SimCity Just Got Real: How 4D Simulation Software Is Helping France’s City Planners

The cities of the future are being created on our computer screens.

The French startup ForCity is using 4D models to help city planners be more efficient and real-time simulations to optimise the urban environment.

Author Felix Dunkl:

Translation Felix Dunkl, 05.07.18

More and more people are moving from the countryside to cities. According to a 2016 report by the UN, by 2030 urban areas are set to house 60 per cent of people globally. And cities are growing not just in number but also in size, becoming so-called megacities – places with more than 10 million residents. The same report estimated that by 2030, one in every three people will live in a city with at least half a million inhabitants

This enormous increase in city size and number brings with it huge challenges. City borders expand, energy and mobility infrastructure (transport sharing systems are just one solution) have to be redesigned and the construction of new housing creates whole new districts and changes the infrastructure of existing areas.

The ability to adapt is more than important than ever – not only for a city’s inhabitants, but also for its planners. Cities are incredibly complex entities – and no one is quite like another – meaning they can’t be designed en masse or compared with one another. Planners have to take into account geography, climate and character, among other things, when planning. There’s no such thing as one-fits-all solutions.

City Planning, City Playing

Data is being collected and used more and more often to inform and develop smart city projects, but normally they only cover one area of an urban environment. The French startup ForCity wants to change that. Their software platform allows them to construct detailed 4D models of cities plans and create dynamic time lapse videos that simulate possible future developments – how things are predicted to shape up over the next 20 or 30 years. This allows them to predict and illustrate possible future challenges too, from weaknesses in the public power or water supply or the possible increase in population in certain areas.

What sounds like a computer simulation game could well provide a solid basis for urban planning decisions and allow people to react quickly when difficulties arise. The user-friendly interface is designed to make the software accessible both to city planners and other people who don’t have specialised IT knowledge. The opportunity to share your own plans and simulations with a crowd also allows people to share ideas and exchange feedback.

The company’s 4D simulation model seems to be hitting the mark. Since being founded back in 2014 they’ve grown to 82 employees working in Lyon, Rennes and Paris. Their client base includes water companies, architecture firms and estate agents. And a call for investment in 2018 brought together around 8 million euro. ForCity recently won an award in the Intelligent Grids, Platforms & Cyber Security category at the SET Awards, where around 400 sustainable businesses were in the running.

This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an article that first appeared on RESET’s German-language site.

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