Smartpop (Spatial planning for the growth of the Walloon population and, specifically, in Liège to create Smart Cities)

About the project

The urban space concentrates the population, as well as risks related to densification and the impermeabilisation of soils (pollution, heat, floods, etc.). SmartPop aims to develop operational prediction tools so that the ISSeP improves its analysis of health and environmental risks related to urbanisation. By developing the collaboration with the Vito research centre and the Free University of Brussels (sponsor of the PhD), the mapping methods for the land occupation, population disaggregation and the modelling of both will be adapted to Walloon circumstances and data. This project makes use of new acquisitions and existing data in the Walloon region (satellite data, LIDAR in association with geographic information system data). SmartPop offers two integrated scales: 1ha for Wallonia and a more detailed approach at the local level (Liège). For the city of Liège, these tools will be used to respond to the strategic Smart City objectives. Regional land development must include these prospective spatial and demographic concepts for the whole of Wallonia. The PhD will enable the scientific assessment of the results. The products will be made available and presented on the Walloon geoportal and in the state of the environment. The results of these analyses will be used in health risk (SIGENSA) and air pollution analysis missions (PMLab) from both departments and will improve the tools and visibility of the ISSeP and Wallonia.


Constructing the Smart Cities of tomorrow is a challenge for regional and local public authorities. When the population is clustered in a restricted urban space, the extension of the impermeable surfaces (roads, buildings, car parks, etc.) increases the risks of heat (“urban heat island”), flooding, waste collection, mobility and pollution for the population residing there and the territory as a whole.  The concentration of the population represents a target as well as a source of risk (source-transfer-target model). The study of these risks requires geolocalised data on the density of the population potentially affected. Understanding the temporal evolution of these health risks requires models predicting the evolution of urbanised surfaces and the population in these zones.

SmartPOP proposes disaggregating and predicting the population based on land occupation. The demographic statistics in statistical sectors will be, firstly, disaggregated or redistributed spatially based on the Walloon land occupation map (COSW). Then, and at the scale of the city of Liège, other geographical data such as the LIDAR, aerial photos, land registry data and GSM data will increase the spatial precision of the COSW. Finally, land use and the population will be modelled over time to reflect the spatial strategy of a “smart city”.

Maps showing the time evolution of population density and land occupation are support tools for decision-makers (Walloon administration – SPW – and the city of Liège). Developing models predicting the evolution of land occupation and population density meets objectives concerning the optimisation of natural resources, land and territory use strategy. At the regional level, Smartpop proposes an integrated spatial approach between Wallonia, Brussels, and Flanders to avoid the border effects which do not exist in risk propagation. In terms of the Liège test zone, the approach will be carried out on a smaller scale to meet the city’s strategic needs. For the ISSeP, these products will be integrated in our risk models linked to mining waste management facilities (IGDRisk), air quality (PMLab), and diffuse pollution (SIGENSA).

Scientific approach

For sustainable management of the environment, resources, and the territory, we need to know precisely where and when the population is changing. The analysis of the risks facing the population requires these two parameters. Two levels and two studies are planned: Wallonia as a whole (Area of Interest Wallonia (AOIW) and the city of Liège specifically (AOIL). SmartPop proposes a three-stage methodology to improve the risk models developed by the ISSeP for the administration.

  • The first stage consists of developing a disaggregation algorithm for demographic statistics on the COSW. (AOIW)
  • The second stage will include aerial, satellite, and similar data to improve the COSW on the urban test zone to develop an operational methodology. The disaggregation algorithm will be adapted to this improved COSW. (AOIL)
  • The third stage will comprise the development of a land occupation simulation model over time for Wallonia. The disaggregation algorithm will also be adapted to simulate population density. (AOIW)


The following reports will be provided to users involved and the maps will be available from geo-services or web platforms:

  • Population disaggregation algorithm and population density maps (AOIW).
  • Method for improving land occupation and use (AOIL).
  • Validation of processes based on data from the population register (AOIL) (specific data for the city of Liège)
  • Model showing the evolution of land occupation for scenarios for 2010-2050 (AOIW)

Risk models developed at the ISSeP will integrate population maps to improve their results.

The various work packages are integrated as follows (see Gantt diagram):

  • WP1: project management and coordination (ISSeP): Planning, coordination, meeting organisation and reporting tasks will be carried out by the ISSeP. Specifically, the ISSeP will develop its network of contacts at the level of the SPW for environment (DEMNA, DRCE, GIS department) and land use planning (DGO4) and links with the city of Liège’s services.
  • WP2: improvement of land occupation and use (ISSeP/ULB): Development of a specific and reproducible approach for updating the land occupation map by optimising the use of airborne (orthophotos, LIDAR), satellite (Pleiades) and ancillary data (GSM, PICC, IGN, Pds, etc.) in an object-oriented land use classification. The analysis of the quality of the object-oriented classification and the method will be analysed using the specific data available to the city of Liège.
  • WP3: Population density map (ISSeP/Vito): By adopting the dasymetric algorithms developed by Vito, a disaggregation procedure for demographic statistics (provided by statistical sectors) using a regular grid according to land use categories will be developed and applied to the Walloon region based on the COSW2007 and more specific data for residential areas when this exists (PICC).
  • WP4: Modelling of soil use (Vito/ISSeP): The multi-agent model using cellular automata will be adapted and supplied by existing data for Wallonia to simulate the evolution of land use and the population. This model includes all three models representing regional dynamics (population, employment, economic activities), spatial constraints (sector plan, natural zones, topography, soil, roads) and interactions based on 100x100m cells. Competition rules between uses are established at the cell level.
  • WP5: An interaction plan with users to develop, on request, products derived from the models (resources distribution statistics, peri-urbanisation maps, landscape fragmentation, etc.). The assessment of web interfaces, geoservices provided by the geoportal, presentations, and publications form part of SmartPop’s objectives. There is a dedicated budget.