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Singapore models entire country in 3D with smart map

Singapore authorities are creating 3D maps of the entire country to help organisations in the public and private sector make better planning decisions.

Singapore has placed itself at the forefront of 3D urban planning with the first phase of its national 3D mapping project.

The 3D models showcased at the Esri International User Conference (UC) in San Diego in June were generated using advanced Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

Singapore’s goal to optimise the use of limited land led it to turn to ‘real world’ visualisations of the entire island. This is part of a government-led Smart Nation initiative aimed at improving risk management, facilitating collaboration and enhancing decision-making among Singapore’s public agencies.

“Singapore Land Authority is committed to pushing geospatial and technological boundaries to propel Singapore towards a Smart Nation. We are leading the development of Singapore’s 3D mapping initiative, which would form a key component of Virtual Singapore,” said Tan Boon Khai, chief executive at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).“This would enable sharing and analysis of geospatial data to improve sense-making capabilities, test-bedding and assimilation of concepts to find solutions to emerging and complex challenges.”

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This project would serve as a new global benchmark for the world’s leading cities, said Thomas Pramotedham, CEO at GIS supplier Esri Singapore. “Singapore is one of the most advanced [cities] in the world when it comes to using GIS technology for Smart Nation development,” said Pramotedham.

The SLA found the traditional 2D town planning maps to be inadequate to fully represent the complex environment. On the other hand, 3D models allow for clarity and precision for the purposes of design, building and developing.

For example, the 3D models could be used to identify the island’s solar energy potential and determine how proposed new buildings might affect the city’s skyline.

So far, the project has produced the biggest geospatial dataset ever collected homogenously in Singapore, with over 100 terabytes of data.

Some examples of how SLA’s 3D models might be used include:

  • Analysis of how tree planting might increase a park’s shade during the day. This type of shadow analysis can also help Singapore’s planners better locate new park benches, rest points and activity areas for the greater comfort of park-goers.
  • Provide property developers with insights into Singapore’s weather patterns and an area’s existing greenery could assist in naturally cooling-down a built-up environment. This will help cut down energy use in buildings, especially from cooling load demands.
  • Provide urban planners with greater insight into how new building developments can change or obstruct the visibility of certain landmarks, tourist attractions, or community facilities.
  • Effectively manage Singapore’s underground space to host future developments such as malls and MRT metro stations.  
  • Enable government agencies to share data in real-time in areas such as routing, navigation and field operations. This can be especially helpful for large-scale public events such as the 2016 Formula 1 race.
  • Solar energy forecasts to identify suitable areas for solar panel installation, to fully leverage Singapore’s solar power potential and provide a reliable source of renewable energy.

Vikas Sharma, director, public sector and government practice, Asia Pacific, at Frost & Sullivan agreed that the 3D Smart Nation map puts Singapore at the cutting edge of 3D urban planning.

“I am not aware of many other cities that employ or are planning to employ 3D GIS mapping at such a scale,” said Sharma. “Traditionally, city planners have relied on 2D modelling, but 3D models should provide a more accurate translation of real-word complexities and should vastly improve the design and building processes.”

While 3D GIS mapping has come a long way in both technical and conceptual terms, there may still be challenges over its adoption.

“The cost involved to fully implement nation-wide 3D mapping is not insignificant and there may be teething problems in terms of industry adoption. Players such as property developers and urban planners, would need to be educated on the benefits of upgrading their existing systems to harness the capabilities and complexities of 3D mapping,” said Sharma.


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