GeoWeb 2009 review

GeoWeb 2009 in Vancouver, July 27th to 31, was one of the most interesting conferences I have been to. GeoWeb is all about the semantic web and geoinformation and this years theme was entiteld “Cityscapes”. So many of the talks in the academic as well as in the business track were about capturing, storing, managing, and utilising 2D and 3D geodata. However, one of the highlights was a keynote by Dr. John Stutz, Tellus Institute.

To watch the missing parts of the video or other geoweb talks visit:GeoWeb Youtube channel.

Something which was obvious is that one of the major challenges right now is to manage all the 2D and 3D data available and put it into context with other geodata and information using web-services. So you would hear a lot abbreviations like KML, WMS, WFS, SOAP, AJAX, CityGML, GML, RFD, SVG, OWL, …

With respect to 3D GIS there have been several talks centered around CityGML. Wiebke Tegtmeier who works at the ICT in the Netherlands Presented a data model for representing Geological and Geotechnical Information which extends CityGML to include natural sub-surface features. Gilles Falquet, University of Geneva, presented an ontology-based approach to combine CityGML-based models with other spatial and functional models. Thomas Kolbe presented an conceptual framework for interpreting graphical 3D models to reconstruct their semantical structure and transform them into CityGML or IFC. Olaf Schroth and I finally presented our e-Collaboration concept which aims at enabling stakeholders involved in planning processes to make better and continuous use of “official 3D city models” maintained by the administration.

I got introduced to Paul Cote who works at the Harvard School of Design. He is the one who collects and organizes all the information and tutorials related to 3D Geospatial Modelling such as how to create a 3D model from Google Earth and SketchUP or how to process TIN models in ArcGIS. He works at creating a 3D city model for Boston from heterogeneuous resources and we talked a lot about workflows. So there might be models created using automatic feature extraction in KML format, architectural models developed in 3DS Max or SketchUp, geospatial models stored as multipatch-features in an ArcGIS geodatabase and so on … The challenge seems to be to find workflows that allow us to read all these models, transform them into one exchange format, add arbitrary semantic information, and store them in a central database. We both are very excited to learn that FME from Safe Software now is said to have a working CityGML Reader and Writer and that they at the same time can load .kml, .vrml, .3ds and in the near future .skp models. So this might open up a path to integrate these heterogeneuous data sources into one database.

Finally, I like to add another Youtube Video showing Javier De La Torres talk about managing Biodiversity data on the web. His web-mapping examples and the databases he introduces are very nice examples of how geospatial services and database services can be combined to handle an huge amount of information.

3D city database for CityGML released

Virtual 3D city models are getting more complex, detailed, and increasingly large. Therefore, good solutions for the storage and the management of 3D city models are needed. Within this context we want to inform you that there is now a 3D database schema for the storage and management of CityGML-based 3D city models freely available, which can be implemented on top of Oracle 10G/11G. It also works with the Express version of both databases, which is free for use for educational and research purposes. The following is a rough translation of the German press release.

Press release, 27th April 2009.

The departement for Geodesy and Geoinformation Science, Berlin Institute of Technology, German has realesed free software tools for the management and storage of CityGML-based virtual 3D city models. The tools include a 3D database schema for the use with Oracle 10G R2 or 11G, an Importer/Exporter, and a Java class library for facilitating the work with CityGML. The package is released under the Lesser GNU Public License v3 and can be downloaded under the following URL: An English documentation is also available.

The CityGML-based 3D database was developed during the creation of the official 3D city model of Berlin and is successfully used for the storage and management of the city-wide virtual 3D city model. More information about the city model of Berlin as well as a Google Earth enabled version can be found under:

Open Source Toolkit for 3D Plant Modelling

Yesterday I came across an articel in Graphical Models (71), pp. 1-21. It is about PlantGL, an open-source graphic toolkit for the creation, simulation and analysis of 3D virtual plants. The software is based on three components: a geometric, an algorithmic and a GUI library with an interface to Phyton, which enables a modeller to develop scripts and procedures in Python. Furthermore, importers and exporters for data exchange with several modelling and visualization systems, such as AMAPmod/VPlants and Pov-Ray, exist. The approach combines several methods to represent plant structures at different scales, ranging from tissues to plant communities. One of the features are parametric envelopes for the representation of crown shapes, which sounds to be a very promising technique to control the shape of 3D plant models. Accurate representation of the crown shape will be important for representing plants in real world models (e.g. 3D city models) for visibility analysis.

According to the paper the librarys seem to be very powerful and several examples are presented reaching from 2D and 3D tissue models to branching systems and plant communities. Moreover, a quick overview over current plant modelling approaches is given including L-Studio/Vlab and GroGra based on L-systems, the AMAP system, and Xfrog and extensive references to related work are given. Thus I like to encourage everybody interested in plant and vegetation modelling to read the paper and look at the website of the Virtual Plant project team. The site shows several examples, links to research papers and software, and explains the methods apllied in the research.

Vue 7 by e-on software released

E-on software has released a new version of their landscape modelling and visualization software vue. According to the offical feature list a number of key methods and technologies have been improved significantly. Amongst the features are ecosystem models, volumetric clouds, tree generation, global ilumination, etc.

A look inside their gallery shows some very detailed and realistic scenes, e.g. the Picture of the Day, Wednesday, December 10, 2008.

Jungle by Maciek Sikora
"Jungle" by Maciek Sikora

I have made some tests with an earlier Version in 2004 and I have to say that it was a lot of fun to work with vue. The main problem was to integrate GIS data and to create realisitc plant distributions. I wonder if this has changed by now, because the visual quality which can be achieved is very impressive.

Upcoming conferences on Geovisualization and Digital Cities

Here is a link to a conference on geovisualization in Hamburg, Germany, which is organized by the International Cartographic Association, the German Cartographic Society, and the HafenCity University Hamburg.

Also watch out for the Geoweb 2009 – 3DCityscapes in Vancouver. We are awaiting the 1st Call for Papers and an update of the GeoWeb 2008 website these days.

Should we include 3d city models in this blog?

I am wondering if we should include the topic of virtual 3d city models or – as they are called lately – digital cities in our blog. After some considerations I think that we should include this topic for two main reasons.

First of all the authors of this blog come from research in landscape and environmental planning and we tend to have an all-embracing understanding of landscape. This means that the word ‘landscape’ is an concept which includes topography, vegetation and wildlife, land-use, housing, climate, etc.. In this all-embracing concept cities are part of the landscapes around us.

Secondly we do not do landscape visualization just for the fun of visualizing a landscape, but because we think that landscape visualizations can support planning descisions and communication processes in planning processes. Thus we have an aim, a goal why we visualize and this goal is the driver for visualizing rural landscapes, as well as suburban landscapes or cityscapes. I think that we will benefit if we are looking at concepts from landscape and city visualization/modelling at the same time and relate the visualization concepts to the underlying planning tasks.

Another reason to include digital cities from my point of view is that I am currently working on a project which deals with virtual 3d city models and visualization of the cityscape. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany and deals with the usability to support communication and information in urban land management by using virtual 3d city models as integration media for heterogeneous data. For more information hava a look at (only in German)