Rolf de By


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1990 …2023

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Personal profile

Personal profile

I obtained my secondary school diploma ('Atheneum-B') in 1978, with emphasis on mathematics, physics and foreign languages. Subsequently pursued an engineering (MSc.) degree ('ir.') in Applied Mathematics from Twente University. Emphasis on discrete mathematics and computer science, which at first was not yet a full-fledged department. MSc topic was on the use of graph theory to represent (causal) knowledge, thesis in 1985.

Continued first as a research assistant at the Computer Science department, Twente University, under Peter Apers in the field of database design. Became assistant professor there in 1989. PhD thesis on formal methods of database design in 1991. Continued assistant professorship in same group until 1996.

Joined ITC as an associate professor in Spatial Information Theory and Applied Computer Science (in division by that name) in 1996, and have held that position until today, though now in GIP department (see below). Temporarily replaced full professor of division between January 2002 and July 2003, until formation of GeoInformation Processing (GIP) Department.

Research interests

Activities in research

The main characteristic of my research interests is that I aim to improve my understanding of how the art in computer science can be turned into technique, in the domain of applications of spatial databases and GIS technology (in most other fields of life, I prefer art over technique). I enjoy trying to improve existing techniques (of spatial data handling in the wide sense) so that they become more elegant, robust, trustworthy, more repeatable, more generic, and easier to understand and apply. Preferably all of that.

The main topics of research that I have been involved in the past are:

  • databases for biodiversity data (see refs with Campos dos Santos)
  • database support for moving object data (see refs with Meratnia)
  • database support for spatial vague objects (see refs with Dilo)

Since early 2007, I am the theme leader for the field of Spatial Data Infrastructure - Technology, and as such collaborate with the KLM flying squad: Köbben, Lemmens and Morales. Their areas are, respectively, Web GIS, Advanced Geoservices, SDI Architecture and Design. Barring jokes, Ellen-Wien Augustijn, Wim Bakker and Bas Retsios (in part) are also on the team.

Our theme team as a whole addresses the methods and techniques that allow our customer organisation to play a role in the SDI arena, helping them to design and implement information systems in which spatial data plays an important role and that have spatial information sharing with third parties as an important ambition. Thus, we study design methods, programming paradigms and geo-software packages, especially in the open source domain, that can help out in achieving such ambitions.


Activities in education

Previously, at Twente University I taught various subjects in Computer Science, to various kinds of students, mostly in computer science, occasionally from other departments. Topics covered included Databases, Information Systems, Formal Software Engineering and Computer Programming.

During the first few years at ITC much effort was invested in developing new materials, amongst others in programming, computer networks, databases, and some GIS-related topics. I also taught on most of these subjects.

An important effort of courseware development in which I have been involved is the production of the 'Principles of Geographic Information Systems' book, which is the basis of one of the core modules in all of ITC's educational programmes. I also helped out with the publication of another core module book, 'Principles of Remote Sensing'.

Nowadays, most of my teaching time goes to teaching in the Geoinformatics programme, and to some extent also the Geoinformation Management/Land Administration programme. My modules are:

  • the Principles of Databases module (master and MSc levels of GFM/GIMLA programmes)
  • the Spatial Data Modelling module (master level GFM)
  • the Design and Implementation of Spatial Databases (MSc level)
  • modules related to Basic Research Skills and Student Research Projects

and derived from that:

  • supervision of Master and MSc students in their final projects


Activities in capacity development

I am also currently the portfolio manager for projects of the GIP department, and as such am the first port of call when external project opportunities for the department arise. A substantial amount of my time goes into acquisition, proposal writing, and otherwise accommodating project definitions for the department.

There are two larger projects in which I am currently active as an ITC consultant. But these activities actually change more rapidly than what I can maintain in this resume page. The two larger projects are the NGIC project with the Ministry of Environment of Mongolia, and an information system development project with the Institute for Rural Development Planning in Dodoma, Tanzania.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Artificial Intelligence Expert

  • Data Mining, Process Mining and Search
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Geo Sciences
  • Mobility and Transport
  • Ethical Dimensions of AI
  • Societal Context of AI


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