This collection of nine papers, first presented in more summary form at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Association of Geographic Information Laboratories in Europe, demonstrates the continuing drive amongst the European geo-research community to develop more analytical and predictive tools for monitoring, modeling and managing our urbanised society. The papers cluster around two broad themes: the urban environment and natural hazards/emergency response. This focus reflects themes that were the emphasis of the very first AGILE Conference held 15 years ago at the ITC in Enschede, The Netherlands. Ian Masser (1999) a founding AGILE Council Member describes the themes for that 1998 inaugural AGILE Conference as: – Dynamic modeling of spatial processes, – Management of data quality, – Geographic information infrastructures, and – Computational aspects of interoperability. These continuing themes over the years demonstrate not the failure of the geo-community to make progress but rather the magnitude of the challenge posed by the ever-increasing complexity and pressures associated with an urbanised and technologically driven society. The means for data collection become ever more varied and precise. The growth in volunteered data from the mobile smartphones that nearly all of us now carry, together with the social media phenomena such as Twitter and Facebook, increases the richness, citizen focus and immediacy of the data available. At the same time the mobile-internet enabled society demands ever more precise, rich and responsive services. The challenge of having better tools for analysing needs, modeling solutions, predicting outcomes and deploying services is now greater rather than less than was the case 15 years ago. The papers in this special edition make an inevitably limited but nevertheless important contribution to addressing these issues.
Mike JACKSON, Danny VANDENBROUCKE