In our last issue, we looked at smart cities and what contributes to their smartness. As geospatial practitioners, we are aware that our technologies should contribute to building a smart city. The question is how. In my editorial, I had concluded that “Networks, servers, geospatial technologies, IoT, Big Data and Cloud are all the tools that will enable such a smart city, provided they are used intelligently to evolve solutions”. In this issue, we look at one of these tools, namely, BIM. Building Information Modeling has been around since the 1970s. Many countries have adopted BIM, though they may call it by another name. For example, in India, it is called Virtual Design and Construction. BIM standards have evolved over time and BuildingSMART is an open international standard.
Another tool is the 3D city model that integrates buildings with their geospatial context at various levels of detail — from simple extrusion of footprints to detailed exteriors and interiors of buildings. As in all things geospatial, the city model is a static as it exists depiction of a city in its geospatial context. How can we integrate the planning of a new building in a city model? This is where the important integration of BIM and 3D city models becomes essential. We will see many such integration of tools and technologies through open international standards in the context of smart cities.
Such an integration will help in enforcing city building laws, speed up approval processes and monitor the growth of the city. In his book The Rise and Fall of Nations, author Ruchir Sharma postulates that the number of new cities is a benchmark for the growth of a nation. Clearly, the building of new cities will need tools like BIM, amongst others, to develop and grow.
As cities grow, there is a need for the safety and security of its citizens. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this growth. Communities become fragmented and impersonal to the extent that individual grievances are overlooked and ignored. This gives rise to crime and to events like what happened recently in Orlando, in the US, or in Turkey. Geointelligence, which can provide early warning and prevent or at least interdict crimes, is a big issue in growing cities.
High-resolution imagery and 3D city models can be used to create a database of potential sensitive areas and plan security measures in advance of a major event and to evolve rapid action plans if and when an incident occurs. However, geointelligence involves much more than maps. It also involves transactional data, VGI, sensors and intelligence from social media chatter which can help to nip potential criminal acts in the bud. Each of these data sources have a built-in geospatial context which is used to zero-in on specific locations.
To be smart is to be able to use geospatial information intelligently.