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September 25th, 2011
The OGC 3D Summit Delivers Advancements and Challenges

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The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) 3D Information Management (3DIM) Working Group held a 3D Summit on Sept. 20 as part of the OGC Technical Committee meetings in Boulder, Colo. The content tackled advancements and challenges, with panel discussions and lightening talks that addressed city 3D models, campus visualization, indoor 3D models and augmented reality.

Technical Overview

The opening panel of the event discussed the multiple data formats and software products that are used with 3D modeling. The CityGML data format holds a great deal of promise, according to the panel, but there are some areas where it needs to improve, such as in marrying the modeling world with semantics, feature layers, and knowledge about features.

With more 3D data formats hitting the Web, including photo point clouds from Autodesk Photofly and Microsoft Photosynth, the community is bracing for a flood of more 3D data. To address this data influx, new schemes will have to be developed to marry 3D imagery with 3D models. The group visualized a future where off-the-shelf cameras will capture 3D models that can be quickly integrated for a detailed, and constantly updated, 3D city model.

The need for easier interfaces was also discussed as an impediment, given the rise of the gaming generation, and their familiarity with easy navigation. Today’s 3D data capture and manipulation software are sophisticated and often hard to learn tools. The panel closed by suggesting that a new cartographic styling for 3D was likely in the offing, with semantics helping to analyze obects and determine best how to display data.

Augmented Reality

3D models are a critical input for registering augmented reality for the mobile user. The model is the element to bring all the information together for such applications as games, entertainment, marketing, tourism, and navigation.

Christine Perey, and Basel-based entrepreneur in this space, presented on th eneed to bring all the data together in order to make augmented reality development happen. She is embarking on a B-City effort to put the framework in place, to hold contests on augmented reality application development and to spur the data collection effort. While the effort is getting its start in Basel, she has plans to extend the project to Barcelona, Berlin, and Beijing.

On the standards front, there is an Augmented Reality Markup Language (ARML) that is being developed. Wikitude is leading this effort as there are more than 1,000 developers working on this project for desktop and mobile projections of a 3D world. The wikitude effort focuses on combining ARML with HTML and Javascript for a browser-based augmented reality platform.


The panel on 3D challenges and opportunities tackled some of the pain points mainly in the building trades. With a typical project dealing with models at many different scales, and with many different modelers, it’s not unheard of for a large engineering and development firm to use hundreds of software packages and modeling tools for any given project.

The movement between the different packages often strips out the intelligence in the model, which either needs to get built back in or is lost completely. The interoperability challenges in this space have a high dollar cost related to time delays, poor construction, and construction errors. With the high pain experienced in the building trades, it’s incumbent upon the software developers to push for greater interoperability and more intuitive and inclusive software interfaces.

CityGML Advancements

Europe is well ahead of North America with adoption and development of 3D modeling. CityGML had its start in Germany seven years ago, and has made great progress. There’s even a mandate that all existing building models will need to be modeled in 3D in comply with a data specification that is virtually identical with CityGML within the next three years as part of the INSPIRE initiative.

CityGML has taken the approach to model at different levels of detail. The standard also allows for the integration of raster and vector data, sensor information and the integration of augmented reality along a continuum of scales. CityGML 1.1 is a proposed minor revision of the standard that will be backward compatible and that will incorporate the ability to produce conceptural models of such things as bridges and tunnels, that posed problems in the past.

Illustrating the advancement of Europe, the Netherlands presented a countrywide effort for 3D modeling linked to an e-government initiative. The effort will integrate 2D and 3D models in large-scale for the entire country, with plans to be finalized by the end of the year.

Future of 3D

Wrapping the day was a panel on the future of 3D, with representatives from Autodesk, Oracle and Bentley. The group reiterated that semantic integration is a fture-oriented challenge that must be tackled, along with the need for sound data management, and highly interoperable 3D models, because you can’t put all 3D data into just one database.

The semantic approach will help with different business processes, and to achieve the holy grail of a single view across a full range of information. Increasingly, BIM models are being required as an improved way of modeling that improves efficiency, including a mandate for all government projects to use BIM in the UK by 2015. With this process, comes a new way of sharing models and ironing out liability so that projects come in on-time and on-budget.

The community at this event all shared the belief that 3D and 3D modeling have a promising future to solve many real-world problems. The group is at the forefront of wrestling with data and workflow issues to speed the adoption, and the meeting proved an important venue for the open discussion of where are we now, where to we need to go, and what are some of the challenges that need to be overcome.

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