Smart Cities and Mobile Mapping

Learn how the city of Vienna took advantage of Mobile Mapping to improve its Smarty City digital service for citizens and companies.

19 October 2020, by Mario Sabatino Riontino

Figure 1: Ringstrasse, Vienna. Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash
Figure 1: Ringstrasse, Vienna. Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash


For the first time in history, more people are living in cities than in rural areas, a trend that is accelerating particularly thanks to China and India. In fact, the UN predicts that 68% of the world’s population will live in an urban area by 2050. Major changes will have to occur in the management and delivery of public services to accommodate this unprecedented growth. Cities will have to take advantage of digital technologies such as cloud computing, AI, 5G, robots and drones, just to name a few.

Enhance Smart Cities with data: Street-level imagery

One of the key components upon which virtually all of the Smart City services will be based is dynamic and up-to-date street-level data, allowing cities to monitor and improve:

  1. Road and urban planning
  2. Traffic and disaster management
  3. Decrease in pollution
  4. Community participation

The task of an administration is to create a legal and organizational framework for these interests and needs. In doing so, the usability of public space must be maintained, freely accessible areas secured, and the safety and fluidity of traffic guaranteed.

Figure 2: Street-level image from the city of Amsterdam. Source ©Trimble
Figure 2: Street-level image from the city of Amsterdam. Source ©Trimble

Municipal governments are not the only user of this information. Also, these kinds of services allow the private sector to create business value, including construction, ride-sharing, life safety, insurance, advertising, security, and package delivery logistics.

Good case practice: Vienna

Wien gibt Raum“ is a project financed by the City of Vienna to reorganise public space, as well as management structures and activities in the public space. The program, which will run from 2017 to 2022, is a framework for several projects of organizational or technical nature, making this comprehensive approach unique in Europe so far.

The entire city of Vienna was mapped by mobile mapping vehicles. Cornering the mobile mapping campaign, the following outputs were defined:

  • 77 days of data collection
  • 4200km road network (total road network of Vienna)
  • 21 million images
  • ~100 TB data
  • <10 cm spatial accuracy
  • 3m distance between images

The data obtained was geo-referenced, anonymised and made available to the departments of the Vienna City administration in a web-based image data viewer for future local inspections or statements.

Mobile Mapping and Citizens

At the end of August 2017, the media presence of the project started with the goal to proactively inform the Viennese population about the mobile mapping campaign. Multiple radio, TV reports, as well as online and print media reported on the start of the project. These public relations measures were flanked in advance by a targeted involvement of the data protection community to address privacy concerns in advance. It was so successful that no more inquiries were received from the population.

As a public relations measure, the vehicles were marked with "On behalf of the City of Vienna". Also, informative brochures were carried, which are handed out to interested citizens if required.

Nevertheless, people and license plates were completely blurred to protect individuals’ identity and comply with the local data protection law, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Data protection requirements for Cities

As we extensively describe in this article, cities and municipalities are subject to data protection compliance (like the GDPR), so technical and legal requirements need to be matched. For example, in the tender from the city of Vienna, specific requirements were established for winning the tender:

  • Blurring faces and license plates
  • Automated Anonymization using Deep Learning
  • 99% detection rate
  • No systematic errors
  • A low number of false detections (false positives)

Furthermore, it is crucial to define accurately the relationship between the data controller (e.g. municipality) and each data processor involved (e.g. mapping company, anonymization supplier, etc.). According to the GDPR and internal rules, the data controller needs to require the following and many more agreements and documents from each data processor:

  • Data Processing Agreement: also known as DPA, is a contract where the data controller says what the data processor (any third-party that processes the data) is allowed or not to do with the data.
  • Technical & Organizational Measures (TOM): A list of measures where the data processor ensures data protection and safety in their processes and facilities.
  • Data Processing Register: A register where the data processor documents how data is processed.

Smart Cities of the Future

Virtually every city, large and small, has begun laying the groundwork for the types of services and kinds of environments that will be required to satisfy the needs of rapidly growing urban populations around the world.

However, Vienna is not the only city that is focusing on mapping services for its citizens. Amsterdam boosts efficiency and access to spatial data through 360-degree geo-referenced images and aerial imagery to deliver more precise and detailed overview of the city’s land, buildings, and infrastructure.

Singapore is one of the most advanced cities/states in terms of implementing smart city initiatives. Estimates show that they spent nearly US$1 billion in 2019, increasing this budget up to 20% by the end of 2020.

In Summary

  • Urban centres are facing an unprecedented growth. New technologies are playing a crucial role to improve the management and delivery of public services.
  • Street-level data collected with mobile mapping and drones are among the most important pieces of information to optimize urban planning, traffic management and decreased levels of pollution.
  • Vienna is a virtuous example in Europe. Through its Mobile Mapping campaign, they created a web-based image data viewer for the Vienna City administration.
  • As required by the GDPR, street-level imagery was anonymized using AI-based image blurring.
  • Every large and small city should take advantage of street-level imagery to optimize its service to the citizens. Vienna (Europe) and Singapore (Asia) are among the precursors of these technologies.

About Celantur

Celantur offers fully-automated anonymization for images & videos to comply with privacy laws. Our technology automatically detects the objects to be anonymized and blurs them.

Data protection is our core business. That's why, to operate as a data processor, we have robust measures in place to comply with the GDPR and other data protection laws:

Images are processed in GDPR-certified data centres in the European Union External Data Protection Officer at service All data and storage devices are encrypted Annual Data Protection Audit Up-to-date Documentation: Technical and Organizational Measures ("TOMs"), Records of Processing Activities and Data Processing Agreement

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