Software cities: the technology that builds our lives

Business Insights

There is a huge amount of technology that goes into a new city space’s design, from crowd and pedestrian management to architect software. Here, with Oasys Ltd, designers of structure analysis software, we look at how software has been used in the planning process of city spaces.

Crowd and pedestrian management software

This is the type of software that is predominantly used in architecture and urban planning. It is capable of simulating thousands of people so that they can be imported into digital models of city spaces. The simulated agents can act intelligently according to set guidelines.

It can be used in several ways. For architects designing a new building or arena that has the potential to host thousands of people, this technology can be used to simulate an evacuation. The crowd can be monitored to see what collisions they come across and how well they can achieve the goal of escaping the building.

Also, this software can be used and analysed in the planning process of constructing transport hubs such as bus and train stations to help prepare for emergency situations. With the rise of terror incidents across Europe, the use of crowd simulation and preparing for unlikely situations is more important than ever.

Geographic information system (GIS)

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system which can manage geographical data from a range of sources and then manipulate it so that it suits a variety of uses. One part of GIS is multilayer mapping. Similar to a density map, this feature allows the user to see a range of measures on one area. For example, potential agricultural land, areas which are prone to flooding and erodible land can all be visible on one map. This allows urban planners to visualise areas that would not be suitable for building on.

It is a system that can inform planners of where building permits have previously been issued as this may interfere with future plans. The success of potential businesses can be analysed too by measuring their proximity to potential competitors and customers.

Building information modelling (BIM) technology

BIM technology visualisations can help to simulate the impacts of proposed buildings on environments before they have been built. This technology is becoming more important in the design of ‘smart cities’, to test out the impact of the building before construction goes ahead.

Architects and urban planners can face many difficulties when they are building in an already established area. However, BIM can inform system managers of a wide range of factors. For example, the software could show how deep to dig in order to not crash into a fibre optic cable.

Using BIM can create a collaborative project with designers from other areas of the planning process too. For example, workers on drainage construction and landscaping can consult the same model to help better inform their decisions.

Tony Andrews, Solutions Executive of Asset Management at Bentley systems, discusses the use of BIM in the Crossrail project that he worked on, which is the railway system in the South of England, “Some of the drilling that we did for this project was within centimeters of the existing underground tunnels in London. It was absolutely incredible”.

A look to the future

Every day new technologies and software are being used in the urban planning world. One of these, not used for urban planning yet, is an open-source software that has been developed in New York. It is currently a system that creates a map using data to visualise how people move through cities. Heat spots on the map become more intense when areas are popular.

This technology can states when and how city spaces are being used and who by. At the moment, the data is collected from Flickr and Twitter uploads, and this is planned to expand to other social networks.

In the future, this could be used for urban planners so that they know which city spaces are busiest and at which times. It will also be possible to make comparisons between cities and replicate planning of structures if it has been successful in a city that runs in the same way.

Article provided by Oasys, designers of structure analysis software