Machines for living: building cities using 3D digital models

As they plan for the future, cities can take advantage of 3D digital models to help improve efficiency, security, public services and energy use, says Frederic Dot at Dassault Systèmes

By Guest on 02 June 2015
Machines for living: building cities using 3D digital models

This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows

By 2020, 70% of the world’s population will be city dwellers. Existing cities will grow and many new ones will be built. In China alone, city living has risen from 13% in 1950 to more than 40% today. That figure is expected to rise to 60% in another 15 years. Worldwide, around 125,000 people move to cities every day.

Cities need to plan for the future and Dassault Systèmes is working with many of them, deploying technology to create and evolve 3D digital city models. These are used as a central reference point for local government, urban planners, architects and citizens. 3D models help them define the future of cites based on ‘what if’ scenarios around services such as heath provision, mobility, security and energy. Simulating cities and their services means they can be considered as whole, interrelated entities. This new perspective integrates formerly disparate departments, making them better informed, more efficient and able to visualise the future with greater accuracy.

With political, financial and security consequences at stake, there is a growing information disjunction within and between city administrators. Access to information via a 3D city model efficiently solves this problem by keeping people in synch with one another. In the past, a great deal of technology has been used to help run city departments, but unfortunately this has often led to greater complexity. The problem lies in the separate information stores, or silos, of data that inevitably arise when more than one computer system is deployed by an organisation. Diverse systems struggle to access or read each other’s data, crucial decisions are often based on out of date, incomplete and disjointed information. This can lead to wrong choices being made.

Today, cities are deploying technology from aerospace and other highly efficient industries such as F1 motor racing in a drive to improve services, promote universal access to information and accurately envision future performance. Starting with a blank page, new cities can plan and operate using the same software that fosters industrial and commercial innovation through simulation. Existing cities can incorporate this technology in new projects. For example, Dassault Systèmes is currently working with the Italian government to help the county’s Ministry of Commerce and Finance streamline its internal and external information services. Using 3DEXPERIENCE technology as a platform, other projects, and any type of information, can be added over time to build a big 3D picture that is comprehensible and usable by all.

It is possible to make the mass of data that cities generate more useful and effective for security and energy planning purposes through 3D visualisation. Managing data and using it to service city needs is possible by building layers of information around a digital 3D city model that can be accessed by all stakeholders.

Integrating a city’s information means that efficiencies can be introduced because people are aware of each other’s work and can organise departments and utility planning based on current information and needs. Unifying and co-ordinating systems around a 3D digital model encourages fresh ideas; people can more fully understand the impact of their decisions and, by having access to appropriate layers of information, they can communicate them universally.

Progressive cities are able to commit their work, including 3D digital models of buildings and services, to a unified platform and to build up an increasingly detailed services model of the city when new projects are added. As more users contribute information, a ‘time machine’ historic model will emerge. Historic situations become viewable while the progress of current work can be accurately recorded and traced. This visibility means the mistakes of the past can be avoided and routes to good decisions made because the unified platform helps people better understand the current situation and that of their predecessors.

This type of system is used by major aircraft manufacturers, power plant operators, pharmaceutical, food and consumer product companies to ensure compliance. It also leads to accurate record keeping and ensures that intellectual property is retained.

Building up knowledge into a single 3D digital model that can grow over time to encompass any aspect of the city helps make complexity visible and therefore understandable. Having historic data readily available means that fewer research projects and reports need to be generated to examine the past. That saves time and allows projects to progress, knowing that all stakeholders are aware of the consequence of their decisions.

Cities thrive on creativity. To become vibrant exciting places to live and work, cities need to accommodate the human urge for spontaneous creativity. Introducing order where it is needed and encouraging creativity within an efficient secure framework can help avoid chaos and lead to the natural, respectful expressions that give a city its soul.

Frederic Dot is global industry development director at Dassault Systèmes

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