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July 8, 2015updated 28 Jul 2021 3:18pm

Planners are building a 3d computer model of the whole of Singapore

By Kat Houston

Singapore is often an early adopter of the latest urban technologies: you try accommodating 5m people in a crowded space in humid climate without them.

Now it’s at it again: the city government is teaming up with French software firm Dassault Systèmes, a 3d design specialist, to come up with some proprietary software that’ll help it plan for its growing population.

Launched in December 2014, “Virtual Singapore” combines visualisation techniques with a huge pile of data. Using Dassault Systèmes’s “3DExperienceCity” software, it’ll produce a dynamic, 3D digital model of the entire city state, which its planners and other municipal staff can then experiment upon. The whole thing should be up and running by 2018.

Here’s how it works. “Virtual Singapore” begins by collating real time data – demographic, geospatial, topological, and so forth – from a multitude of public agencies into a single model: transport data showing how people move about the city; landscape data from the Singapore Land Authority, collected using laser-scanning technology from low-flying planes; that sort of thing.

All these stakeholders will then be able to access the resulting 3D computer model, and analyse the city at will: everything from the size of a building to the number of cars a car park can hold.

Once the model is complete, users will be able to try out particular interventions, to see what’s likely to happen. They’ll be able to test what impact a new skyscraper would have on travel patterns or the local microclimate; what redirecting a bus route would do for local traffic; how a property development will change the way people move around the city.

In other words, they’ll be able to test how effective their plans will be, without all the bother of spending millions of dollars to watch things fail. If it works as well as its creators claim, Virtual Singapore will allow the city to make more educated decisions with regards to everything from environmental management, to security, to infrastructure.

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A number of other places are already using variants of this technology. One project conducted by Matthew Claudel, a researcher at MIT SENSEable City Lab, was a “trash tag”, in which researchers tagged garbage in one location, then watched how it spread around the US. Alarmingly it didn’t stop moving for the next two months, travelling as far as California to Chicago and back, or over to Florida.

Here’s a video of Virtual Singapore in action:

Kat Houston is web editor at Design Curial.

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