Navigation & Mobility


3D city models

City map + height indication = 3D city model?

In the past, you had to unfold big plans and maps regardless of the wind and weather conditions. Today you navigate comfortably with mobile devices using virtual 3D city models. Great, but is this really better? 3D city models accomplish other purposes than maps - and you cannot get lost in it.

The human eye is spoiled by its viewing habits in TV, cinema or computer games. Due to this, fictitious animated worlds should appear as real as possible. Two-dimensional maps are mostly too abstract for the users. Finally, it is not easy for anyone to reduce the world to its image built of spots, lines and spaces or even complement it using signatures, scripts and charts.

3D city models create a virtual picture of the urban surroundings on a monitor or a mobile phone. The first cities of the world which presented themselves almost completely in 3D were Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg. In fall 2018, the city of Zurich also made a high-precision 3D city model available for everyone. It is used for simulating planned construction projects or for analyses and calculations (e.g. visibility analyses, shadow calculations).

It is modern if it is liked – now all the others want the same. Since the visualization is only one way of utilization among others you need very different data to create such a 3D city model. It is not only geodetic data, but also data from other subject-specific disciplines with spatially explicit reference.

Digital terrain models, 3D data of buildings, information about traffic routes, vegetation and much more provide a data base to create 3D city models. They are needed to support city planning, disaster prevention and of course navigation. Depending on purpose and task, they exist in five different Levels of Detail (LoD). The lowest level (LoD 0) contains the digital terrain model which is draped on a satellite- or aerial picture or a map. The highest level (LoD 4) constitutes a detailed model of buildings including interior areas.

There is different software to create 3D city models. On the one hand, there is the one taken from geo information. On the other hand, it is taken from the field of computer graphics as well as the adaption from other sections, for example Game-Engines. In addition to this, there exist different data formats. Meanwhile there exists a data exchange format and an international standard. This standard called CityGML was developed by German geodesists for OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium).

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