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Understanding cities
Using 3D data visualisation
Hi, I’m Robin. I’m the founder and developer behind ViziCities.

I’m going to give you a quick overview of the platform and what you can do with it.
Brief overview of ViziCities.
@ViziCities
Tweet us
If you want to talk about the project then either grab me personally or tweet us @ViziCities.
Cities require things on a vast scale; like food distribution systems, reliable energy, transport networks, health and civil protection, water systems, waste systems,
and all sorts of other things.

All of these parts work independently and if one of them failed then the whole system could collapse.

Let's take London as an example…

The city's current population is just over 8 million, which isn't even that much compared to some cities in the world (Shanghai is 24.1 million!).

All those people live in just over 3.2 million private households.
London's 33 councils spend about £15.6 billion a year on providing services such as education, public health, social care, waste management, housing and
culture.

Less than a fifth of that comes from from Council Tax.
In one year more than two billion trips were made on the city's 8,500 buses.

Those buses travelled a combined 490 million km in the same period of time.

There are 19,500 bus stops in London, and 90 per cent of Londoners live within 400 metres of one.
London has the largest emergency ambulance service in the world, with 5,000 staff across 70 stations that respond to 2,800 incidents every day.

Yet it's the only major city to have just a single medical emergency helicopter!
London has 7 power stations, including this miserable-looking thing in Greenwich that is used as a backup for the London Underground.
Cities are chaotic,
complex and awesome
Cities are chaotic, complex and awe-inspiring. They shouldn't work but they do.

You can’t fully control them - they are living, breathing organisms that are evolving and growing constantly.

Understanding cities is incredibly important, not only so we can make them work more efficiently, but also so we can better comprehend their complexity as
citizens.

There is a huge amount of powerful data locked away within cities.
It's tucked away in places like Data.gov.uk as well as a large number of other public and private repositories.

What if you could give people a way to help them unlock some of this data and combine it to better understand cities and their place within them?

What if you could create a tool that allowed people to see real world cities and then overlay data onto them?

- A tool that allowed transport authorities to plan better networks in relation to realtime traffic and pedestrian flows

- Electricity companies to slice open the city and plan more efficient infrastructure

- Journalists to give us live data visualisations of events taking place in our cities

- And creative problems solvers like you and I to see our world, live and take it apart and think about it in completely new ways
It turned out the tool already existed, we just didn't consider it.

It's SimCity! A game that lets you create your own city from scratch and manage every aspect of it.

The coolest thing about SimCity is the data view that allows you to peel back your city and get a better idea of how it's working and, more importantly, why it's
not working so you can fix it.

It's just a shame SimCity is only for fictional cities.

ViziCities aims to do the same for real-world cities, keeping a SimCity-like balance between beautiful, practical data visualisation and a great user experience.
ViziCities takes data like this…
…and uses it to generate and visualise real-world cities in the browser in 3D.

But we didn't want to stop there. We can all see the physical world around us and we’ve already got Google Maps. What about what we can’t see?

We wanted to create something that would allow for new, meaningful perspectives on our cities.

So we began overlaying data.
We were the first in the world to publicly visualise the London Underground network in 3D.

Actually, we not only visualised it in 3D but we also visualised live trains on the tracks in the positions they're in right now.
We also looked at visualising the London bus network in a similar way. We ended up being the first to publicly visualise live buses along the real road network.
We didn't stop there though. The idea is to visualise all aspects of a city and so the next logical choice was live air traffic in 3D.

Thanks to the guys behind Plane Finder, we were able to use live air traffic data to produce a visualisation of planes in 3D, anywhere in the world.

In this example you can see Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

It was at this point that we realised that perhaps it was possible to bring a city to life using the data locked within it.
Earlier in the year we attended a Government event to try and come up with tools to help with the flooding we experienced.

One of the most exciting aspects was getting access to incredibly high-level LIDAR data coverage of most of the UK, allowing us to produce a 3D terrain map.

The aim is to overlay water levels and allow people to see how much of an area would be flooded should the levels rise 10cm, 2 metres, or 5 metres.
We've also looked at heatmaps and other more traditional visualisation techniques to better understand crime or noise pollution in an area. Or even use it to
compare data points like education levels and crime.
Most recently, we’ve added lots of features, like the ability to visualise GPS traces from devices such as watches and mobile phones.

You can even do crazy stuff like using the heartrate to define the vertical position of the GPS trace, or whatever you want!
Over the past year we’ve begun seeing people use ViziCities in their own projects.

One of the largest uses has been the Berlin Morgenpost used ViziCities in their recent data journalism piece on the redevelopment of an airfield near Berlin.
Another project that uses ViziCities is Virtual Helsinki, which realises one of the original visions for ViziCities, to combine data from all over a city and visualise it all
in one go.
It's important to be clear that ViziCities is browser-based, meaning it requires no plugins and works out-of-the-box on pretty much all modern computers and
even phones.

This is a massive difference to existing tools out there that are only available on desktop, usually only on a single platform like Windows.
If you didn't know already, ViziCities is actually an open-source project under the MIT license. All the code is on GitHub and you can poke around with it to learn
how it works.

We’ve also just released a developer preview of the 0.2.0 update, which you can find under the branches area on GitHub. It includes a huge number of
improvements so I advise you check it out.
Oculus support
Myo support
Thank you
Sign up at ViziCities.com
rob@vizicities.com
@vizicities on Twitter
I do hope you decide to use ViziCities to experiment with 3D data visualisation. I’m excited to see what you make with it!

You can find out more on the website at vizicities.com, or follow us on Twitter @vizicities.

Thank you.

