Planners are building a 3d computer model of the whole of Singapore

A screenshot from Virtual Singapore.

Singapore is often an early adopter of the latest urban technologies: you try accommodating 5m people in a crowded space in humid climate without them.

Now it’s at it again: the city government is teaming up with French software firm Dassault Systèmes, a 3d design specialist, to come up with some proprietary software that’ll help it plan for its growing population.

Launched in December 2014, “Virtual Singapore” combines visualisation techniques with a huge pile of data. Using Dassault Systèmes’s “3DExperienceCity” software, it’ll produce a dynamic, 3D digital model of the entire city state, which its planners and other municipal staff can then experiment upon. The whole thing should be up and running by 2018.

Here’s how it works. “Virtual Singapore” begins by collating real time data – demographic, geospatial, topological, and so forth – from a multitude of public agencies into a single model: transport data showing how people move about the city; landscape data from the Singapore Land Authority, collected using laser-scanning technology from low-flying planes; that sort of thing.

All these stakeholders will then be able to access the resulting 3D computer model, and analyse the city at will: everything from the size of a building to the number of cars a car park can hold.

Once the model is complete, users will be able to try out particular interventions, to see what’s likely to happen. They’ll be able to test what impact a new skyscraper would have on travel patterns or the local microclimate; what redirecting a bus route would do for local traffic; how a property development will change the way people move around the city.

In other words, they’ll be able to test how effective their plans will be, without all the bother of spending millions of dollars to watch things fail. If it works as well as its creators claim, Virtual Singapore will allow the city to make more educated decisions with regards to everything from environmental management, to security, to infrastructure.

A number of other places are already using variants of this technology. One project conducted by Matthew Claudel, a researcher at MIT SENSEable City Lab, was a “trash tag”, in which researchers tagged garbage in one location, then watched how it spread around the US. Alarmingly it didn’t stop moving for the next two months, travelling as far as California to Chicago and back, or over to Florida.

Here’s a video of Virtual Singapore in action:

Kat Houston is web editor at Design Curial.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.