What will promote model-based digital realities from nice-to-have to need-to-have?

by Matt Ball on February 3, 2012

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This may be a perennial question, as certainly the rise and promise of universal 3D geovisualization keeps coming in waves that are similar to the promise of location-based services. With each wave, we all ride the crest, and perhaps a few move toward the ongoing capture and visualization of our geographies beyond just a project scope. It’s an evolution that is plagued by fits and starts, with declarations of breakout years continuing to fall a bit short of reality.
With each wave of adoption, we see the technology get more compelling in terms of the sophistication of the visualizations and models. The technology to capture reality also advances along, making it faster and cheaper to capture models with each passing year. It’s an incremental adoption cycle that seems to limp along, heavily dependent upon strong financial times. Examining the drivers, perhaps there are some breakthroughs ahead that will cement the need for model-based digital realities, extending the technology into a necessary approach rather than just an add-on.
Increased Competition
The current marketplace has seen a great deal of consolidation, with increasingly competent alignments of software and hardware companies that add layers of measurement and monitoring, as well as increasing realism. The move toward models that reflect and tune to the environment, and a proliferation of sensor inputs to inform models, are providing whole new opportunities. With these new opportunities come new levels of competition.
While this new modeling and sensing market is much broader than just the traditional architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) market, the value of the AEC market alone speaks to the payoff, with billions allocated annually on a global scale for AEC software and services. Aligned as an additional opportunity are the emerging markets for smart cities filled with networks of intelligent infrastructure. Concurrent with these opportunities are requirements for blended capabilities between GIS, CAD and BIM software suites, where vendors are combining functionality in solution sets. With the increased competition will come innovation to drive down cost and time barriers for creating digital realities.
Integrated Analysis and Simulation
Among the market differentiators that will be spurred by increased competition are the integration of simulation and analysis capabilities with digital models. Much of this integration is being addressed toward issues of green design, where metrics of energy efficiency and neighborhood development are integrated early into planning, with realistic simulations and assessments of environmental impacts and costs savings.
Increasingly, these metrics of performance will be mandated into form-based building codes, where the software’s ability to conceptually design toward specific parameters will really shine. The 3D model will become increasingly important here as well, with full dimensions needed to adequately assess such factors as viewsheds, noise mapping, and mobility modeling. The move is toward not just modeling buildings, but modeling neighborhoods and even cities with livability in mind.
Compelling Needs
The ability to model more complex interactions in our urban settings comes at a time where we need to rethink how we do things. The increasing scarcity of resources, and the ability for the city to conserve resources, means that the urban move is on. China alone will move more than 350 million into cities in the next 30 years.
With this rapid progression comes the opportunity to apply new ways of thinking. At Davos this past week an increasing importance was placed on the energy, water, food security nexus where the tightly linked connections are leading to new policy approaches that ditch separate agendas for these drivers. In the same way that we’re integrating policy, we need to integrate our models for better understanding of how our local changes impact our regions, our countries and the world.
The idea that whenever we build a building, we build prototypes, is simply not sustainable. The need to consume less, and improve whole cities, places a new importance on doing things right the first time. The urgency to do so, with more mandates guiding development, will require a new software modeling approach that will be fed by increasing inputs from systems and sensors. Detailed model-based digital realities will be the central point for integration of objectives and metrics for increased collaboration and for better communication among all stakeholders.

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Rob Carroll February 3, 2012 at 8:42 am

3D City models, or what Matt calls 3D geovisualization, need something to move to the next step in product adoption. This article reminded me of the heady 90s and Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm and the challenges at that time to mature enterprise GIS.

The basic hurdle for 3D City models to move through the Early Adopter phase to Early Majority on Roger’s technology adoption model, is really the need to fulfill different expectations that pragmatists (Early Majority) have for the technology than that of the current visionary users (Early Adopters). The challenge comes down to what is the market’s pain-point that 3D City models solve, how to best consume/distribute them, and at what cost.

While Matt hits on a few pain points in his article…
“The ability to model more complex interactions in our urban settings comes at a time where we need to rethink how we do things. The increasing scarcity of resources, and the ability for the city to conserve resources, means that the urban move is on.”
… it is the suppliers of 3D City model technologies that need to develop solutions to fill this void of rethinking how we do things. The organizations that are able to answer this rethinking are the future market leaders.

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