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Understanding cities using ViziCities and 3D data visualisation

  • 1. Understanding cities Using 3D data visualisation Hi, I’m Robin. I’m the founder and developer behind ViziCities. I’m going to give you a quick overview of the platform and what you can do with it.
  • 2. Brief overview of ViziCities.
  • 3. @ViziCities Tweet us If you want to talk about the project then either grab me personally or tweet us @ViziCities.
  • 4. Cities require things on a vast scale; like food distribution systems, reliable energy, transport networks, health and civil protection, water systems, waste systems, and all sorts of other things. All of these parts work independently and if one of them failed then the whole system could collapse. Let's take London as an example… The city's current population is just over 8 million, which isn't even that much compared to some cities in the world (Shanghai is 24.1 million!). All those people live in just over 3.2 million private households.
  • 5. London's 33 councils spend about £15.6 billion a year on providing services such as education, public health, social care, waste management, housing and culture. Less than a fifth of that comes from from Council Tax.
  • 6. In one year more than two billion trips were made on the city's 8,500 buses. Those buses travelled a combined 490 million km in the same period of time. There are 19,500 bus stops in London, and 90 per cent of Londoners live within 400 metres of one.
  • 7. London has the largest emergency ambulance service in the world, with 5,000 staff across 70 stations that respond to 2,800 incidents every day. Yet it's the only major city to have just a single medical emergency helicopter!
  • 8. London has 7 power stations, including this miserable-looking thing in Greenwich that is used as a backup for the London Underground.
  • 9. Cities are chaotic, complex and awesome Cities are chaotic, complex and awe-inspiring. They shouldn't work but they do. You can’t fully control them - they are living, breathing organisms that are evolving and growing constantly. Understanding cities is incredibly important, not only so we can make them work more efficiently, but also so we can better comprehend their complexity as citizens. There is a huge amount of powerful data locked away within cities.
  • 10. It's tucked away in places like Data.gov.uk as well as a large number of other public and private repositories. What if you could give people a way to help them unlock some of this data and combine it to better understand cities and their place within them? What if you could create a tool that allowed people to see real world cities and then overlay data onto them? - A tool that allowed transport authorities to plan better networks in relation to realtime traffic and pedestrian flows - Electricity companies to slice open the city and plan more efficient infrastructure - Journalists to give us live data visualisations of events taking place in our cities - And creative problems solvers like you and I to see our world, live and take it apart and think about it in completely new ways
  • 11. It turned out the tool already existed, we just didn't consider it. It's SimCity! A game that lets you create your own city from scratch and manage every aspect of it. The coolest thing about SimCity is the data view that allows you to peel back your city and get a better idea of how it's working and, more importantly, why it's not working so you can fix it. It's just a shame SimCity is only for fictional cities. ViziCities aims to do the same for real-world cities, keeping a SimCity-like balance between beautiful, practical data visualisation and a great user experience.
  • 12. ViziCities takes data like this…
  • 13. …and uses it to generate and visualise real-world cities in the browser in 3D. But we didn't want to stop there. We can all see the physical world around us and we’ve already got Google Maps. What about what we can’t see? We wanted to create something that would allow for new, meaningful perspectives on our cities. So we began overlaying data.
  • 14. We were the first in the world to publicly visualise the London Underground network in 3D. Actually, we not only visualised it in 3D but we also visualised live trains on the tracks in the positions they're in right now.
  • 15. We also looked at visualising the London bus network in a similar way. We ended up being the first to publicly visualise live buses along the real road network.
  • 16. We didn't stop there though. The idea is to visualise all aspects of a city and so the next logical choice was live air traffic in 3D. Thanks to the guys behind Plane Finder, we were able to use live air traffic data to produce a visualisation of planes in 3D, anywhere in the world. In this example you can see Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It was at this point that we realised that perhaps it was possible to bring a city to life using the data locked within it.
  • 17. Earlier in the year we attended a Government event to try and come up with tools to help with the flooding we experienced. One of the most exciting aspects was getting access to incredibly high-level LIDAR data coverage of most of the UK, allowing us to produce a 3D terrain map. The aim is to overlay water levels and allow people to see how much of an area would be flooded should the levels rise 10cm, 2 metres, or 5 metres.
  • 18. We've also looked at heatmaps and other more traditional visualisation techniques to better understand crime or noise pollution in an area. Or even use it to compare data points like education levels and crime.
  • 19. Most recently, we’ve added lots of features, like the ability to visualise GPS traces from devices such as watches and mobile phones. You can even do crazy stuff like using the heartrate to define the vertical position of the GPS trace, or whatever you want!
  • 20. Over the past year we’ve begun seeing people use ViziCities in their own projects. One of the largest uses has been the Berlin Morgenpost used ViziCities in their recent data journalism piece on the redevelopment of an airfield near Berlin.
  • 21. Another project that uses ViziCities is Virtual Helsinki, which realises one of the original visions for ViziCities, to combine data from all over a city and visualise it all in one go.
  • 22. It's important to be clear that ViziCities is browser-based, meaning it requires no plugins and works out-of-the-box on pretty much all modern computers and even phones. This is a massive difference to existing tools out there that are only available on desktop, usually only on a single platform like Windows.
  • 23. If you didn't know already, ViziCities is actually an open-source project under the MIT license. All the code is on GitHub and you can poke around with it to learn how it works. We’ve also just released a developer preview of the 0.2.0 update, which you can find under the branches area on GitHub. It includes a huge number of improvements so I advise you check it out.
  • 26. Thank you Sign up at ViziCities.com rob@vizicities.com @vizicities on Twitter I do hope you decide to use ViziCities to experiment with 3D data visualisation. I’m excited to see what you make with it! You can find out more on the website at vizicities.com, or follow us on Twitter @vizicities. Thank you.