I’ve spent years trying to build worldwide building datasets for Smart City and Digital Twin applications. I’ve tried building them using off-the-shelf data providers that give you COLLADA files, I’ve tried using APIs such as the Mapbox Unity SDK and buying buildings one by one to fill in gaps. None of these solutions have the resolution needed to perform the types of analysis needed to make better choices for cities and development potential. How to create real 3D cities with enough resolution has been out of our grasp until now.
I’ve been following Pixel8 for a while now and it is clear that crowdsourcing these models is going to be the only way forward. Over 10 years ago, Microsoft actually had this figured out with their Photosyth tool but they never were able to figure out what to do with it. Only today are we seeing startups attack this problem with a solution that has enough resolution and speed that we can start seeing cities build highly detailed 3D models that have actual value.
It is still early days with these point cloud tools, but at the speed they’ve improved over the last year, we should be seeing their use more and more. Mixing the data from smartphones, lidar and satellite imagery can make large areas of cities mapped in 3D with high accuracy. Pixel8 isn’t the only company attempting this so we should see real innovation over the next year. Stay tuned!
The newly formed company, which is headed by Nick Bowden, also announced Thursday it has raised $11 million in a Series A funding round from investors Innovation Endeavors, Firebrand Ventures and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. The capital will be used to accelerate Replica’s growth through new hires beyond its existing 13-person staff, expansion to new cities and investment in its technology.
What makes this interesting is what Replica is:
The Replica modeling tool uses de-identified mobile location data to give public agencies a comprehensive portrait of how, when and why people travel. Movement models are matched to a synthetic population, which has been created using samples of census demographic data to create a broad new data set that is statistically representative of the actual population.
How, when and why people move around a city.
As a planner, investor or developer; you can imagine how this is really interesting. As the TechCrunch article points out, there are privacy implications to this but if this model works and can help plan cities better, we’ll all be better off. Cities are growing at exponential rates and new ones are being built every day. Helping planners make better initial decisions about where and how things should go OR help them make changes as the city develops will only improve life for all.
Ninety percent of the world’s data has been generated over the last two years.
Unlike the “80% of Data is Spatial” I have to admit this is totally believable and I can find the source. Most of this data is pure junk but the biggest problem with it is that it is literally unsearchable. Even in the age of Google, we can’t even begin to start aggregating this data and sorting through it.
On the BLM GPM projected that I was part of at AECOM/URS, we teamed with Voyager to attempt to find all their spatial data and share it. The good news is that I hear the BLM Navigator will be rolling out soon so at least we can know that the BLM is indexing their data and attempting to share it. But that is one organization out of billions.
This unaccounted for data is unable to be leveraged by users and becomes wasted. We all know GIS is great for making informed decisions about just about anything, yet we are most likely uninformed ourselves because the data just doesn’t happen to be at our fingertips. We’re a society that loves to create data, but not one that likes to organize data. If we’re truly going to change the world with GIS, we need to make sure we have all the information available to do so. Smart Cities, GeoDesign and all the rest are big data use cases. Let’s figure out how to start pumping them full of it.