A SCOTS company has developed a programme using widely available data to identify “hidden vulnerable” communities across the country to allow authorities to target initiatives to help them.

Astrosat established Isolation Plus two years ago through funding from the UK and European space agencies, when the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically changed everyone’s way of life.

It worked with more than a dozen charities across Scotland while developing it and updating data that could help them identify these hidden communities, creating a technology “that could back a community-wide endeavour”.

Now, as society adapts to the post-Covid way of life, Astrosat said the communities most at risk of suffering from the pandemic’s long-term impacts are those who are unknown to healthcare services, local authorities or voluntary organisations – the “hidden vulnerable” – who are just one step away from suddenly finding themselves in need of help.

READ MORE: Scottish cities top list of UK's most innovative places

The company, which is based in Musselburgh, is now rolling out Isolation Plus, which can be viewed on its data visualisation and analysis platform called ORBIS, which was co-funded by Scottish Enterprise.

It provides what is described as “actionable intelligence” to bodies which can make changes that impact public policy and channel funding to specific areas.

The National: A snapshot from the Isolation Plus platform highlighting levels of social isolation in Edinburgh. Picture: AstrosatA snapshot from the Isolation Plus platform highlighting levels of social isolation in Edinburgh. Picture: Astrosat

Steven Lee, Astrosat’s CEO, told his network on the LinkedIn platform the company could not stand by and do nothing and would make their fuel poverty mapping system available for free to charities and voluntary organisations.

“Our most vulnerable – and in fact potentially most of us – are in trouble,” he said.

“Coming out of a terrible few years for health and wellbeing it is shocking that this hits now.

“I’ll be asking for help from my network … to connect us to the community so they can use our data and insights, to at least try and help solve this pandemic of social immobility.”

Astrosat has previously run projects to tackle illegal deforestation and encourage reforestation in Guatemala, track typhoons in Vietnam, as well as that with the ESA to tackle poverty.

READ MORE: Data from space show fuel poverty levels across Scotland

“We combined space data, thermal imagery, historical images about building construction and building age and so on, in order to figure out where there was more likelihood of people being fuel poor,” product development and innovation analyst Andrew Fournet told The National.

Combining that with data such as the Index of Multiple Deprivation, can give a level of detail to less than 100 households which can be identified as being in fuel poverty.

Isolation Plus uses freely available government data, ground and space data, to identify areas where there are people with long-term health issues, disabilities, or living alone, as well as access to a GP, or transport.

Fournet added that using space data could even help with people’s mental health: “If you don't have a park around the corner from your house, to go on for a walk or something like that, it might be more difficult for you to deal with mental health issues … so we made a green space access index.

“We made an algorithm that tells us for residential areas, how close you are to a park and if you're within 1km from a pack then you get a better score.

“Every time I see this kind of stuff, it just blows my mind.”