Urenio Watch Watch: Intelligent Cities / Smart Cities

An exploratory approach for urban data visualization and spatial analysis with a game engine

This paper proposes the use of game engines towards the creation of interactive urban environments and engagement with data. The authors designed and implemented an interactive visualization tool that delivers comprehensive urban data summaries and analytics through a user-friendly interface.

According to the authors, despite the wide range of applications aiming to improve urban systems and city governance, urban planning processes are rarely informed by online platforms and data generated by them lack comprehensive data visualization approaches. This research provides a comprehensive and inclusive approach on urban data visualization, aiming to advance the discussion on how digital technologies can reinforce citizen participation in urban planning.

This paper introduces a methodology for integrating geospatial data in a virtual environment built via a game engine and presents an implementation of this methodology through the development of three visualization scenarios.    

For the scope of this project, the searchers have used the Open Data Repository of the municipality of Thessaloniki analyzing the following data:

  1. the ImproveMyCity registry,
  2. the boundaries of municipal units, and
  3. the land uses for both the city of Thessaloniki and the municipal unit of Triandria.  

This research builds upon existing tools and methods for geoprocessing and spatial analysis and embeds them in a 3D environment that employs game design elements. Three indicative visualization scenarios are designed, developed, and implemented based on the registry of urban issues reported through the Improve My City application in the city of Thessaloniki. VS1 presents data in the city as a whole, VS2 aggregates data per city district and VS3 focuses on a street-level.

In summary, the contributions of this work are

  • the formulation of an effective methodology for integrating geospatial data and data generated through smart city applications in a virtual environment that employs gamedesign elements,
  • the design and the implementation of an interactive visualization tool based on the proposed methodology, to deliver comprehensive urban data summaries and analytics,
  • the showcasing of correlations and outcomes of various scenarios based on the registry of urban problems published through a smart city reporting application in the city of Thessaloniki (“Improve My City’).

Section 1 consists of an introduction. Section 2 discusses the related work. Section 3 introduces the methodological framework developed for the integration of geospatial data into a game engine. The implementation of this methodology in the city of Thessaloniki, including the technologies, data and scenarios developed, is described in Section 4. Finally, section 5 discusses the process of testing and usability and section 6 presents the conclusions and future research directions of this research.

You can find the paper here.