An urban development initiative in Austin, Texas is using enormous amounts of data pulled from various agencies to create astonishing 3D simulations of what communities would look like based on certain assumptions and inputs contributed not only by engineers and city planners but pretty soon by citizens themselves.

For years businesses have been using analytics software to predict the outcome and measure the performance of campaigns and projects but the City of Austin is using new analytics data visualization tool create interactive and collaborative images of the future.

The Sustainable Places Project (SPP) Analytic Tool Suite is sponsored by Austin and a coalition of other central Texas communities and public agencies. Its components run on the processing power provided by the Texas Advanced Computing Centre (TACC) at the University of Texas.

Massive amounts of data (such as census data) are fed into a specialized analytics package to forecast the impact of sustainable urban development like the construction of a rail transit service for central Texas.

Rather than provide planners, politicians and the public tables, graphs and maps, the system use data visualization to produce like-like 3D simulations, according to technology writer and transportation consultant, Lyndon Henry.

For example, coupling the city’s database of maps and with templates of types of local construction, the system can create a 3D visualization of what certain areas of the city where the streetcars will run can look like. The inputs used to come up with the image includes, assumptions such as local scenes, landmarks and other existing features.

Together with graphs, maps and other data, planners can use this information to better understand and even foresee potential consequences of plans and decisions that are being made.

Those involve in the project intend to scale out the system further to let citizens provide their own inputs as well.

To find out more about this initiative, click here