3D visualisation industry catalyst Nextspace is leading an initiative to build a ‘Visual City’ platform that could unite the data held by the eight councils merging into the Auckland Super City and make this data more accessible for communities and governance.
The proposed ‘Visual City’ system would act as an electronic clearinghouse for legacy council data - such as maps, plans, resource consents, 3D models, transport routes, historical records and photographs – and present them visually over a 3D map of the Auckland region or local neighbourhoods. This comprehensive city model would show data in context and provide links to further details and databases.
The system would provide a united operational platform for the new Super City and transition agency to make more informed and efficient policy decisions. As well as integrating relevant data from all eight legacy councils, it presents complex, interrelated information about communities in an easier to comprehend and personalised format.
The public can interact by adding their own information, ideas and community feedback directly into in the virtual city model. Useful innovative applications can be built using the publicly available data from Visual City. Home owners could assess the impact proposed developments or roads would have on their properties, architects could submit 3D models as part of the consent process, communities could have more meaningful consultation, historical and cultural records of places could be captured, and city councillors could make better evidence-based decisions.
With the increasing complexity of cities and the rapid growth in information and live data feeds, such a digital infrastructure will become increasingly necessary. By 2030 over 50% of New Zealanders are expected to be Aucklanders, and the Super City will face significant challenges managing, integrating and personalising all this data.
Richard Simpson, Nextspace Business Development Director, says Visual City is an opportunity to inform the Super City transition process and raise our literacy of the places we live in, not just streamline existing ways of doing things.
“City Councils are awash with data. Much of it is unstructured but most of it has an inherent association with ‘place’. The key to taking advantage of all this information is to make sense of it – presenting the raw data visually in the context of the city we live in. What is required is to take the council information which has been catalogued in a document-centric manner, and present it in a more accessible and meaningful place-centric ways,” says Simpson.
“The current amalgamation of Auckland is the perfect opportunity for New Zealand to invest in building this digital infrastructure.”
There may be economic as well as governance benefits. “Throughout the world there are 4000 cities larger than the Auckland Super City, so there is a tremendous economic opportunity for New Zealand Inc to add value to the Visual City platform and take it to the world. New Zealand is already home to a cluster of organisations with world-leading 3D and spatial data technologies. This would create new employment opportunities for digital content providers, software developers, university researchers, product manufacturers, and design professionals.”
The technology to view large maps or 3D models of cities is increasingly commonplace. A popular example is the freely-available Google Earth software which can show 3D views of cities and buildings with links to local information. However, the challenge is to provide the infrastructure to manage official data so it can be made available in this way. In addition, technologies like GPS receivers in mobile phones and RFID tags are making it easier to link information and photos to specific places.
The Visual City system is based on New Zealand-developed technology proven internationally by large enterprises to provide the necessary scalability, reliability and security measures.
Nextspace is a 3D technology developer and industry catalyst that creates better ways to communicate and collaborate. These 3D solutions are interactive, engaging, easy-to-use and integrated with automated business processes.
Nextspace brings together companies, universities, research organisations, educators and government agencies; with unique visualisation and collaboration technology; and its own expertise to create an internationally competitive cluster.
Nextspace was established with Government backing to provide New Zealand businesses with access to this unique IP to enhance their international competitiveness, and is owned by a not-for-profit trust.