In order for a risk assessment to deliver sensible results, exposure in the concerned area must be known or at least estimated in a reliable manner. Exposure estimation, though, may be tricky, especially in urban areas, where large-scale surveying is generally expensive and
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In order for a risk assessment to deliver sensible results, exposure in the concerned area must be known or at least estimated in a reliable manner. Exposure estimation, though, may be tricky, especially in urban areas, where large-scale surveying is generally expensive and impractical; yet, it is in urban areas that most assets are at stake when a disaster strikes. Authoritative sources such as cadastral data and business records may not be readily accessible to private stakeholders such as insurance companies; airborne and especially satellite-based Earth-Observation data obviously cannot retrieve all relevant pieces of information. Recently, a growing interest is recorded in the exploitation of street-level pictures, procured either through crowdsourcing or through specialized services like Google Street View. Pictures of building facades convey a great amount of information, but their interpretation is complex. Recently, however, smarter image analysis methods based on deep learning started appearing in literature, made possible by the increasing availability of computational power. In this paper, we leverage such methods to design a system for large-scale, systematic scanning of street-level pictures intended to map floor numbers in urban buildings. Although quite simple, this piece of information is a relevant exposure proxy in risk assessment. In the proposed system, a series of georeferenced images are automatically retrieved from the repository where they sit. A tailored deep learning net is first trained on sample images tagged through visual interpretation, and then systematically applied to the entire retrieved dataset. A specific algorithm allows attaching “number of floors” tags to the correct building in a dedicated GIS (Geographic Information System) layer, which is finally output by the system as an “exposure proxy” layer.