New Technology and Business in the Civic Sector

The (3-D) Streets of Philadelphia

Virtual reality is starting to transform City Hall. Bentley Systems Inc. an Exton Pa.-based engineering software firm made a prototype of "ModelCity Philadelphia " an interactive 3-D software model of the city that will be used to solve urban and architectural planning problems. The model which will be completed in 2000 is based on Bentley's ModelServer Publisher an engineering documents server that allows computer-aided design files to be viewed and queried across a corporate intranet or the Internet.

ModelCity Philadelphia will provide a software portrait in 3-D detail of the city's landscape and all manmade structures. "This brings us much closer to the concept of an integrated city " said Jean-Baptiste Monnier vice president of geoengineering at Bentley. "It has all of the components of city planning and urban planning. Really this is an ideal test case for us."

A consortium of organizations and companies including utility companies city planners universities and government agencies will oversee population of the model with engineering data such as the location of utility lines and public transportation routes. ModelCity Philadelphia also is being backed by the city's architecture community which has offered to shoulder most of the project's cost in exchange for the city's data.

"We're not looking for funding from the city initially " said Mike Rosen president of Mike Rosen & Associates a Philadelphia architectural firm. Rosen orchestrated private-sector support of the project through his roles as head of a local multimedia company and as chief executive officer of the Philadelphia Virtual Reality Center. "The goal is to be able to add more and more intelligence to the model " Rosen said. "From the police department to the streets department to the water department-almost every department in the city can make use of the model."

ModelCity Philadelphia is just one of a slew of "urban simulation" applications now under way throughout the country. The technique combines mapping modeling video and virtual reality technology to allow builders developers and city planners to chart the impact of a project before breaking ground.

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