and Suda West. Below you can see a diagram that displays the division into building types of the dataset containing 300.000 buildings.


Post-event crowdsourcing proof of concept & development after the Christchurch earthquakes, in collaboration with other organisation.


As part of a larger EEFIT return-mission to L'Aquila, Alessandro Vicini and colleagues tested the field tools for damage assessment.

How can I use the tools?

The tools are downloadable here:

Some of the protocols/guidelines for using and extracting data from remote sensing imagery will can be found here.

For developers

Code of some of the tools can be accessed online or will soon be available:

How can I contribute?

  • We are always interested in receiving feedback from organisations and indidvuals that are planning to test-drive / apply the tools
  • If you have other ideas or questions, feel free to get in touch as well

Contact us through John Bevington: