CityLens—Using Holographic Computing to Decode Our Cities

Funded

Wyndham City Council

Wyndham, Victoria

Project stage

Completed

Timeframe

Start date: 05 January 2018
End date: 02 November 2018

Project value

Australian Government funding:
$160,000
Total:
$323,000

Partners

  • Local government agencies
  • Local community

Focus area

  • City and community planning
  • Innovation and economic development

Project type

  • Community engagement
  • Other

Technology type

  • Internet of Things
  • Augmented/Virtual reality
  • Data Management (Data platform, open data, data privacy and security, blockchains, standards)
  • 3D modeling
  • Online portal

Open data link

Project link

Project summary

CityLens uses holographic technology for urban visualisation, helping stakeholders understand different city scenarios and support decision making.

The aim of the project was to build an immersive holographic, three-dimensional decision support system that uses emerging technologies.

The developed product enables users to upload and view unlimited three-dimensional city models and datasets, leveraging open data platforms (e.g. data.gov.au), to display live smart city data such as traffic, weather, smart bins, pedestrian counters and more.

The immersive experience can be applied to investment attraction, community, education, urban planning, art and design, and much more!

The challenge

Currently, the planning system throughout Australia is extremely analogue with document-based systems being standard practice. We know that numerical analysis, two dimensional blueprints and GIS maps do not always provide the insight that stakeholders and investors require.

The community expects, and city stakeholders need, technology-based solutions that encompass analysis, design, visualisation, communication, and participatory planning.

A completely different suite of powerful, interactive, visual, and data-driven tools would greatly alter how built environment professionals work.

Through the use of mixed reality, the project was able to bring an abstract and technical idea to life allowing a wide range of stakeholders to easily understand and interrogate the urban environment.

Solution

In a first for any government anywhere in the world, Wyndham City used holographic and mixed reality technology to create a revolutionary decision support tool.

The developed software suite provides a seamless, web-based management program and a multi-platform virtual tool that integrates three-dimensional built environment models with overlayed point and vector-based datasets sourced from sensors. The application currently operates on Microsoft HoloLens and HTC Vive with the design interoperable with other future products. The management platform was designed to allow users across the organisation and other government partners to add new datasets, three-dimensional models and even engagement surveys without the need to have coding or development skills.

The dynamic and extendable environment enhances the platforms ability to provide dynamic visualisation, contextuality, improved collaboration, decision making and community engagement. In essence it is the key to converting data into information and intelligence.

Benefits

The use of holographic visualisations to explore urban smart cities is incredibly novel and beneficial. The ability to immerse politicians, staff, citizens and business into a digital environment to explore and understand a city is game changing.

There are a number of key benefits in the approach taken:

  • Staff and other stakeholders thrive on the immersive experience since it allows stakeholders from different backgrounds to understand, engage and discuss city data.
  • New data, both sensor (including real-time data) and three-dimensional can be easily added to the application without the need to modify the codebase
  • The product can be used by any government agency and the control of the data inputs is entirely through a web-front end.

For Wyndham City Council, a key strategic theme is the need to evolve its decision-making processes to be more data driven and transparent. A key component of this aspiration is to enhance the visualisation and interpretation of city data, and the presentation in holographic, immersive form offers tremendous advantages. The ability to simulate future scenarios and mapping of sensors across different city systems through holographic displays is fundamental to our future smart city.

Lessons learned

A project that uses unexplored, greenfield technology is always going to be incredibly complex. Every step was an adventure into the unknown and required agile thinking and intrapreneurial spirit. The creation of holographic mixed reality model used drone imagery, 3D modelling, 3D visual design, live sensor data, 3D tile services and a range of geospatial tools.

  • Projects involving greenfield technologies need to be extensively researched prior to implementation. Wyndham saved considerable time and costs in having a solid grasp on interoperable display formats.
  • The use of agile style project methodology allowed new features and support for multiple platforms that weren’t originally planned for but vastly improved the final product.
  • The legal aspects of the project—contract establishment, execution of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with partner councils—took longer than anticipated. In future more time needs to be allowed for the development of legal documents and partner councils need to be identified/engaged at an earlier stage.
  • We've done our best to future proof the city platform. With minimal effort, different headsets (cheaper and better)—when available—can be easily integrated.
  • The project explored the most exciting part of technology, when it unlocks the art of the possible, when it enables us to ask ‘what if?’. Only through exploratory projects can the local government sector explore what the future of local government may look like—which does require a level of risk taking.

Outcomes

The project has delivered a mixed reality technology platform that allows the user to visualise and understand the scope, scale and impacts of land development and infrastructure proposals enabling decision makers to plan better. The platform integrates data from multiple sources (smart sensors, council datasets) to understand the impacts of environmental factors (e.g. wind speed, air quality, building shadowing) and other city events (e.g. flooding, traffic jams).

The key product deliverables include:

  • software program to present three dimensional models and real-time geospatial data in holographic form
  • management platform to control the data layers that can be displayed and viewed. This platform has the ability to modify data styling and control the way attribute information is viewed
  • other key features include interoperability across different hardware devices, ability to share a visualisation session (i.e. multiple people looking at the same model), capability to conduct location sensitive embedded surveys and zoomed building features for closer inspections

After pioneering the technology, Wyndham is starting to see uptake of this technology throughout the sector. The number of partner councils is growing with excitement evident across the sector. The city has also experienced huge support in its drive to use technology to improve its services & operations. There is a keen interest for the city to be a leader in the sector and build the city's reputation as a smart city innovator.

As the use of the solution continues and the platform is operationalised in Council's public engagement process, the high-level goals of transforming public engagement on all development proposals will expand. Wyndham City Council has a strong commitment to promote the work to share the tool across the sector but to grow the user base of residents accessing the technology to better understand their future city.

Contact details

Name: Adam Mowlam
Phone: 03 9742 0777
Email: adam.mowlam@wyndham.vic.gov.au